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TOO MUCH REALITY? HOW IS THIS HELPFUL?

I admit to avoiding most reality TV shows. (Once in a while my entrepreneurial spirit lures me to “Shark Tank.”) And don’t get me started on how increasingly so much of life is portrayed on the level of a high school popularity contest. But last week a new reality show hit new depths of destructive behavior - “Does Someone Have to Go?” (Thursdays on Fox).

Seemingly part docuseries and part game show format It takes place at various actual small companies where the bosses transfer authority to the workers – who might like that power for a short while. However it soon turns both ugly and heart-rending since the object is to call out their colleagues for pay cuts, demotions and terminations – to lose their jobs for real!

The first episode takes place in a family-owned business where several of the 70 employees are related to the founder, including her husband (the chief executive) her mother (the accountant), her brother and 2 cousins. After reading the NY Times TV review (by Jon Caramanica), I was strangely curious to watch the first episode, and now I’m done with it. The tensions and arguments build along with creeping fear for everyone. Pettiness, misinformation, personal feelings, tensions around age and race – it’s all there dragged out in the open by the bosses remotely broadcast instructions on video to the group called repeatedly to the conference room.

While the seemingly sadistic bosses and TV executives say that no one was forced to participate, a significant number of employees at various levels did, whether from ego, narcissism or fear of declining. While I am not going to watch the conclusion of the first company’s experience, it is pretty clear the outcome will not be happily ever after. As the Times reviewer put it, they “run the risk of conflict, humiliation, and possibly, unemployment…to say nothing of whatever long-term internal damage is done to the company for choosing to unearth all its buried tensions in such a public arena.”

How does one justify this – at any time and particularly when jobs are hard to come by? Can you imagine this sort of exercise achieving an increase in engagement, productivity and morale? Please comment and share your thoughts.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com

DON'T STEREOTYPE THE GENERATIONS

I am delighted that generational issues are getting attention from people new to the topic. Generational challenges and improving the working relations among the generations has been a passion of mine for over a decade, so it's gratifying to see the interest build.

On the other hand, I am not happy to see people jumping on the bandwagon making blanket statements about generational cohorts as if one's date of birth automatically gives them a set of characteristics that they surely share with peers of their age. I am dead set against stereotyping. Some statements that particularly irk me are: "Generation X were the latchkey kids," as if everyone of that generation came home to empty homes and had to fend for themselves. And that "all Gen Y/Millennials have been coddled and over-protected." Another one is that "All Baby Boomers are going to retire in the next few years." Already it is clear that is not true. In fact there are Boomers as young as 47 years old today, and a large proportion in their 60s now had no intention of retiring anytime soon, even before they saw their nest eggs seriously diminishing in the financial market collapse.

I admit that in my passion for generational wisdom, I have come to filter much of what I hear and read through generational filters. But I am wary of the dangers of stereotypes. Everything is not a generational issue. When one was born is only one of the significant influences on personal behavior, attitudes and values. Typical generational attributes do not apply to everyone in a generational cohort.

Let's remember that while learning and understanding generational attributes and differences is very important for improving productivity, retention, leadership, succession planning and business results, we need to take the time to get to know people as individuals and respect their individuality, whatever generation they are.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot      www.pdcounsel.com  

AGE DIVERSITY CIRCA 1962

The hit and multi-award-winning TV show "Mad Men" (for Madison Ave.) on AMC had its first episode of its second season on Sunday night (July 27th). A key plot line was that a major client was insisting that the advertising agency hire young people (at the time "people" meant pretty much "men") for an infusion of new ideas.

The mid-level executives (early to mid 30s more or less), were against that, fearing for their jobs. And they and the 36 year old creative director resisted, thinking that 25 year olds had little to bring to the table. But the client ruled. So a pair of 24 and 25 year olds (men) were hired. The one woman junior executive, age 22, was not taken seriously anyway and was ignored as her colleagues bitched as well as when she offered them creative ideas, except by the creative director who promoted her from her position as his secretary.

What did this plot line show us, in addition to the meticulously replicated clothing, grooming, decor and endless smoking and drinking?

*   A big client has clout, and management agreed to what the client demanded.

*   There was a culture of resentment and resistance to anyone not a clone or fitting the conservative mold - even in what is supposed to be a creative field.

*   The changes of the 1960s were coming.

Whether a fan of the show or not, please comment.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com

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