Can You Teach Work/Life Balance?

Most people today value their company's work-life balance philosophy; yet, a lot of us lack confidence in our employer's support of work-life policies, according to survey results released in November by WorkLifeBalance.com, an Atlanta-based company that specializes in work-life balance education and management training.

Despite the fact that 81 percent of employees believe a company's work-life balance policies and training are important when deciding whether to take or quit a job, only 57 percent feel that their current organization is supportive of employees' personal commitments and life outside of work. Almost all employees (99 percent) have felt overwhelmed by work-related stress at times, with 97 percent of these respondents claiming that job stress sometimes negatively impacted the quality of their work and motivation on the job. Stress away from the office also negatively impacts performance on the job. Of the respondents who have felt overwhelmed by non-work-related stress (98 percent), almost all (95 percent) felt that their personal life stress at times negatively impacted the quality of their work and motivation on the job.

What I found most interesting is that three-fourths of workers said they wanted their employers to provide training of practical skills to help improve their work-life balance. Can you really teach people to balance work and life outside work?

"While work-life balance benefits such as flextime and employee assistance programs are important, employers can do more to fully realize the value of their work-life policies and help their workers maintain a better work-life balance," said Jim Bird, CEO of WorkLifeBalance.com. "With work-life balance training, individuals learn to assess their unique work and life needs, which in turn helps them better utilize an organization's existing work-life benefits. Organizations that offer effective work-life training can immediately impact their employees' daily achievement and enjoyment on and off the job, while also realizing organizational improvements such as increased productivity and employee satisfaction."

Hmmm ... I like this idea. Have you taken any classes in balancing work and family? Handling resentful co-workers? Negotiating with three-year-olds about when you're getting home? Convincing a spouse to stay home with sick baby so you can hightail it to your big meeting? Do you think this balance stuff can be taught? What are the top three skills you'd like to be trained to do better -- and what juggling skills would you like your co-workers and spouse to go back to school to learn?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  January 11, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Free-for-All
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first

Posted by: chemguy1157 | January 11, 2008 7:31 AM

deuxieme!

Posted by: m2j5c2 | January 11, 2008 7:52 AM

"what juggling skills would you like your co-workers....to go back to school to learn?"

Learn how to get your life organized! Learn how to get to work on time! Learn how to come back from lunch on time! Don't expect your co-workers to pick up the slack for your personal needs if you don't offer to do the same for them. Learn how to make and receive personal calls on YOUR time. Don't expect your co-workers to act as your private secretary and analyst. They don't care. They will listen and pretend to care, but they usually don't. Don't brag about fantasy vacations & other luxuries and don't complain about servant & SUV problems to workers who make less than $30K (or whatever) a year. The work place sun does not rise and set on your personal needs and drama!!!

Posted by: chittybangbang | January 11, 2008 8:21 AM

troisieme.

I think work life balance is partially what you make of it. One has more flexibility the more education/experience one has. If one is a cog in a wheel, it's less likely they will have more say where they are.

Yes, it would be nice if companies would do more - but they are in business to make money. They will only do what they must to hire and retain employees. Sorry to be so harsh, but that's the world we all live in.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 11, 2008 8:22 AM

the impression i get is that companies are offering this training to make themselves more attractive to potential employees, and to help current employees be more productive...perhaps precisely in the ways Chitty outlines. fewer personal calls, absences and crises that interfere with work, for instance.

i suspect you CAN teach better work/life balance and handle some of the common problems we discuss here by raising awareness of the issues among employees, and offering good solutions.

Posted by: leslie4 | January 11, 2008 8:28 AM

Hmmm. A good topic.

Certainly, companies are in business to make a profit and training is geared to this end. But I can say that several of the courses that my company has sent me to (organization skills, planning, first aid, drivers awareness, safety awareness while traveling) do have a direct effect on my personal life.

In fact, the company that I work for as a contract employee is emphasizing work/life balance as part of the general HSE program. Some of our safety meeting are devoted to safety at the home and safety in personal life. Even as a contractor, my boss and his boss are truly concerned about my well being. (Maybe they just like seeing my smiley face every morning!) I feel that all the employees have been shown a lot more concern for their personal well being than even 10 years ago.

