Discriminate Older Employees

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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J.T. & Dale

“JT & Dale Talk Jobs” is the largest nationally syndicated career advice column in the country. J.T. O’Donnell and Dale Dauten are both professional development experts.

One comment

  1. They used to talk about the generation gap, the space between those born in different decades, roughly 20 years apart, but I think there’s also a ‘people gap’ that goes along with that, namely who we are, and how far along we are on the maturity and experience track, and the simple fact that as we age, we tend maybe to get entrenched in our views and opinions, having had several years to make our minds up about things and form those opinions, as well as work habits and the establishment of a given way to do things. We get set in our ways, be they good, or bad. Young people who are new to the workforce, are always still exploring, still learning, still plumbing the depths, trying to find new and different ways to do things, and the nature and expectations of work are also changing, as are the working tools especially in the office setting, where yesterday’s clipboard and typewriter are now being replaced with handheld devices, the basic job of storing and retrieving information basically unaltered, but the methods of recordkeeping always changing, and improving. Do young people maybe have a little bit of an edge, being ‘fresh’ to such changes? Maybe so, but balanced against that is the practical experience of decades embodied in people who might have been born in homes without electricity, and have ‘enjoyed’, or at least experienced the entire evolution to the present day, and are cynical about and maybe wise to some of the perils and pitfalls of the hubris of modernity. One thing is for sure, the jobsite can only be enriched and improved by attempts at inclusion of people of different ages and experience levels, provided that all concerned are mutually committed to a harmonious, non-antagonistic work environment, as there will always be new/old rivalries no matter what you do, and sometimes, those become hostile, with efforts to push out the older members of the crew. Yet, new isn’t always better, and invariably, the new will end up repeating the mistakes of the old, though they be equipped with the modern toys and empowered mindset so popular, these days. Mind your elders, sonny, they have much to teach, if you’re willing to learn…

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