Monday, August 14, 2006
All Baby Boomers, the large population bubble of people born between 1946 and 1964, will soon be eligible to retire. Among them are people who are sick and tired of reporting to miscreant bosses who routinely get away with their misdeeds. These retirees will be relieved to leave workplaces riddled with bad bosses; they're so soured that it's unlikely they'll want to work in anyone else's enterprise ever again.
But this demographic group is also composed of a bunch of bad bosses. So, if baby-boomer bad bosses retire, will the US workplace become healthy for younger employees? No, absolutely not. Why not? Because personality types are the product of both genetics and experience. Greed, insecurity and jealously, the most likely root cause of bad-boss behavior, are not exclusive to any particular age group. The same personality types continually emerge, even in new generations.
A scientific word describes this phenomenon: autopoiesis. The word comes from biology, from the study of living cells that continually replicate themselves to sustain the life of the organism. It is also used in systems theory to describe what happens in organizations. Organizations continue to replicate themselves and function as always as long as no catastrophic event forces them to change. The military and the postal service are examples of organizations that continue to function pretty much as they always have; they existed when you were a kid and they still exist today although different people work there now—uniforms and equipment may have changed, but these organizations still function basically as they always have.
So a catastrophic event would have to occur to change bad boss behavior in the workplace--higher-level managers would have to stop replicating themselves.