America’s Dystopia: Ageism
In an era where longevity is extending and an economy where postponement of retirement may be a financial necessity, many Baby Boomers elect to continue to work. However, at some organizations, it is expected, as an unwritten rule, that personnel “opt out” at age 58.* Many Gen Y/Millennials (Gen Y/M) believe that Baby Boomers are outdated, using approaches that were effective 20-30 years ago.
How do other organizations strategize to retain its most experienced talent? What practices are put into place to integrate the cultural merger of the stark generation gap that exists between Baby Boomers and Gen Y/M’s? Some organizations are actively working on bridging the gap by raising awareness through 360-degree evaluations, Diversity & Inclusion programs, online cultural tools, and Leadership Development workshops. However, change agents can only introduce awareness opportunities, they cannot force change. A personal epiphany as to how to operate more effectively with others must come from within. One Gen Y/M executive complained, “What kind of strategy is that?! Wait ‘til they die?!”
Dystopia is an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives. In the 1976 film “Logan’s Run” (based on a 1967 Sci-Fi novel by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson), the world is strictly regulated by executing its citizens at age 30. In today’s workplace, one Gen Y/M executive frustratedly asked why his 55-yr old colleague does not retire. Are we living the real-life version of Logan’s Run at cut-off age 55?
What is the benefit of retaining seasoned, senior executives? One main benefit is people with a lot of experience tend to not panic in times of crisis. They understand how situations are interrelated. When seasoned professionals experience stress, it may result in some suppressed short-term memory; however, they still have recessive learning, muscle memory, from which to draw and execute wise decision-making. Stability in large corporations is key for the economy. Those executives who do not have substantial experience, are more likely to choke and fail.
Identity is Destiny
Cross-Cultural experts and sociologists have found that national societies unconsciously desire to see a reflection of their country’s identification in the workplace. If the country (e.g. the USA) is relatively young, dynamic, quick growth, and innovative, it expects and recruits talent to be the same. In other, more ancient civilizations, there is a high degree of reverence. In Japan, for example, there is a national holiday, Toshiyori no Hi on September 15; which is a day to practice Respect for the Aged. Japan places a strong value on tradition, honor, quality, and age. So, while an American may call an edifice “old, built in 1900,” a European may reference the same edifice as being “new.”
Lessons through the Ages
So, would you rather have the young surgeon, who has learned the latest medical practices? Or, would you rather have the seasoned surgeon, who knows what to do when the emergency generator kicks in and you are suddenly losing blood unexpectedly? How about both? This goes back to how the much longer-history civilizations develop talent and practice succession planning through Master/Student apprenticeship, also known as mentoring. Mature organizations, i.e. those wise in comprehending its role, do not allow seasoned talent to resign, self-demote, and be made redundant in the next round of lay-offs.
How “mature” is your organization’s view on Talent Development, Recruitment, and Succession Planning? Know this before it’s your turn to take Logan’s Run.
(USA) Age ID Quiz
Select ONE answer from each of the 10 questions below that best identifies you.
1. Which of the following meant the most to you?
A) Elvis joins the Army.
B) Jimi Hendrix dies.
C) MTV debuts.
D) Kurt Cobain dies.
2. cu l8tr is:
B) A typo.
C) What the “kids” use to text.
D) An invitation to see a friend.
3. I plan to stay in a company_______:
A) …until the day I die.
B) …until (hopefully early) retirement.
C) …depending on my boss/work environment.
D) …until something else opens up.
4. On average my money currently goes towards:
5. I mostly make decisions based on:
A) Authority figures.
B) Data and facts.
C) My peers.
D) Reaching a consensus.
6. I obtain my local information by means of…
A) My neighbors.
B) The newspaper.
C) The 6 o’clock news.
D) The internet.
7. When it comes to technology I…
A) Don’t like it/am confused by it.
B) Ask someone to help me with it, occasionally.
C) Am adequate at it (but secretly need help on certain things).
D) Don’t know life without it.
8. How often do you buy the newspaper?
A) Every day and all prints.
B) I have a subscription.
C) Sundays for the coupons.
9. The war I mainly remember as a child is
B) Cold War.
10. The president I will most likely remember is…
C) Ronald Reagan.
D) Bill Clinton.
Mostly A’s = Silent Generation (1901-1945)
Mostly B’s = Baby Boomer (1946-1964)
Mostly C’s = Generation X (1965-1980)
Mostly D’s = Generation Y/Millennials (1981-1999)
Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Gen X’er, wanna-be Centenarian, Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, author, cultural analyst, coach, speaker, and facilitator. CorporateLookingGlass.com.
Malcom Gladwell, What the Dog Saw, 2009.
My CSUN students, Spring 2011.
* The Global Chairman/CEO of a Fortune 500 company stated in Fall 2012, “We have a norm where retirement age, mandatory, if you will, is 60. And, so the norm is 58. I’ve encouraged so many of our (senior executives) to start their ‘second chapter’ at age 58.”
©Rossina Gil, 2014