Age and Today's Workplace, On Management #26
We will all grow old. If we're fortunate.
This time, age discrimination and possibilities for intergenerational workplaces.
In this month's audio, a leading authority on careers and workplace issues, Marci Alboher.
Marci's with Encore.org, an organization that innovates around how people can remain engaged during what we used to think of as "retirement." We discussed age diversity, some good Movies About Work, and more.
Thank you for inviting me to your in-box.
This Call Is Now Being Recorded: Marci Alboher
The first boomers are in their 70s. With this changing of the guard, where is the fresh thinking on how we are actually living and working today? How do intergenerational relationships enrich our workplaces and communities?
Some very neccessary innovation is happening at Encore.org, a not-for-profit that's exploring how the talents of older people can serve the greater good. I learned so much in conversation with Encore's Marci Alboher.
Links to things that came up during and after our conversation:
- Akeelah and the Bee, War Room, The Intern, and more. Vote for the all-time best mentoring movie at Encore's Generation to Generation page.
- If You Don’t Have Children, What Do You Leave Behind? is Marci's recent New York Times essay, on mentoring as part of her legacy.
- Why Ageism Never Gets Old, by Tad Friend at The New Yorker, on age discrimination in the Silicon Valley/tech.
- Marci's wonderful book is The Encore Career Handbook: How to Make a Living and a Difference in the Second Half of Life (Amazon) (Library)
NB: Marci and I spoke in November 2017, and I've edited our chat. Most edits remove duplication, rambling (mostly mine), and some ums and errs.
On Age Discrimination in our Workplaces
People want, and need to be mentored at work.
Marci Alboher mentioned The Intern in our discussion. So the other day, I screened it.
Brooklyn widower Robert DeNiro applies to a “senior internship program” at an ecommerce company. He gets the gig, builds relationships with his young peers, learns on the job, quietly shows his value, and winds up as the CEO’s mentor.
DeNiro’s character receives a warm reception from younger people at work. I’ve seen this in my own work. The film gets it right: people want to be mentored.
The Intern doesn't share the origins of its senior internship program. Maybe its fictional creator had a still-vital parent who had endured the financial insecurity of extended unemployment.
Not to mention the loss of community, and even meaning, that can come with a layoff.
Last fall, I decided to address age discrimination. I started asking about people's experiences.
And I started to hear layoff stories.
- A friend in job search, a nurse. One company told her that they don’t hire nurses with more than 20 years of experience; they “tended to not do well” in the organization’s environment. Basically, "not a culture fit," sight unseen.
- Another friend had 20+ years at a large IT consulting firm. 20+ years of excellent performance reviews. Yet management started making noises about her performance, and she took a package. The company then invited her to return to the same job, with a significant pay cut. Uh, performance be damned? (She declined.)
- Julian Brown has logged almost 40 years in tech. He provided an important insight: many in his cohort don’t have CS degrees. Requiring a CS degree filters out older people.
In 1995, US and Canadian universities awarded fewer than 8000 bachelor’s degrees in CS/CE. Boomers and older Gen-Xers graduated before then.
Younger people are worried about age discrimination, too. In 2015, I spoke at BrooklynJS, and at the afterparty in the bar, one woman told me that she never shared her age (around 40.)
While drafting this piece, Beth Carpenter's tweet crossed my feed.
The article Beth shared echoes stories my friends told me. Companies beware: when you treat people's parents badly, you are not burnishing your employment brand.
When experienced employees leave, institutional knowledge walks out the door. It's more than job and product knowledge: trust is broken with the people who remain.
Your shadow networks get broken. And mentoring possibilites collapse.
Aging out of the workforce at 40, 50, or 60 is not inevitable. This is simply how the last generation decided to do business.
This problem won't be solved by the consciousness that created it.
What possibilities and innovations exist in your circle of influence?
What I've been reading, &
- Cutting ‘Old Heads’ at IBM is chilling, and it's not just the layoffs. Journalists also uncovered the language used for internal communications. "Orwellian" is not always a cliché.
- Chana Joffe-Walt on Longform, on the making of This American Life's Five Women.
- Gary Chou's very personal drive to address bias of all kinds is simply inspiring.
- If there's a lot of drama at the office, having some experienced managers would help. 10K Hours to Management Excellence.
- Encore Fellowships are featured in The suddenly hot job market for workers over 50 at CNBC.
- Circling back to The Intern, the DeNiro/Russo story line, srsly? Give me more like Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi in Pacific Rim.
Welcome to new readers, especially those who subscribed after I appeared on The Broad Experience podcast.
Thanks to Marci Alboher, and to Julian, Beth, and others who have shared stories and concerns about age discrimination. It's on us to solve this one, people.
And I do read and respond to all of my email. I'd love your questions, suggestions, and more!