Archive for October, 2017

Career Conversations without Ageism

Monday, October 9th, 2017

How frustrating it is to struggle with a conversation because we see things through our different lenses!

We make assumptions based on so many things, but for this blog I’ll focus on a person’s age. Age discrimination is still pervasive when it comes to hiring older workers. And for different reasons, many young workers also lose out on opportunities based on age-related assumptions.

Stereotypes remain infuriatingly durable that peg older workers as low-productivity employees who are stuck in their ways and younger workers with lack of work ethic. “One thing that always strikes me is social attitudes,” says David Neumark, economist and director of the Center for Economics & Public Policy at the University of California, Irvine. “People who would never make a racist or sexist joke will make an ageist joke without thinking about it. The social acceptability of that is remarkable.”

Experts in generational workforce issues help us understand how the experiences over time that shape our thinking result in assumptions and generalizations that become barriers in communication and productivity. Strauss and Howe, Claire Raines, and Hayden Shaw help us understand how to talk with each other respecting and leveraging our differences and commonalities.

photo by AHull

 

On a recent volunteer project, I got an email from a fellow volunteer saying he was not returning to our project because the leader ‘didn’t like me.’ I talked with him and heard how the leader (2 cohorts younger) had spoken harshly to him on several occasions. Upon exploring the situation with him and the leaders, she determined he was not up to the task because he was over 60 and wore hearing aids. I learned that he just didn’t know what was expected – assumptions and lack of clear instructions was at the root of the problem. A classic supervisory error. We lost a valuable volunteer and a dent to the organization’s reputation in the community.

Have you seen and heard a similar situation in your job? Do you see people ‘check out’ in frustration?

Dedicate some time to exploring your boss and colleagues frames of reference. Using the above resources, map out where there are similarities and common ground. Use these as a starting point for career conversations. You may be pleasantly surprised how willing we are to talk when approached out of curiosity rather than assumptions.