ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition - June 2001


Issue Highlight — A Sad and Grateful Remembrance
- Peter Block reflects on the life of friend and colleague, Joel Henning. Read about his lifelong contributions and what we can learn from his vision for a brighter future.

 In This Issue...
A Lesson In Leadership
Holding On
Microfiching For A Solution
Solving The Presentation Puzzle

Reopening "The Diary Of A Shutdown"

Peter Block Column
Views for a Change

Brief Cases

Return to NFC Index

   Brief Cases        Highlights of the Latest Business News

No Shame in the Game

Workplace politics can sometimes make you feel like you’re sitting in your old seventh grade classroom listening to the same person brownnose the teacher. You cringed with disgust then, what makes it different from your office situation now?

   Some people have mastered the art of shmoozing to the boss to get ahead in hopes of that big promotion and a promising future. Others choose to avoid the temptation of licking their superior’s boots. According to, office politics are here to stay, whether you want to play the game or not.

   Wherever you have people wanting greater compensation or a promotion, you’ll find office politics. “If you refuse to play the game you might be seen as a troublemaker or hard to work with. The trick is to play to win, and not sell your soul in the process,” says Jim Krouse, a sales representative.

   Keith F. Luscher, author of “Don’t Wait Until You Graduate!” claims that brownnosers make better workers. “Look at the missions of the organization, the interests of the people you’re working with, and the opportunities where you can serve those needs, which may go above and beyond what your function would be,” he suggests.

   No matter if you’re starting out in the business world or you’re CEO of your own business, you will always answer to someone. It’s all a part of the big scheme to get ahead in any business.

Watchful Eyes

Executives everywhere are under pressure from investors to increase profits during the current economic downturn. But the first generation of women to break through the glass ceiling is feeling a bit more pressure than their male counterparts.

   Still few in number, women CEOs are being closely scrutinized and compared to other female executives who are dealing with completely different situations. According to the Wall Street Journal, many women have climbed the corporate ladder by accepting the jobs that no one else wanted, including digging a company out of debt during difficult times.

   Debby Hopkins, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Lucent Technolgies inherited the company’s troubles when she was recruited from Boeing nine months ago. Having contemplated leaving the ailing company several times, Hopkins plans “to see this through.” She has adjusted to having her every move analyzed by employees, investors and customers and claims to still see the light at the end of the tunnel. In recent months, she has raised a $6.5 billion line of credit for Lucent in addition to forming a strategy for restructuring.

   The challenge has tested her strength and has forced her, and many other women, to grow as leaders. “You can’t learn about how to face [a corporate crisis like] this by reading someone’s book,” Hopkins said.

Is This All There Is?

As the baby boom generation inches closer and closer to retirement age, problems are multiplying for them both inside and outside of the workplace. Although they still have plenty to offer the corporate world, the oldest baby boomers are turning 55 this year and being stamped with the label of “older worker.” According to a recent article from the Wall Street Journal, the obstacles to their future continue to grow, but they haven’t stopped fighting.

   For the men and women of the baby boomer generation still working hard in America today, their uphill battle will become steeper. A 56-year-old account executive wanted to slow down on the development of new leads to pay closer attention to the still very profitable customers he had worked with for decades. He was told by a younger chief executive that “it was growth or else” and that there was “little room for long-term productive people who wished to slow down a little towards the end of their careers.” In his case, loyalty and service were not appreciated. A 60-year-old executive assistant agreed. When her coworkers found out her age, she overheard one say, “You can’t possibly be sharp when you are that old.”

   For those already in the retirement world, the problems are understood as well. As the article states, “Boomers will have just as much, or more, trouble throttling down for retirement as previous age groups.” The main reason is that this was the first generation of both men and women to hold work as a central element of their identity. As a 64-year-old retired woman states, “Two weeks and I was ready to take a shotgun to my head. Is life over?”

   No, life is not over for the baby boomers. The article states to “expect a raft of age- related businesses by boomers in their second careers.” Many are opening placement agencies for people like them—retired, but still willing and able to work. For others, perhaps lobbying will be a good starting point. The article reminds us that this is the generation that sparked changes like childcare help and flexible scheduling, among others in the workplace. “If boomers replay that act over aging, expect even bigger changes to come.”


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