Posted by: Fred | January 11, 2008 8:35 AM

OF COURSE you can be taught these things!!! That's what YOUR PARENTS are for. In my head, sadly, this is a continuation of yesterday's discussion.

In my opinion, parenting in the U.S. has quite frankly gone into the toilet. It is EVERY PARENT'S JOB to raise self-sufficient, capable children. Doing everything for them and fighting their battles for them yields spoiled, inept, afraid adults who need everything to be done for them. We can't build a country with those people!!! We need enterprising people who aren't afraid to take risks and who understand their THEIR DECISIONS may have consequences. In my opinion, these are lessons you learn from the time you're born to the time you're about 25, and if you haven't learned those lessons properly by then you're screwed.

People are baffled about this wave of 30-year-olds moving back into their parents' homes. In my opinion, these parents brought it on themslves when they did all the work of arranging playdates for their kids in elementary school. Guess what? Your kid might be a real loser, and maybe nobody likes him. He's never going to realize that and make the personal changes necessary to be likable if you continually present to him arranged playdates! He's never going to understand how to build friendships if they were always initiated by his parents! He's never going to learn to stand up for himself and find his own way of coping if you continually harass his teacher about his being "bullied" because no one will sit next to him at lunch.

I feel very passionately about this because I've tutored lots of kids in DC schools one-on-one. There was a clear difference in achievement among those whose parents were HEALTHILY involved in their kids' lives. Those parents were very aware of the day-to-day situations in their kids' lives, and they commanded their kids to deal with things THEMSELVES in every case where they could. (Clearly, some rare situations require adult involvement. But most things kids can and should take care of themselves. This is how we learn to live!!!)

Other parents, those who were either neglectful or helicoptering, ruined their children. And to be honest, if the parent ruins the kid, there's very little tutors, teachers, or employers can do about it.

Posted by: newslinks1 | January 11, 2008 8:35 AM

Well, this is a nice segue from last night -- from mommy and daddy holding junior's hand through college, on to Uncle Bill (or Uncle Sandy, or Uncle Warren, or Aunt Meg) holding junior's hand to teach him how to get to work on time.

"Work-life training" sounds like some marketing guy's brilliant PR idea -- and companies that tout these kinds of "policies" usually do so because they're trying to fix a culture that's already crappy. I am reminded of the NY law firm that recently started a morale program that includes things like partners saying "thank you" to associates. Ummm, thanks, but I'd rather work someplace where people don't NEED to be "trained" on such basic civilities.

I am all for work-life balance. But I have an inherent distrust of companies who tout their "programs" to show how great they are, because a lot of times it's bullhockey. And it seems pretty patronizing to me -- I need someone else to "train" me in how to run my personal life? Unless you're a trained psychologist or family therapist, stay far, far away from that!

If a company really cares about work-life balance, then it needs to focus on lightening the load on the "work" side of the equation. Pay people a reasonable wage. Give people a reasonable amount of work. If needed, offer training in basic organizational skills, so people who weren't born with multiple-colored highlighters in each hand can learn to get their work done more quickly and efficiently. And then let them go HOME when they're done, without penalty, without dooming themselves to some mommy track -- don't build a culture where face time is mandatory. Judge based on merit.

Obviously, you need different solutions for hourly workers. But still, the employer should be focusing on how it can improve the work side of the equation -- you need to build in as much flexibility and alternative schedules as your business will allow, but then focus on helping people manage the work during the time they're there.

Posted by: laura33 | January 11, 2008 8:55 AM

LOL chitty. Every office has one or more drama-ridden employee(s). Frankly the best thing a workplace can do for its employees is communicate -- the mission and goals of the organization and the roadmap to get there. I was the most stressed when I worked for a manager who was a poor communicator who had us all going in 3 different directions at any one time. It left our group wondering if we had done the "right" tasks and what fire drill would come next.

Posted by: tntkate | January 11, 2008 9:00 AM

newslinks - i think your experience tutoring kids and seeing good/bad parenting involvement would make a fascinating (and helpful) guest blog. if you are interested send me something at leslie@lesliemorgansteiner.com. sometimes the best advice comes from non-parents who see our kids (and us) most clearly. thanks.

