Why Do Younger People Discriminate Against Older Employees?

Discriminate Older EmployeesDear J.T. & Dale: My belief is that the younger generation of HR workers openly discriminate against older employees. I believe they are threatened because they are simply outperformed by the 40- to 70-year-olds. Thoughts? – Aaron

J.T.: I’m not sure that it’s a question of who’s more productive, but rather, who’s less expensive. Labor costs are one of a company’s largest expenses, so hiring younger workers at lower wages is an appealing solution.

DALE: Let’s wade into age stereotypes and see what older workers are up against. Say you’re an employer with this list of traits that you most value in your employees: experience, values, work ethic, energy, creativity, openness to change, and technological savvy. Which of those do you associate with people under 40 and which with those over 40? The stereotypes would give the first three to older workers and the next four to youth. So your age preference depends on your priorities as an employer, and that’s before you even get to relative salaries.

J.T.: Yes, seasoned workers have to deal with the reality that they are being typecast. It’s up to the individual worker to break through those misperceptions. If saying to employers, “I’m older and more experienced” isn’t resulting in job offers, it’s time to change the strategy.

DALE: If you’re an older worker, you go in and blow away the stereotype. You go in eager to talk about the latest phone apps or social media sites that you’re putting to use. You bring examples of innovations you’ve been part of. And it wouldn’t hurt to slip in some age-related examples, like how the creative genius of our time, the architect Frank Gehry, created his great masterpiece, the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain, when he was pushing 70.

J.T.: It also wouldn’t hurt to put aside resentments and remember that young people also are having a tough time. You might even concede that the young people in this country have it tougher than older workers, with a higher unemployment rate than those in their 50s, all while bent beneath a load of college debt.

Feel free to send questions to J.T. and Dale via e-mail at advice@jtanddale.com or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.

© 2012 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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