THESE ARE THE DAYS!

Holly J. Culhane SPHR
March 10, 2008 — 1,793 views  
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Do you remember everyone’s favorite bigot of the 1970s – Archie Bunker? Maybe you watched the show, All in the Family, back then – or maybe you’ve caught it in some recent reruns on cable. Poor Archie was having a heck of a time adjusting to all the changes resulting from the turmoil of the 1960s. New legislation was altering workplace and social norms in the areas of civil rights, women’s rights, and environmental awareness. So, every week in his theme song, he’d grieve for the time when “you knew who you were then – girls were girls, and men were men…Those were the days.” Well, what the 1970s were experiencing were the baby steps being forced by new laws and assertive pioneers insisting on equality in social status and in the workplace. The legislation may have been in place, but attitudes would evolve over time, not overnight. Now, more than 30 years later, and in the first decade of a new century, mind-sets have altered and significant progress is evident in the corporate boardrooms of today. United States business leadership is no longer seen as the relatively exclusive domain of men. In fact, the face of American enterprise is a unique and varied blend of ethnicities, cultural backgrounds, ages, and genders. (Archie would be mortified!) So, just what happened to the informal, behind-the scenes, way of doing things in this country? You know – when the “good ‘ole boys” would gather around the pool table, the poker table, or on the golf course and decide important corporate decisions that were later simply “rubber-stamped” in the boardroom. And, where does the new way of operating leave the businessmen of America today? The answer is simple: contemporary corporate men are in the same place they’ve always been; only, now they have a variety of people with whom to consult. And the informal meetings? They’re just as prevalent, and they may still sometimes take place on the golf course or other sports setting – and they’re probably still just as important. However, there are some significant differences. Today, things are much more politically and socially correct, with manners and professionalism expected even in the informal arenas. Also, it’s not just the “good ‘ole boys” any more; it’s called “networking” and males and females of all ages and backgrounds contribute to the process. Important issues are still discussed and compromises hammered out in these casual gatherings, saving immense amounts of time in the actual formal boardroom meetings. However, the final decisions generally will need to gain approval by a majority of interested parties at the official assembly. Does the reputation of being “home of the good ‘ole boys” still fit your community? Are there women and minorities serving in boardrooms and powerful positions throughout our community? The answer to both questions is probably a resounding “yes!” There are still many powerful networks within our area that many might consider part of the “good ‘ole boys.” However, if you look closely, you’ll find numerous women and different ethnicities scattered throughout these groups. So, what’s the verdict? Does anyone really relish a return to the “old days” and old ways of doing business? Realistically, maybe a few dinosaurs. However, they are becoming more and more rare as new generations recognize the value of diversity and the synergy resulting from a heterogeneous group of people. When everyone is from assorted backgrounds, life experiences, and cultures, the entire company benefits from an almost unlimited source of varied ideas and differing approaches to problems. The old methods don’t have to be used infinitum; innovative solutions may surface that can transform a stagnant bottom line into soaring profitability. New and different people bring with them new and different ideas. This can be a good thing – sometimes, a very good thing! And what is important in the 21st century is that attitudes truly have changed and businesses are more open to original suggestions and novel visions. Corporate America is probably as healthy as it has ever been. Men in the workplace have the advantage of history and proven competency in management positions. However, now they also have the luxury of sharing the burden with others and allowing them to help shoulder the responsibility of the welfare of the company, the economy, and the nation. (You know the old saying, “So goes the company, so goes America.”) We’re finally realizing that we are all in this together and “embracing the differences” allows us the depth to be stronger, more innovative, more productive, and more resilient. Sorry, Archie – but the “good ‘ole days” have given way to something a whole lot better!

Holly J. Culhane SPHR

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Identified the need for human resource and organizational assistance for small- and medium-sized business­es and formed Profes­sional Administra­tive Systems in 1987. Now known as P A S Associates, this firm combines specialists in the fields of human resources, labor and employment law, affirma­tive action, and substance abuse policies and education, providing an unsurpassed Human Resource Center.