Posted by: leslie4 | January 11, 2008 9:30 AM

My job offers a stress reduction/health class to nurses. It was once a week for 3 hours. Half was exercise at the gym with a trainer and the other half was discussions about relaxation techniques, diet, sleep. It was very helpful. Simply getting to work in the DC area can be stressful. A bad commute can start your day off the wrong way. Learning to deal with this and put it in perspective did help.

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | January 11, 2008 9:40 AM

I think it is less teaching employees and more teaching managers - not judging people on face time but on work product, understanding last minute early morning or late afternoon meetings play havoc with day care or sport schedule, etc plans. Last minute travel requests to single parents is a nightmare (I knew one boss whose wife was a SAHP actually ask a single mother of a child with health issues why she couldn't go on a business trip the next day - he thought that asking the afternoon before would give her enough time to make childcare arrangements involving two overnights and she didn't regularly travel)
If I am not organized enough that should be my issue, but if I don't know what I have to plan for that is the company's issue.

Posted by: mom_of_1 | January 11, 2008 9:44 AM

newslinks1--Amen! I could not agree more.

Somewhat related to this is fact that I'm in the process of redoing the career section of my company's website and the work/life balance issue is what's kept the project dragging for over six months now. My company actually does, on the surface, offer a great deal of flexibility. There are policies for telecommuting, flexible schedules, condensed work weeks and benefits such as assistance in finding childcare and discounts on stuff like Weight Watchers, gym membership and even acupuncture. You'd think the company would be all over advertising these things to potential employees, or at least I did, and designed a career section that showcased these features.

But even though all these things are true they are reluctant to roll the whole thing together and package it as a culture of work/life balance, which is what I felt could--and should--be done. Apparently these policies and benefits are dependent on each individual supervisor's discretion so, while they are ostensibly company-wide policies, the powers that be don't want to use them to attract job candidates because they want to reserve the right to not offer them to everyone.

I guess that's just business but I find it a little weird that the company is so reluctant to commit to a real culture of work/life balance and it makes me a little skeptical, like laura says
"...I have an inherent distrust of companies who tout their "programs" to show how great they are, because a lot of times it's bullhockey."

It makes me even more distrustful of a company that isn't willing to tout programs it actually has.

Posted by: maggielmcg | January 11, 2008 9:46 AM

"If a company really cares about work-life balance, then it needs to focus on lightening the load on the "work" side of the equation. Pay people a reasonable wage. Give people a reasonable amount of work. . . . let them go HOME when they're done, without penalty, without dooming themselves to some mommy track -- don't build a culture where face time is mandatory. Judge based on merit."

Posted by: laura | January 11, 2008 08:55 AM

Laura said it better than I could. If your employees' job involves swimming, and you've put starch into the water so it's hard for them to swim in, don't give them classes about how to swim faster in starched water. Take the starch out of the water and give them a chance to swim in clear water.

Posted by: MattInAberdeen | January 11, 2008 9:55 AM

Yes, it would be nice if companies would do more - but they are in business to make money. They will only do what they must to hire and retain employees. Sorry to be so harsh, but that's the world we all live in.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 11, 2008 08:22 AM

As atlmom rightly pointed out, companies do what they have to (and generally ONLY what they have to) to hire and retain employees. In my opinion, it is a sad sad reflection of American parents that now companies are being forced to create "unique and innovative training programs" so that employees LEARN to come to work on time, treat people with respect, complete their work thoroughly and properly, etc.

I feel very strongly about the following questions: What aren't you teaching your child? And why?

Kids learn more from their parents than from any other people. If they see you stressed out about work, you have options in how you respond. You could say, "Yes, my boss is a total jerk and nothing I do pleases him." (lesson learned by kid: sometimes people are unreasonable and you should stop even trying.) OR you can say, "I'm working on a really important project that I want to give my best effort to, so I'm going to need to work on it at night and I won't be able to help with your homework this week." (lesson learned: you have important responsibilities that you work very hard to meet, even though sometimes it takes personal sacrifices.)

