Conquent: Without Limits
Conquent: Without Limits
Kristen Fife's Blog

The Disturbing Trend of Ageism in the Work Place

2009-03-05 11:50:59

I'm seeing a very disturbing trend in HR today. One of my friends, who is a brilliant Computer Scientists with a wealth of global business experience, was recently laid off from a local area software company. It turns out that most of the layoffs were the over 40 crowd. The company cited "financial reasons" defined by rising healthcare costs, and the philosophy that anyone over a specific age has only a limited worklife left so they would rather invest their money in younger workers.

I've also seen a lot of commentary in my social networks pointing to ageism as a factor in hiring. Why pay someone what they are *worth* with 20+ years of experience when you can hire someone half their age for peanuts?

In the US, we don't value wisdom and experience as much as other countries. Our culture is obsessed with youth. I think this is one of the most unnatural, misplaced, idiotic cultural values out there. I blame it on the entertainment industry for the most part.

Although age discrimination is illegal, when there is a glut of unemployed professionals in the workforce, it is oh so easy to look at the candidates with more experience and the younger *cheaper* candidate and then to rationalize that the older candidate is "too expensive".

I come from a family that values education. My mom went back to school in her 50's to get her Master's in Social Work. She has a long health care history, and that makes her a valuable employee in a healthy field, even now in her sixties.

One of the things we at Conquent value is *experience*. It is not dependent on how young/old you are. It's a matter of whether or not you have the skills and cultural fit for what we need. Sometimes a green fresh college graduate, with a different perspective and new ideas will fit the bill better than someone that has been in the field for a decade or more. And then there is the fact that sometimes our clients need a seasoned professional that understands the greater business world and can quickly "hit the ground running" without a long learning curve.

Companies need to evaluate factors beyond "cost". Look to the experience and balance a *broad* corporate population brings to the table. And quit thinking of ways to "bend" the law to save a few bucks.

Insights and Responses to my Ageism Issue
The role of Corporate America, and recruiting, in the job situation

Gemma Toth: Re: The Disturbing Trend of Ageism in the Work Place
2009-03-05 13:04:02

Kristen, this is so true in this day and age. People forget the term "you get what you pay for" as that also rings true in the workplace. You can potentially lose customers when your seasoned professionals are replaced by less experienced staff and they caused more problems than solutions for their clients.

At times, the cost factor does not take into consideration possible discrimination lawsuit - so instead of saving the company money, it cost them more in the end.

Kristine Meldrum Denholm: Re: The Disturbing Trend of Ageism in the Work Place
2009-03-06 08:41:12

Excellent article Kristen. I saw this first-hand when my dad, who was a top sales executive & top sales producer for many, many years etc. was laid off by a famous crystal/silver company....due to "downsizing" (over 50 crowd apparently) six months later he got cancer. We still can't believe his last memories are of the company he treasured, valued, and worked so hard for laid him off at 58.

Betty Doo: Re: The Disturbing Trend of Ageism in the Work Place
2009-03-09 12:12:24

Too many people--even in the HR field---still want to pretend ageism in the workplace doesn't exist. Or that looking it straight in the eye is being "too negative". All forms of bias persist in the workplace and the only way we will get beyond it is if we openly acknowledge its presence and work to overcome. I don't see that as being negative but as surfacing the invisible so it can be addressed. Thanks for the article Kristen.

Kelly Fryer: Re: - The Disturbing Trend of Ageism in the Work Place
2010-05-13 12:01:05

I agree! This is a disturbing trend with multiple negative consequences for companies that don't address it. But ageism is real and so the question is: What can older workers and older leaders do about it? We think Betty White has something to teach us! Have more fun. Seriously. People today want to work playfully together. They want to be treated like creative partners. In our experience, this is the biggest challenge older workers/leaders face. They just didn't learn to do business this way. Companies that want to do a better job of fighting ageism and making the best use of their older employees could do worse than this: Teach people how to engage in serious play.

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