Recently, a woman told me about her experiences being 'written up' in the '80's working at a professional services firm.
She said, "The first time, I was written up for wearing a pink raincoat to work. The second time, it was for speaking to a secretary outside of the building on my own time. And the third time was because I was dating a guy at the company who worked in a different department."
For her third infraction, she confronted her division's partner for the write-up with the fact that he (a married man) was having an affair with a secretary.
Sounds kind of "Mad Men" more than the '80's.Late Baby Boomers
Still, at that time period, the idea of dressing casually every day (much less wearing jeans), working from home, and having flexible work schedules didn't even come to mind. Younger boomers wanted those things, but it didn't seem likely that upper management would be agreeable to changes such as these.
Women, in particular, wanted to have flexible schedules. The place where I worked actually allowed two women to job share after they gave birth. But working from home wasn't a vision on the horizon.
It took a long time, even after many people owned PCs and used email, for companies to adopt email even internally. When I travelled for a software company in the mid-90's I didn't bring my laptop. Email wasn't used very often at the time at our company. Around the late '90's, companies were just getting to the point of emailing outside their company. But the servers weren't yet designed to do so smoothly - the conventions used to email outside were longer addresses that would seem odd today. In fact, in 1997, I worked on a project for a company that brought them from old versions of software to Microsoft, and I documented for their users how to send email, through Outlook, to anyone outside the company.Enter Gen X
Gen X deserves a lot of credit for paving the way for changes in the workplace. Well, Gen X and IT developers at cool tech companies who made so many changes possible (and then implemented those changes first). Certainly human capital companies that surveyed employees, finding out what employees really wanted in order to be content, also played a role.
It seemed like Gen X women were a force in workplace change, too, in order to accommodate family life with work life. They were early adopters of change, often the first at their respective companies, demonstrating how it could work well. Next: Gen Y
Gen Y is bringing a whole new set of ideas and changes to the workplace. They're asking for things and situations that just weren't possible for a long time. And with this generation, it's not the women leading the call for change. It appears to be an equal number of men and women.
One of the more interesting facts about Gen Y (especially the younger of this group) is that they don't use email.
Well, that's got to be a big surprise when they take their first post-collegiate job!
I've had people tell me that managing email at work takes up a lot of their time - their daily intake being 100 to 200 emails. Truly, I believe that quantity of email is just unsustainable.
A friend who is a career FBI agent told me that agents today spend a lot of time just managing their email when they could be fighting crime.
Truth be told, that makes me long for the good-ol'-days when secretaries (yes, I wrote it) received all of the paper mail (including internal memos) and distributed it to us. It didn't take long to go through paper mail. Junk mail was quickly identified and tossed. Because internal communications (other than the phone) were by memo, if someone wanted to write a memo and cc people, they had to go through a secretary to get it typed and mailed out. So we would only receive a memo if someone expended the energy and time to do it.
Meanwhile, it takes only a minute or two to type an email and seconds to cc a lot of people. And then there you are with 100 emails a day to sort through, wondering which you really need to read, which you need to act on, which you can read later, and which you don't need to read at all.
To find out, you have to open each one and spend at least 10 seconds reading it. (Much longer than with paper mail.)
So, here is my question:
What are the Gen Y's (who don't use email anyway or don't like to) going to come up with in order to lessen the burden of too much email while also making sure we have a way to document and create a trail? (see: "CYA").
And what other workplace changes will they initiate? Any ideas out there?
I can't wait to find out! Glory Borgeson is a business coach and consultant, and the president of Borgeson Consulting, Inc. She works with two groups of people: small business owners (with 500 employees or less) to help them increase profit and decrease stress; and with executives in the "honeymoon phase" of a new position (typically the first two years) to coach them to success. Top athletes have a coach; why not you?