I could keep going ad nauseum. The point is, every day you have limitless opportunities to teach your kids the stuff that really matters: NOT algebra or geography but basic decency, hard work, and the way the world works. Let your kids look at your household budget and help you pay the bills. Take your kids with you to work on Take Your Daughter to Work Day. etc, etc.


Leslie, I'll happily write a guest blog the day you allow an anonymous one. The whole point of blogs for me is to express my opinions without fearing that my real identity will ever be revealed. which is why this ID is completely random and why my "email address" required at registration is a dummy account that in no way ever traces to me.

Posted by: newslinks1 | January 11, 2008 10:12 AM

My company actually does, on the surface, offer a great deal of flexibility. There are policies for telecommuting, flexible schedules, condensed work weeks and benefits such as assistance in finding childcare and discounts on stuff like Weight Watchers, gym membership and even acupuncture. You'd think the company would be all over advertising these things to potential employees, or at least I did, and designed a career section that showcased these features.
Posted by: maggielmcg | January 11, 2008 09:46 AM

I think it's great that your company offers these things to its dedicated employees. However, I think "showcasing" them on the careers site is the wrong thing to do.

The reason is that your company does NOT want to hire whiny brats whose PRIMARY interest in your company is those benefits. Your company wants to hire solid workers who are attracted to particular job descriptions in particular departments. THEN, when those good people come in, you can wow them at the interview with all the terrific benefits the company offers. Just my two cents.

:)

Posted by: newslinks1 | January 11, 2008 10:20 AM

Excuse me, *off-topic alert!*

A college professor I know told me that just before his first class meeting this semester, the mother of a student phoned to ask him in which room her daughter's class was being held, because the little precious couldn't figure it out for herself (rolls eyes).

Posted by: mehitabel | January 10, 2008 11:10 PM

Mehitabel,

I'd rather go play "dodge the semis on 495" than raise children who are this...incompetent.

I'd use another word, but that would ensure that someday it WILL mean that one of my kids will be the punch-line to that story. I'm worried enough about one who refuses to GROW UP and act in an age-appropriate manner. Mustn't tempt fate further!

Posted by: maryland_mother | January 11, 2008 10:21 AM

Newslinks--while I do agree with you to a degree, I also see it the other way with regard to my own personal experience. When looking for a job, I ONLY apply for jobs at places that seem (and I do say seem) to care about work/life balance. I am an extremely solid, committed worker--but I also would only work for a company that offers some flexibility. I had a schedule in mind when I looked for this job--I want to be home to meet the bus two days a week--and only considered jobs at companies that seemed likely to accommodate that. No job could have been good enough to make me change my mind and work straight 9-5--not because I'm a slacker but because I am committed to being home with my kids two afternoons a week.

I have a very strong work ethic (taught to me by my parents, btw) and do what it takes to get the job done even if it means working extra hours, but overall I definitely sought out a company that I knew would be at least somewhat accommodating.

Posted by: maggielmcg | January 11, 2008 10:37 AM

Newslinks--while I do agree with you to a degree, I also see it the other way with regard to my own personal experience. When looking for a job, I ONLY apply for jobs at places that seem (and I do say seem) to care about work/life balance. I am an extremely solid, committed worker--but I also would only work for a company that offers some flexibility. I had a schedule in mind when I looked for this job--I want to be home to meet the bus two days a week--and only considered jobs at companies that seemed likely to accommodate that. No job could have been good enough to make me change my mind and work straight 9-5--not because I'm a slacker but because I am committed to being home with my kids two afternoons a week.

I have a very strong work ethic (taught to me by my parents, btw) and do what it takes to get the job done even if it means working extra hours, but overall I definitely sought out a company that I knew would be at least somewhat accommodating.

Posted by: maggielmcg | January 11, 2008 10:37 AM

Oh please.

Can you teach it? Well, Leslie has been living and breathing the subject of work/life balance for at least the last two years, and she admittedly still doesn't have it. So probably not.

If you need to take a class to learn what the priorities are in your life, you likely are never going to figure it out.

