President Barack Obama swept his way into the White House by promising “change” in America. He promised a new way of governing, a new way of working with foreign governments, and new transparency for his own decisions.
Then, on his very first day in office, Obama changed a part of the American government that no one had talked about: the workplace culture at the White House.Under President Bush, no one was allowed to step inside the Oval Office without a suit and tie. There were no exceptions – even on weekends.President Obama, on the other hand, has a more relaxed attitude towards the White House culture. Not only does he allow aides to show up in casual dress on weekends, he dresses down to lead by example. Even on weekdays, Obama flies against White House tradition by turning up the thermostat in the Oval Office so he can work without his suit jacket. It’s more important to him to be comfortable at work than to be formal.Like Xers, Obama gives his family and personal life priority as well. While President Bush would be in the Oval Office first thing in the morning, President Obama exercises, reads several newspapers in the morning, eats breakfast with his family and helps get his daughters ready for school, all before heading down to the Oval Office at 9am. He also arranges his schedule so that he can eat dinner with his family, even if it means he has to go back to work later in the evening.There are other changes in the White House workplace as well. Staffers can expect the president to just show up at the door of their office to check in, and President Obama sometimes takes advantage of microphones in the halls of Congress to throw impromptu press conferences. Both changes are shocking to members of the White House who also worked for President Bush, who ran a hierarchially-structured workplace.The White House has one of the most formal, top-down workplaces in America. So it says a lot about the shifting in workplace priorities when the first post-Boomer president begins his years in office by putting his family, personal life and comfort front and center.
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