06 February 2008

Work-Life Balance for the UCaPP Generation

This is a short excerpt from one of my research conversations with the CEO of a for-profit (and profitable) corporation in an extremely competitive industry, based in New York City. Subjectively, I categorize this organization as being "more UCaPP," that is, having practices that are more consistent with what I would consider characteristic of the future of organization.

CEO: The question of work-life balance is a very different proposition for the more veteran people than it is for the younger generation. Their work-life balance has more to do with their contribution than it is about how many hours they’re not at work. It tends to get defined, at least in my experience, that for baby-boomers, work-life balance gets defined as how many hours you’re not at work. Theirs [the younger generation] is about what kind of contribution is it that I’m making.

Mark: So it sounds to me like for the boomer generation as you’ve identified it, there’s a clear distinction between work and life, and life is when you’re not in the office environment or workplace, and so you need to balance the time here and the time there.

CEO: Right.

Mark: For the younger generation, the more contemporary generation, they don’t see the distinction between work and life particularly, it’s all life. And it’s how well can I create this environment in which I’m living completely and totally.

CEO: Yes. I don’t know how broad-sweeping that is, but it’s my experience. It’s interesting. They’ll be the first ones out the door, if you’re assuming that they should know on their own that they should stay. And what I’ll hear routinely that I think is very powerful is, “yeah, I’m going to go home at five o’clock. I’ve been hear since nine o’clock. I’m going to go home at five unless you give me a reason to stay. But if you think that I’m going to stay because you think I should know to stay, because that’s the way the game is played until I get to a certain place, no, I’m not going to do that. But if you give me a reason to stay that is meaningful to me, that I know I’m making a contribution, I’m in.” It’s not about, I have to leave at five. It’s about, is it worth me being here?

Mark: And have you had any problem with this younger generation staying long hours when there is good reason? Any resistance?

CEO: No. There’s usually none. I think where the problem is, and I think not just our company but many companies have to work through, is how to get out of, “we paid our dues so you have to pay your dues.” [We have to be very conscious of] what is the value to them for them being here, not just, what is the value to me [as CEO of this company]? Because there can be a tendency, especially in this business, that someone can sit around for five hours waiting for you to get something off your desk, and traditionally, a lot of people will think nothing of that because, after all, “you’re a [junior, low-ranking worker] and don’t you know you have to pay your dues – I did it, you have to do it.”

Mark: So this is really about, not just what the company expects of you, what the company expects you to do, it’s what the individual expects of the company.

CEO: Yes. Absolutely.

Mark: It’s very much a reciprocal feeling that, it’s not that the company is demanding this, but the people themselves are putting demands on the organization.

CEO: Right. So that saying, you should be lucky to have a job?

Mark: Yes?

CEO: Totally needs to come off the table. That as soon as we go to this place of you should be lucky you have a job, that is, how much more can I get you to do for me.

Mark: Right. It sounds to me like the demand, the requirement of the organization is to truly have a respect and regard for the individuals.

CEO: Without a doubt.

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