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The Age of the New Economy (Accepting)

Welcome to the '80s and '90s. The last of the Organization Men were retiring or cashing out with golden parachutes, severance plans, early retirement incentive programs, and other ways to escape the reality that diversity and technology were not only here to stay, but were coming of age. Although technology was not the primary driving force behind the exodus of the Organization Man, it was a compounding factor. Added altogether, going to work was no longer fun, and there was no turning back. There were only two choices, accept it or leave it. And leave it many of them did.

Even a dead body will move in a river that is flowing

In the '80s there were still significant pockets of traditionalists in positions of power and in some of the stalwarts of industry, but baby boomers and other new workers were beginning to acquire greater power, not because they deserved it, particularly in the minds of the Organization Men, but because there was no choice. It wasn't by design, but by default. Who else was going to succeed them?

And, as we moved into the '90s, power was no longer rooted solely in position, but also in knowledge and expertise. Power now came with rare and valued talent and skill. New age techies and other high-achievers and talented individuals started to rule the roost, even if it was only departmental. Some weirdness was becoming an accepted cost of doing business and making money.

Combine the so-called new economy with the dot-com boom and the severe shortage of technical and other talent, and companies were now looking purely for talent, and didn't care what color, shape, or size it came in. Diversity almost became a non-issue because you could be purple with two heads and if you had talent, you had job offers.

It actually got to the point that almost anyone could succeed if they could fog the mirror, because organizations were suddenly desperate for warm bodies. And, because demand outweighed supply, knowledge workers and rare talent were now in the driver's seat for the first time in the history of organizations. And they capitalized on it.

Better offers were streaming in, new companies were being formed right and left, stock options were being handed out like candy, and the new worker went wherever the money and opportunity took him or her. Loyalty was now directed toward a profession, not an organization. Free Agent Nation had been born. Employees could truly become owners, even at the entry level.

And guess what these new workers were accused of? Being disloyal! If it weren't so pathetic it would be funny. But more importantly, with this new era also came new perks, privileges and prerogatives ranging from flex time to casual attire to actually having fun at work. Blasphemy! The values of loyalty and harmony were now being superceded by the values of creativity and innovation. Ideas and results ruled the day!

This period represented a major transition in the world of work. Regardless of the fact that the so-called new economy may have been a flash in the pan, and that workers may never be "in charge" to the degree they were (which I predict will be true again), there was a new acceptance and a growing awareness of the value of diversity. But now it was going way beyond the traditional, legalistic definition of diversity to become The Age of the Individual.

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