The Golden Years Keep Getting Tarnished

by SixFigureStart | April 13, 2009

  • My Vault
So in a Pink Slipped first, both Todd and I decided to write on the exact same topic today--older people in the work force (and not)! But since his is more news, and mine is more commentary, what the hell, you guys can "enjoy" both!

Being laid off and trying to find a new job can suck at any age, but is it worse for older would-be workers? The New York Times acknowledges as much in an opinion piece from yesterday and debates why this may be. Some of the arguments involve money--more experience tends to equal higher pay, and several of the experts cited higher company health care costs for bodies on the decline. But really it seems to come down to stereotypes and perceptions of "old" people. Compare the following excerpts from two of the experts:

"Nothing is really new about employers preferring to hire younger candidates. Experiments have shown that even when credentials are absolutely identical, employers much prefer the younger candidates...There are no good reasons for this overall preference. Older workers perform better across the range of relevant performance indicators — better skills, especially interpersonal skills, better attendance, more conscientious, and so on."

And:

"One part of the problem is matching worker with job. Older workers have a lifetime of preferences and skills — essentially unique-shaped pegs that can fit into a limited number of holes. Younger workers are malleable and can fit more easily into a variety of positions."

So you can look at is as older workers having the advantages of wisdom, responsibility and efficiency, or peg them as rigid, set in their way anachronisms who present management challenges for those younger than them. Speaking of the young, they wrestle with stereotypes of their own. To wit:

"Generational differences in personality may also play a role: research shows that the younger generation, on average, is higher in self-esteem, assertiveness and narcissism, characteristics that may help them self-promote and impress during a job interview...Unfortunately, these same traits — particularly narcissism — will later cause large problems for managers when they reappear as entitlement, overconfidence and conflicts with co-workers. Narcissistic people tend to take too many risks, leading to failure, and they react with anger and aggression when criticized."

Well. Like most people, I certainly know preening, bombastic, assertive twits of all ages, as well as agile minds and versatile skill sets scattered amongst all decades. Can we stop lumping people in groups and start evaluating people as individuals? Ha ha, I know, I crack myself up...

--Posted by Linda Petock, Vault News & Commentary

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