Posted by: fake99 | January 11, 2008 10:38 AM

Newslinks--while I do agree with you to a degree, I also see it the other way with regard to my own personal experience. When looking for a job, I ONLY apply for jobs at places that seem (and I do say seem) to care about work/life balance.
Posted by: maggielmcg | January 11, 2008 10:37 AM

But clearly the existing company website was already good enough to attract you! and that's the point--sure, companies want to indicate some slant towards balance or workaholism, but you don't want a new company site that says, "Come work here! We'll take care of everything for you the way Mommy and Daddy always have!" I think that's the danger of "showcasing" these policies.

Posted by: newslinks1 | January 11, 2008 11:02 AM

"If you need to take a class to learn what the priorities are in your life, you likely are never going to figure it out."

Well, I go to church every Sunday. Does that count for taking a class on arranging the priorities in my life?

Off topic but continuing last nights discussion:

Since I knew I would never be able to find my way to my last interview independently, I asked a very pretty young lady to help me out. She brought me there, and we waited in the lobby. The group of interviewers showed up a few minutes later and the discussion about my qualifications began in the lobby and lasted for a good 20 minutes or so. We eventually moved into the conference room where several guys commented on the attractiviness of my escort, who waited for me back in the lobby.

I got the job!

However, I never mentioned that the attractive young girl that helped me out was my little sister. Thanks sis!

Posted by: DandyLion | January 11, 2008 11:42 AM

I hope that by the time we're parents and in career-track jobs we've learned something about work/life balance!

The best thing my parents ever did for me was to make me stick to a budget. They agreed to pay for certain expenses, and after that I was on my own. So... if I wanted to go to the movies with friends, buy a special outfit for the prom and a trendy pair of jeans, then I had to earn the money myself. So... at 15 I got a job at a fast food joint. I still played sports, got good grades and had an active social life, so I started learning how to balance it all out. Of course the stakes weren't as high, but I did need the job if I wanted to have extra spending money -- and I certainly did!

So I learned how to negotiate with a boss who didn't care about my personal life -- he needed shifts covered and I was an hourly worker. I learned to give and take -- I negotiated my schedule to accommodate what was important to me (usually soccer practice and games) and in exchange I worked extra when he asked me to. Sure, it was just fast food, but isn't that how it works in the "real world"? Give and take and a little negotiation?

I see this as a life skill, and I don't know if an employer-offered class on the subject would really do it.

I can be summed up in 50 words or less anyway: Your employer has needs. You have needs. Keep the lines of communication open so you and your employer can work together to make sure the needs of the company -- as well as the needs of the employee -- are met.

Posted by: sandiego_mama | January 11, 2008 11:52 AM

I think a lot of balance can be taught. People can learn where to be organized for the most effect. They can learn to leverage technology to simplify organizing. They can learn how to leverage tools their employer provides. They can learn how to have discussions that encourage management to support them when they leverage those tools. They can learn to have effective balance-oriented discussions in their families. They can be shown how to prioritize the things that matter to them. They can be given exercises around tracking the way they spend their time each day to see if they are living thier values to the best of their abilities.

Look for a company that advertises work-life balance and upward mobility in the same breathe. My team knew I was a mother of twins, and totally sold me on opportunity *and* work-life balance - showing that they didn't think that they were exclusive. And they aren't - in the team I picked, at least. It's a big company, and that's not true in all teams.

Posted by: ethele | January 11, 2008 11:54 AM

I may be cynical but I generally think if a company is promoting a lot of training about work-life balance there may just be weird systemic issues.

A lot of the work-life balance issues in our family that come out of my husband's job is the way his company works (and partly his field is just like that right now). For example, they outsourced half his previous project to India, and partnered with a company in California.

But in that area of India, the workers mostly don't have internet access at home, and go to work on a bus on a very set schedule.

So all the meetings to coordinate with that team have to take place at weird times, like 4 am here.

That's bad enough, but then management scheduled meetings with the California team on the same days, starting at 4 pm local time - so that's a 13 hour spread minimum that my husband was expected to be available.

Then of course there were communication issues with people (guess that happens when people are having meetings at 4 am) and then they got behind deadline and then there was NO balance for a few months.

