Play nice in the workplace, kiddo
“You kids today, you have it so easy,” Al Friedman, my first publisher, screamed at me in May 1974 after I cursed over a broken pencil point. That was when I first got into this crazy newspaper business. I hate to admit it, but 41 years later the same thought crosses my mind when a 20-something complains to me about a laptop issue.
When I think about the changes in technology we have seen since I began my career, I find it hard to believe that Mr. Friedman went through the same amount of disruption over his career to that date. Other than the advent of television, technology and competition hadn’t changed all that much by 1974. Although from his perspective, I’m sure he believed it had.
By 1974, technological change in newspaper production was in its infancy. Tools of the trade included glue pots, pencils, carbon paper, typewriters, X-Acto knives and hot wax. It took an army of people to produce a newspaper back then. It was at least an eight-step process with eight different people to get an ad from the street and into the newspaper in those early days at the Trenton Times. Today it is a three-step process with three people.
“I hope I die before I get old,” the Who proclaimed in the song “My Generation.” I was part of that rebellious generation, although I didn’t do all that much rebelling. And I’m glad I didn’t die before I got old. At the same time, aging at work has its challenges for a guy whose life was defined by his work. I tend to be far more rebellious today as I fight for what I believe is right. And that, my friends, is how a crotchety old man is born.
Always impetuous, my level of patience has waned as time passes. Now that my generation is in the minority in the workplace, it has become more difficult to relate those around me. It was such a gradual process that it only recently dawned on me that there is a difference in how each generation deals with life including work.
Sure, I’ve been through many seminars on how a baby boomer can better manage those oh-so-different Gen Xers or Millennial generations. When you work within a certain culture for so many years, it is hard to change. I bet I was a real pain in the ass for the Greatest Generation that preceded my tribe. And we didn’t care, as we owned this world. Now it is time to pass the torch.
This week editor Randy Essex and I are in Tahoe for our annual Swift Communications meeting. It is a time to reunite, a time to celebrate and a time to learn. My greatest hope is that on the agenda there will be a class titled “Play nice with baby boomers. They actually have knowledge and worldly experience. And they don’t have much time left in the workforce.”
Michael Bennett is publisher of the Post Independent.
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