June 5, 2001 -- The Corner Office column that debuted this spring on ABCNEWS.com has offered working and aspiring managers a rung-by-rung guide to climbing the corporate ladder. The column, based on the new book, The Boss's Survival Guide, comes via ABCNEWS.com columnist Bob Rosner of Working Wounded fame, and two workplace expert colleagues. This week, Rosner steps back from his usual weekly offering to answer questions about the column and the book.
ABCNEWS.com: What is a retention evangelist?
Rosner: Today, managers are scrambling to deal with the economic downturn. But tomorrow, long after this downturn is history, they'll be left with a huge talent problem. That's because 76 million baby boomers are getting ready to retire.
Do you know what that means for the work force? Seventy-six million boomers replaced by only 44 million Gen Xers means we'll have 32 million fewer workers. That kind of numbers shift seriously changes the power equation in the workplace. It means talented workers will be harder to come by. It means workers will be able to choose where they want to work. And it means managers will have to work much harder to retain their top talent. Retention will be the name of the game.
Walking Through a Minefield
Question: How much power do managers have in terms of retention?
Rosner: Enormous power. Think about it — hasn't a boss ever made you quit a job? Or kept you in one? Fifty percent of workers cite the boss as the No. 1 factor in job retention.
Question: Doesn't that put a lot of pressure on bosses?
Rosner: Yes, in addition to all the other pressures they feel. This is probably the toughest time ever to be a boss. That's why we decided to write The Boss's Survival Guide. Between people challenges, compliance challenges and competitive challenges, bosses are walking through a minefield. We wanted to create a comprehensive, easy to use and fun to read tool that would help them survive.
Question: What are some of the issues you cover in the book that will also appear in The Corner Office columns?
Rosner: We address the nitty-gritty of managing today, such as hiring and firing, making sense of the alphabet soup of laws and regulations, how to share your expectations, how to vary your leadership style, how to walk your talk. We cover the top 10 ways to stay out of jail and the top 10 ways to keep your best people.
Basically, we cover the 65 most vexing issues managers have to deal with. And, as Mary Poppins sang, we always use a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.
A Collaborative Effort
Question: Unlike with the Working Wounded column, this is not a solo effort. Who are your co-authors?
Rosner: I was lucky enough to team with two of the best brains in the field of human resources — Allan Halcrow and Alan Levins. Halcrow is a consultant and former publisher of Workforce magazine, the world's leading HR magazine. Levins is a senior partner at Littler Mendelson, the nation's top employer law firm. We figured that between us we covered the waterfront in terms of knowledge of the issues, the ability to explain things simply and zaniness.
Question: Working Wounded addresses the problems of workers. The Boss's Survival Guide and The Corner Office talk to bosses. Have you switched allegiances?
Rosner: No, I'm just bipolar. After five years of writing Working Wounded and answering literally thousands of e-mails, I came to the conclusion that no one at work has a monopoly on stupidity. Or virtue. Bosses get wounded too. And they need support and advice just as much as their employees.
When I think about bosses today I think about the old "perception and reality" Rolling Stone ads. Each ad had two pictures. The first was the "perception" of a Rolling Stone reader (a burned out hippie); the second was the "reality" (an upscale yuppie in an expensive suit). The gulf between the perception and reality of bosses is just as wide. Ask employees about their perception of bosses and many will say, "power, perks and paychecks." But talk to their bosses and you'll probably hear, "pressure, politics and prima donnas."
Or as a Russian czar once said, "I don't rule Russia, 10,000 clerks do."
Question: Don't you have any good news for bosses?
Rosner: It's like Dickens said in A Tale of Two Cities. It's the best of times and the worst of times. It's the hardest time to be a boss today, but it's also the best time to be a boss, because bosses have more opportunity to make a difference. They can create a better workplace — a more human workplace — than the one they entered at the beginning of their careers.
Even with all the challenges, I can't think of a better time to be a boss.
Bob Rosner is the co-author of The Boss's Survival Guide (McGraw-Hill, 2001), along with Allan Halcrow, former editor of Workforce Magazine and Alan Levins, senior partner of San Francisco-based employer law firm Littler Mendelson. Rosner is also founder of the award-winning workingwounded.com. He can be reached via fax at (206) 780-4353, and via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABCNEWS.com publishes a new Corner Office column every Tuesday.