And part of all that was because they underbid to get the job in the first place.

But this company gets high ratings for "flexibility" because it's okay if he (and 50-some percent of his colleagues) conferences into the meetings from home. Well at 4am they had better be able to!

He also has been on 24/7 emergency availability for the last 4 years, minus a few weeks. Mostly the pager does not go off, but we have lived for years where we have had to be within 20 min of internet access of some kind. That's not balanced! He loves it, but it constantly amazes me that no one LOOKS at these things.

I think to say that kids today are badly raised and lazy is unfair and shows a real lack of awareness about how a lot of organizations - particularly those that bring in young new talent - are really working. Just in time delivery, outsourcing, hugely competitive pricing for large projects, etc. do end up making WEIRD demands. And then people do behave weirdly.

I worked in a dot-com about 9 years ago that had BEDS for people to sleep over in. They had free food too. There were no boundaries, and it was not all coming from the staff who wanted to go to the beach at 3 pm Fri, I tell you.

My current company on the other hand is making a few changes, like I wrote into my contract that I work one day a week from home. But generally it is very traditional about expecting people to be there during their working hours (mine are 8-4), limited personal use of things, etc. Despite being a creative industry and having events at nights and weekends and things, and the flexibility to say, check blogs, the expectation is: get to work. Work. Go home and stop working.

Extra training not required really.

Posted by: shandra_lemarath | January 11, 2008 12:17 PM

I'd encourage all of you interested in work/life balance to read the following:

http://no2google.wordpress.com/2007/06/24/life-at-google-the-microsoftie-perspective/

It's entitled "Life at Google - The MicroSoftie perspective" It's the view from a person who worked at Microsoft, then went to work for Google, then came back to Microsoft and told all his buddies how the working conditions compared.

Significant quotes:
"College kids tend to like it (Google) because it's just like college - all of their basic needs are taken care of. In fact, even most of your personal-life can get tied up in Google benefits. Google provides free or subsidized broadband to every employee. Google runs its own, private, bus lines in the Bay Area for employees. Google provides free or subsidized mobile phones. A college kid can literally join Google and, like they did as freshman at university, let Google take care of everything. Of course, if Google handles everything for you, it's hard to think about leaving because of all the "stuff" you'll need to transition and then manage for yourself."

So if you like Mom and Dad taking care of everything for you, just find an employer who will do that, too!

Posted by: m2j5c2 | January 11, 2008 1:06 PM

What about the concept of teaching managers how to accommodate those spoiled gen-xers? I forgot about this until now but my company is having a management conference in the fall and one of the sessions is going to be about motivating younger employees or something like that--the whole motivating generation X concept (for example http://app1.chinadaily.com.cn/star/2002/0905/fe19-1.html). So I guess now the whole world has had to morph to allow these spoiled kids to continue to think they're the center of the universe.

Apparently these kids have learned something: how to manipulate the world into playing by their rules.

Posted by: maggielmcg | January 11, 2008 1:45 PM

"What about the concept of teaching managers how to accommodate those spoiled gen-xers?"

Maggie, it comes down to this - Is it worthwhile for the company to accommodate the habits/preferences of the Gen-X'ers? in other words, do those Gen-X'ers make the company money?

In Google's case, two of those Gen-X'er's (Larry and Sergey) are now two of the richest people in the world, and a lot of other people are extremely wealthy because of them. So, yes, in their opinion it makes a lot of sense to teach people how to deal with that generation.

At other companies - not so much. No way would a TD Bank (largest in Canada) change to accomodate Gen-X employees - let THEM conform!

Posted by: m2j5c2 | January 11, 2008 2:12 PM

Ummm aren't Gen Xers in their 40s now?

Maybe it would be easier to feel motivated if you weren't pretty sure within the next five years you'd be consolidated or downsized if you hadn't found a better offer in the next step of your plan, while simultaneously likely paying off humongous debt from college which everyone said was the key to happiness, where you were force fed learning how to take standardized tests as "the way the world works," constantly told that you aren't dedicated enough, knowing the money you put in to pay THEIR social security won't be available come your time, while your own country is in a war made by people you had no read decisions to put into power and killing your cohorts while they, along with the business owners and their inflated salaries go happily singing along.

