Time is the New Money

By Scot Herrick | Cube Rules Commentary

Jun 08

Recently, there has been a flurry of interesting articles about managing “Generation X and Y” workers now entering the workplace.

Often, the articles are unflattering. Suggestions that new workers will simply up and quit a position because the work isn’t challenging and the person can simply continue living with parents are often touted as representative examples of behavior — with the implicit superiority that says the person is arrogant and delusional about the realities of the workplace.

But the disconnect, I think, was nailed by Penelope Trunk in her article New financial data highlights generational rifts. In it, she makes some pretty well researched points:

  • For the first time ever, the “Y” generation will not be more well-off financially than their parents.
  • Corporations (at least in the United States) have an inability to keep generation Y from quitting their jobs
  • The best of generation X and Y “are slow to move into the work force and quick to leave it.”

Her contention for the why: The American Dream is now about time, not money.

The reason for the high turnover among these generations is “that baby boomers have set up a work place that uses financial bribes to get people to give up their time: Work sixty hours a week and we’ll pay you six figures.”

Youth, including my own, has more time to make dollars than baby boomers today. There is a more natural bent to time being more important than dollars to those just entering the work force because they will be in it for a long time to come.

Not so for the baby boomers of today. Baby boomers have little time left to earn the dollars — not saved, but spent in glorious self actualization over the course of their career — necessary to now retire in the same luxury as they live today.

But, as a baby boomer, I believe that Penelope’s right: the new American Dream is about time, not money. But I think the management of corporations, in the pursuit of every productivity dollar that can be brought to the bottom line, has set up the culture that promotes the long hours worked, the relentless travel, the always on expectation, the Blackberry connectivity elephant-in-the-room that accompanies all family outings, and the conference calls that interrupt family sleep in order to service technology or coworkers that are working on the other side of the planet.

My opinion (no research, just a lot of reading on my part) is that baby boomers share the same value of time — perhaps more so than their younger co-workers simply because they now have less time to recover.

But baby boomers are trapped: not enough time to catch up on what is needed for retirement and/or to get out of debt and unable or unwilling to start over again as if money doesn’t matter.

It’s a conundrum for baby boomers. One that the boomer generation is starting to work through. Perhaps, in the beginning, boomers were all about money and what it could buy. I’d say that now it is about time and money because one needs both to enjoy the time. It’s not the same as time, not money, but the value of quality time is consistent across the generations. At least that’s the way I’m seeing it right now.

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About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.