Generational Dissing in the Workplace

Here are the facts.

With unemployment at 3.9%, it’s difficult for employers to find qualified workers.

Just a few months ago, there were 7.1 million job openings but just 6 million unemployed workers.

When you add the U.S. Census Bureau’s estimate that 22 million workers over the age of 50 will be forced into an involuntary job separation, you begin to understand the threat of the growing talent gap.

But in a workplace oddity, even after the layoffs of millions of older workers, 1.4 million of the 2.9 million new jobs generated in 2018 were taken by someone 55 years or older.

It’s a fact that workers over 50 will soon become the largest entrant into the job market!

It seems Boomers aren’t leaving the workplace anytime soon. And if they do, they’ll be replaced by other Boomers who either need to or want to remain purposeful in the workplace.

So then why are the layoffs happening in the first place?

Ageism, mainly. And a stubborn first-cost mentality that sacrifices long-term results for short-term gain.

Ageism supports the inter-generational animus that devalues individual players by applying group stereotypes. First-cost mentality justifies the release of experienced workers to reduce costs by hiring less expensive, less experienced, younger workers.

So, based on the aforementioned, available demographic data, did companies misread or simply ignore the tea leaves?

Probably a little bit of both.

As a result, older workers are being invited back with compensation terms that in many cases support both a corporate need to save dollars and a Boomers requirement for flexibility.

Sounds like a classic win-win.

But it doesn’t solve the problem of how Boomers and younger generations can work effectively to produce results. In fact, it seems companies and the media seem to be hunkering down on the differences between the generations, not the extreme value each generation brings to the work experience.

A new equilibrium based on an acceptance of diversity and inclusion would be advantageous right about now. Without it, we end up where we started. A multi-generational workplace slogging its way through a forced shared experience. And a more-than-likely shortfall of agility, innovation and profitability.

That’s a lot of pressure, sustained over a long period of time.

Why do I care so much about this topic?

I was consumed by the marginalization of older workers prior to leaving Steelcase. I heard an earful from my like-aged colleagues, and from younger colleagues I had volunteered to mentor.

Not to mention all the noise from every business publication I picked up.

After leaving Steelcase, ostensibly to retire, I began to formulate my next act. The mainstay of my new career will be – through writing, and as a coach – to assist Boomers in keeping or reclaiming relevance in the workplace.

Yet I didn’t want to contain myself to borrowed ideas on the subject.

To solve for that, I’m writing a book that will serve as a cornerstone of my own ideas. But I need some help – your help – on the research side of things.

More specifically, I’m looking for a pulse-check on the current state of generational dissing through YOUR eyes. And an honest talk about remedies.

Please join me, along with a small group of your colleagues, for a discussion over lunch at the Steelcase showroom. Date to be provided after the New Year. I’m expecting that the meeting will provide substantive results we can all leverage. And I thank you, in advance, for your consideration.

Not to mention how great it will be to see everyone again!

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