Work and Attitude

Our workplaces are changing. They were changing before Covid, but like everything, new office structure accelerated. Not only is meeting in person or going into the office in flex, but the ages inside the office are also changing.

The youth is entering corporate America, and they don’t love what they see. They understand technology at different levels than most, and they desire change. It is hard to move the needle when the workforce is staying at work into their 70’s. The few that have not retired in Covid are dealing with the expectations and attitude of Gen Z.

When I started working in my 20’s, I respected many of the people who were years ahead of me, but some of them, not so much. I admired the ones where I listened, learned, asked many questions. I felt comfortable having a dialogue because I could tell that they appreciated my brain, attitude, and chutzpah.

My first post-college job was at Macy’s. The first step after the training program was co-managing the cosmetics department in Kings Plaza, BK. 150 people worked underneath us. I could see every day the impact that I made. The beautiful thing about retail is the numbers don’t lie, and you get them every single morning. It was about making more than last year and being more profitable. I loved the game.

Rosemarie Bravo, the only woman at the VP level, oversaw the cosmetics division. I remember thinking how hard it must be for her to be the only woman in a room of men running the entire company. I always wondered if she slept using the printed numbers as a pillow. It appeared that she felt she had to be better than the men in the way she behaved.

She expected everyone to call her Miss Bravo. She was not warm. She ran her part of the company a bit like a personal fiefdom. She was the queen, and if you bowed down to her, she would take you under her arm and bring you up the ladder in her domain.

I didn’t want to be part of that. I always called her Rosemarie. I believed that we were equals. The only difference was that I was younger and less experienced than her, but that didn’t mean I was below her. I knew that in time I could do her job. Her behavior reminded me of something of the olden days. Aren’t we all in this together? Is this how you manage your team? It isn’t how I manage my team and look at how well it works.

As the years passed, I had many visits from the higher-up men, too, but it was the ones where I felt good about my role, not as if I was reporting to the hierarchy, that I gravitated to. It isn’t the same as what is happening today, but my experience does have some familiar notes.

People should enjoy where they work, and companies should take care of their people. We are at a point in the road where community, family, raising children, and mental health care are a public conversation. Let’s embrace the next generation and find a way to work alongside them. We can all learn more from each other when the wall is lowered, and mutual respect creates a workplace.

Perhaps it is one way to get rid of so much of the anger and frustration permeating society right now. There is value in age.  And value in youth.  How do we help each other create a future we all want to live and work in?