Even with labour market shortages and shifting demographics, ageism is still rampant in our workplaces. The cost of ageism is both in the journey and the destination. Why can’t we work to realise everyone’s potential?
Ageism is deeply engrained in our organisational psyche. We obsess over made up generations. We fail to appreciate the ‘war for talent’ is because of an ageing demographic. There’s no 50 over 50. Young guns are prized. Twenty-somethings are venerated as startup CEOs. Development is for younger talent. Transition to retirement programs start as young as 45 when retirement is over 65. As our economies have shifted to services and knowledge we have failed to see the value of experience. We retain mindsets from the days when physical work broke bodies.
The Cost of the Journey
Ageism affects all workers. Everyone ages and the implications are not lost on the young. In my twenties, I observed the hair colour of those leaving the organisation and the thinning ranks of older employees. I decided I needed a second or third occupation for my fifties. I thought my career was over when I hadn’t made general manager young enough. I gave up on a goal to be CEO (even though that proved to be wrong many times over). I ended up freelancing much of my forties after a poorly timed redundancy.
As a manager, I have hired so many talented older workers and discovered the breadth of what they can contribute. I have worked with many to develop new career opportunities and new skills. Despite their success in winning and performing in the role, some have been sceptical that they could keep it. The culture of ageism is so deeply engrained that despite their obvious contributions they expected me to move them on. Unnecessary stress hangs over all work. This stress is greater when combined in intersectionality with other forms of discrimination.
No talented person young or old should live in fear of ageing at work. Nobody should view their financial and emotional security tied to a Logan’s Run process where regardless of your potential your life is over at 45. The cost of this is not just on the older workers. This deprived organisations of workers full of talent and experience, both young and old. Talented people of all ages leave when you don’t respect the older worker.
We know horoscopes are make-believe. Generations are a marketer’s confection. We need to stop believing a birthdate determines potential or performance
Hire talented people. That’s it. That’s the advice that ends this nonsense.
But right now, the seasons fermented
To fullness, so slip into something light
Like your skeleton; while these old
bones are working, my darling,
Let’s danceBarbara Cooker, Reel