Ageism in the workforce is palpable. I have many clients experiencing it right now - getting phased out because they’re viewed as not tech savvy or sharp enough. Not only is that biased and discriminative, it’s just not true. But some work environments minimize this subset of the workforce so much that the workers begin to dummy down their own performance to play it safe and in that self-sabotage state live up to the stereotype they’ve been dubbed. Viscous.
People in their 50s and 60s taught themselves how to use computers, survived wars with resilience and without the post-war armed services suicide rates we are seeing today, are loyal, can handle conflict, have no problem cold calling, can negotiate, can start and carry a conversation longer then a minute, can close a deal, and can build alignment. They also have institutional memory and want to serve and develop others. Is there no value for these skills? Of course there is. But just as our culture can discriminate against race, religion, color, sexual orientation and other differentiators, it also discriminates against and marginalizes age. Except less people talk about it. Our congress raised the minimum age to access social security distributions yet corporate America often doesn't want to keep or hire people in their 50s and 60s and justifies it by saying they are outdated in their skills and mindset. Very sad indeed.
If you blame age for someone's lack of skill in one area are you blaming age for everyone's lack of skill in that area? If you call someone and "old timer" that is discrimination. If at work you are hoping someone retires soon, that is discrimination. If you roll your eyes because someone over 55 doesn't recognize a pop icon that is discrimination. Period. I'd be willing to bet there is something of value they know or CAN do better than you.
Recently my husband and I had a conversation with two very nice people in their 30s where he was telling them he liked his old phone better and one of them said, "I bet your IT staff are in their offices saying, "Why can't he just retire?" to which I responded, "I bet not. He's never lost a case and brings in millions for the firm. You'd be losing that bet."
As we are rightfully canvasing our biases in many capacities these days please do not forget ageism. Technology agility is one skill. It's not a character trait. Grit, perseverance, resilience, dedication, adaptability, and loyalty are character traits.
For aging workers - be ahead of the curve. Stay current. Educate yourself on industry trends, culture and software. Follow current blogs. Care for yourself like you matter. Be in shape. Dress sharply. Listen and start a conversation about what's been missed. Ask good questions that help others think. Mentor others. Be the person nobody wants to see leave.
For leaders out there - please make sure your Diversity-Equity-Inclusion officers have a specific plan for how you address ageism. You’ll loose the respect of people in their 50s and 60s otherwise. You'll lose talent too. And you’ll be in that age group yourself someday.
If you fear age bias or sense that you are too old to compete in the workplace here is the link to a free 10-step plan to help differentiate your value proposition. You are NOT too old. You just need to position your value proposition. Learn how with this 10-step tool I give my clients. 10 Tips When You Fear Age Bias.
If you are struggling with uncertainty and feel exhausted and ineffective watch my FREE Training on Three Ways to Move to the Next Level In Your Career Right Now to 1) identify the right role for you, 2) position your transferable skills and 3) create a career portfolio that sells you before you even get an interview. If you don't know where you will be at the end of the year, you are already there.
P.S. Feel free to forward this email to someone who could benefit from it. We are all walking down the same road in life looking for a hand to hold. Sometimes we must be the hand that reaches out. www.MaryLeeGannon.com
Mary Lee Gannon, ACC, CAE is an executive coach and 19-year corporate CEO who helps leaders have more effective careers, happier lives and better relationships. Request a free consultation call.
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