Today I want to narrow this topic down to how generational differences can play out in a workplace that's trying to become more family-friendly.
In a workplace, baby boomers who are close to retirement have different ideas about how to work than their younger counterparts. Some of these differences are due to technology. The post-war generation might well have put in their time at the factory for a set number of hours every day because that was the only place work could get done. If no one was there welding the widgets, they didn't get made.
Today, not all work can be done remotely, but much of it can. This can require a change in mindset for the older generation. It's not that they are technological idiots--they are fully aware that you can finish a report at home on the computer just as easily as you can at the office. It's just that their way of working became ingrained as part of their culture. If you were at the office or the factory longer, of course you got more work done (this was especially true if the work was systematic and your skill didn't affect the efficiency of the work). If you wanted to move up within the organization, you put the time in. That was how you showed your dedication.
This can make change toward family-friendly policies difficult. If the older generation is used to watching the clock, they might have to readjust in order to watch the quality of work. If a manager thinks meeting participation and working on weekends creates quality work, he or she would naturally be more likely to refuse requests for unconventional schedules or longer parental leaves.
The problem can spread institution-wide as well, simply because of traditions. I have heard of some female university professors resisting the movement to slow down tenure clocks simply because they felt that since they had to sacrifice family time to get where they were, the younger generation should have to do the same. I've also heard about medical programs' reluctance to shorten shifts for residents, even though more sleep would mean better patient outcomes, for the same reason.
I'm not saying younger always equals better, nor am I saying that all older people are resistant to change--in fact, I've also heard stories of older managers congratulating their employees on their family-friendly requests because they wished they'd been able to do the same when their own families were younger.
But I am suggesting that we not keep traditions merely for tradition's sake.