First, I want to wish you all a safe and happy new year. I'd like to talk to you today about a demographic shift that many find uncomfortable. Answering to a boss is old hat for most of us. But usually that boss is older and more experienced than we are. But that world has changed. Bosses are getting younger. Although it shouldn't matter, having a younger boss does take some getting used to; and so does having older subordinates. Let me see if I can help both sides make the adjustment.
Why Bosses Are Getting Younger
It's easier to adjust to the younger boss phenomenon if you understand a little about the demographics behind it. Why are there so many young bosses nowadays?
Paradoxically, the reason bosses are getting younger is that the workforce is getting older. As Baby Boomers in senior positions retire, they're being replaced by Gen Ys (Generation Ys - that is, those under 28), explains Tamara Erickson, president of The Concours Institute. Gen Y's relatively fast rise to the top can also be attributed in part to Gen X's (Generation X - the group between the Boomers and Gen Y) relative disinterest in managing or being managed, says Jean Erickson Walker, Ed.D., executive vice president of Pathways/OI Partners.
Problems of Perception
Although it might be demographically inevitable, the rise of the younger boss takes some getting used to. It goes against traditional perceptions of how the workplace should be ordered. The older generation is also likely to harbor certain preconceived notions about a younger person in a senior position:
- He's a loose cannon;
- She couldn't possibly be strong enough to lead me;
- He doesn't have much experience so I'll have to show him what real life is all about; or
- She's about the same age as my kids so I'll have to show her what to do.
The game works both ways. Younger bosses are likely to prejudge the older persons they work with as inflexible, slow, tired, not productive, old-fashioned, unable to keep up and hard to manage. "It's just too bad they lack my youthful exuberance, energy, adaptability and flexibility," they're apt to think when they're alone with their thoughts. Many younger bosses also regard the older person as a threat who really deep down wants to be the boss.
When a younger boss begins leading older subordinates, it's important for both sides to abandon their preconceptions and start building a solid working relationship. Of course, that's easier said than done. Next week, we'll discuss how to do it.
Wishing you career success,
It?s a pretty safe bet that when Americans go to the polls in November, most of them won?t be thinking about OSHA when they cast their ballot. But while OSHA isn?t a voting issue, who wins the election is of considerable importance to the future of OSHA rulemaking, policy and enforcement.
If you don?t believe it, let me take you back to January 16, 2001. With four days left in his presidency, President Clinton officially adopts OSHA?s Ergonomics Standard. But his successor considers the Standard unnecessary and overly cumbersome to business. Less than two months later, on March 7, Congress enacts a bill repealing it. President Bush signs the bill on March 20. He pledges to work with industry to implement voluntary standards instead.
The fate of the OSHA Ergonomics Standard is a dramatic example of how presidents affect OSHA. So in the coming days, SafetyXChange will profile the views of the leading candidates with regard to OSHA. We?ll do one a day, starting with the Democrats.
Bio: Born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961. Father Kenyan; mother from Kansas. Graduated from Columbia University in 1983. Moved to Chicago in 1985 and became a community organizer for a church group dedicated to improve living conditions in poor neighborhoods. Received law degree from Harvard in 1991, where he became first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. Elected to Illinois state senate in 1996 and to U.S. Senate in 2004.
Position Regarding OSHA: OSHA is not a leading issue in the 2008 presidential election and, like most of the other candidates, Obama hasn?t talked much about it in his campaign. Obama?s 64-page "plan," Blueprint for Change, doesn?t contain a single reference to OSHA or address workplace safety.
However, Obama has a consistent record of supporting organized labor and has been endorsed by some leading trade unions. In his 2004 senatorial campaign, Obama pledged to advocate for reinstating the OSHA ergonomics standard and "to require employers to keep records of repetitive stress disorder, such as carpal tunnel syndrome."
The most complete statement of Obama?s views on OSHA (that I could find) is contained in a questionnaire the Senator submitted to the AFL-CIO. In addition to repeating his support for reinstating the OSHA ergonomic standard, in the statement Obama criticizes the Bush Administration for:
- Cutting OSHA staff;
- Reducing funding for training;
- "Promoting weak voluntary programs at the expense of proven enforcement mechanisms;" and
- "Reversing key protective standards."
Obama pledges to:
- Increase OSHA funding including training for small business and construction and other high risk employers;
- Expand OSHA coverage to all public employees;
- Require employers to pay for the safety equipment their workers need;
- "Renew our commitment" to MSHA (the Mining Safety and Health Administration); and
- Work to get employers and workers to "take a systematic approach to injury and illness prevention."
As to be expected, Obama doesn?t furnish details or explain precisely what he?d do to accomplish these goals.
Rhetoric: "Ultimately, we must convince employers that they cannot afford to lose $1 billion to workplace injuries every week if they want to compete in the global marketplace."