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Reassurance for ‘Technophobes’
Technophobia spans the ages — from Plato’s diatribe in a letter to an associate warning that the recently introduced alphabet would “...create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls because they will not use their memories...will trust the external written characters and not remember of themselves...” to the 21st century Luddite who in an email to a friend revealed: “...(In forwarding my mail to my account on the main system) I left out that “/” in the forward file so the first message coming in got forwarded and resent to the local account. Our network was shutdown because one of our messages filled the entire university mail system, including a two gigabyte server. I brought the whole domain to its knees!”
Amusing anecdotes notwithstanding, technological change, if not implemented properly, can paralyze organizations. Facilities management executives often find themselves on a crash course to understand high-priced technology that promises life-cycle savings. Front line facilities maintenance and operations are sometime pressured to entertain technology still being field tested. And building occupants too often see themselves as the guinea pigs in feckless management’s quest for the “intelligent building.”
Tom Penderghast, DBA, professor of quantitative methods at Pepperdine University, contends that technology initiatives fail for a lot of reasons, but management often overlooks work culture snags. He suggests the following due diligence:
- Build on the old — preserve, value and respect existing work cultures whenever possible;
- Spend as much time with the psychological aspects as you do with the implementation. The emotional aspects of change make up 90 percent of the “cultural iceberg,” as Penderghast refers to it;
- Avoid the unknown. Promote thorough understanding of the technology;
- Let the “early adaptors” and resident “innovators” lead the way among the technology’s intended users;
- Don’t simply introduce, then ignore the technology. Innovation needs ongoing support; and
- Compensate the losers. Be sensitive to lost jobs and status.
To what extent should generational differences shape your approach to managing people?
Getting to know individuals should be any managers first priority. But you also can head off catastrophe by paying attention to the generational cocktail you’ve mixed whenever teaming employees.
Do baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) make good information technology directors? Will my IT guy communicate effectively with the director of operations, a Gen Xer (born between 1965 and 1977)? And should I seriously consider John, the Gen Yer (born between 1978 and 1995), for that management position where he’ll supervise boomers and Gen Xers?
Predisposition toward rules, teamwork, technology and communication, among others, has been qualified and quantified in terms of all three generations. The extent to which you buy into “management by generation” will most likely depend, in part, on ... well, the era that shaped your values.
The Work(place) Ethic
Do business ethics have a place in the boiler room? Or is the topic only kicked around by CEOs and boards of directors? Carter McNamara, Authenticity Consulting, LLC, advises that the concept means various things to various people, but generally it's knowing “what is right or wrong in the workplace and doing what's right.”
McNamara claims that ethics in the workplace are often ignored or compromised during periods of management upheaval or economic downturns. And compromising work values can ultimately have an egregious effect on morale, productivity and efficiency.
Today, he says, ethics in the workplace can be managed through the use of codes of ethics or codes of conduct; employing ethicists and establishing ethics committees; and establishing policies and procedures to resolve ethical dilemmas.