Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Becoming a boiled frog

Have you ever heard Linda Duxbury speak? She's a professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, and she specializes in work-life and demographics. She talks about how the demographics of the workplace influence how to attract and retain workers. There's the huge cohort of baby boomers, followed by the small cohort of Gen Xers (me included!), tailed by a bigger group of Echo Boomers (or Gen Y or whatever name you like for them!), and each group has their own unique experiences and desires in the work world.

Let's talk first about baby boomers, because they are my only current role models of what work should be like for me over the next twenty years. Duxbury calls them 'boiled frogs." From a workpolis.com article about Duxbury's presentation:

"Research shows that frogs placed in a pot of water that is slowly heated until it reaches a boil will not jump out of the pot. They will remain in the water as it heats up and until they eventually die. However, a frog that is placed directly into a pot of already boiling water will immediately jump out knowing they cannot survive under such circumstances.

And such is the case of today’s workplace. More senior employees are typically part of the Baby Boom demographic and over their many years in the workforce they have become accustomed to the increased demands placed upon them and the deteriorating work environment and have accepted the consequences on their health and families."

Duxbury says these people become "retired on the job," putting in their time until they can finally retire. And it really rings true for a lot of 50 and 60-somethings I've worked with in the last few years.

So is this the fate that awaits me? Should I look for a full-time job where I can just while away the next two decades awaiting retirement? It does have some attraction -- when work doesn't consume your life, you can focus on other things. But is that satisfying?

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