Now, none of this is an excuse to be a bad or poorly performing employee.

But pardon me for understanding why "motivation" isn't necessarily something reasonable to expect from most of my generation when it comes to working for someone.

Posted by: EmeraldEAD | January 11, 2008 2:21 PM

EmeraldEAD

"Maybe it would be easier to feel motivated if you weren't pretty sure within the next five years you'd be consolidated or downsized if you hadn't found a better offer in the next step of your plan, while simultaneously likely paying off humongous debt from college which everyone said was the key to happiness, where you were force fed learning how to take standardized tests as "the way the world works," constantly told that you aren't dedicated enough, knowing the money you put in to pay THEIR social security won't be available come your time, while your own country is in a war made by people you had no read decisions to put into power and killing your cohorts while they, along with the business owners and their inflated salaries go happily singing along."

Sounds a lot like the Baby Boomers....and toss in institutionalized sexism, ageism, and racism. Bummer.

Posted by: chittybangbang | January 11, 2008 2:30 PM

EmeraldEAD, I understand EXACTLY where you're coming from. I'm 27, and I'm guessing you're roughly the same age. On your points, I largely agree.

I'd merely add on to your points that, while we certainly face challenges unique to our generation, we also face terrific benefits that other generations could never have dreamed of. If we're hungry, we microwave something and have food in seconds. If we're lonely, we go online and have instant access to whole communities of people. If we need clean clothes, we put them in a machine that handles that for us while we go do something else. If we want meat, we buy sanitary, safe meat at the grocery store instead of heading into the woods with a bow and praying we'll get close enough to feed our families that week.

Sure, it's absurd to constantly be grateful that we didn't have to walk 5 miles through the snow uphill both ways to get to school. On the other hand, it's absurd not to be grateful for the extraordinary abilities technology has brought to our generation.

PS I LOATHED every job I'd ever had until this one. Now I absolutely adore my job, am relied upon for my thoughts about a wide variety of projects, and am deeply motivated about the work I do. While you're in a job you hate, it's hard to imagine how anyone might not hate the work they do. Once you're doing work you love, it suddenly seems obvious.

Posted by: newslinks1 | January 11, 2008 2:33 PM

Chitty- yeah but there were plenty of great drugs and great musicians to help handle it all, and pretty certain to have a pension

We have Britney Spears and ritalin

News- yes I'm almost 28. I agree with all your points, simply that when it comes to employment, we can't expect my generation to receive and work in it the same way previous generations did.

That doesn't make us all spoiled brats, that makes us more aware of the broken system

Posted by: EmeraldEAD | January 11, 2008 2:46 PM

for what it's worth, i agree that Xers are generally very good workers, just with a different approach to their work. I'm going with wikipedia when i say GenX is people born 1960-1980. wiki points out that the exact boundaries are not precisely defined. Helicopter parent wasn't defined until 1990:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helicopter_parent
so it affects the people who were kids in 1990 or later, if that makes any sense. which should be the generation after X, which is currently being called Millenials.

In my opinion, helicopter parenting has gotten worse and worse as time goes on, so the "spoiled brat incapable of figuring out what room the interview is in so he gets Mommy to call prospective employer and ask" syndrome is going to get worse and worse in the coming years.

Posted by: newslinks1 | January 11, 2008 3:11 PM

Now, I thought that the Baby Boomer generation ran from 1946 until 1964. Last I was told, GenX is 1965 until 1984.

I'm one of the earlier GenXers, and the ones who told me when it ended are the 1984 models.

But that's splitting finer and finer mohairs I suspect.

Posted by: maryland_mother | January 11, 2008 3:26 PM

The best teachers I've had for work/life balance have been my bosses. I've had bosses that demonstrated with their lifestyles and workstyles what out of whack looks like, with crumbling marriages and office overnights; I've had bosses that successfully negotiated part-time arrangements with executive perks. I've watched, listened and learned, deciding what was important for me, and that balance it totally defined by the individual.

Posted by: mjaggers | January 17, 2008 9:28 PM

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