Is Ageism Real?

The recession swept through America, leaving scores of unemployed Baby Boomers in its wake. Millions have been unable to find work since. It’s now gotten so bad for the unemployed over 50, that President Obama is proposing legislation to make discrimination against the unemployed illegal.

So is ageism in the workplace real? You bet it is. But the situation is complicated by these competing truths:

  • Many older workers do not have the skills and competencies that employers need to compete in the new economy.
  • Some younger managers are afraid to hire older workers because they don’t know how to manage them.
  • Sometimes older workers cost more to employ. Sometimes they cost less.
  • Productivity can decline with age, but younger workers are not always more productive, nor more reliable.
To be over 50 and unemployed carries a terrible status in our country, and we are ALL complicit. My challenge to hiring managers is to check your assumptions when screening candidates and look for the competencies most critical for the role. My challenge to Baby Boomers is to prove your relevancy to the new economy, adapting your skills and offerings to meet these changes in the market.

It is in everyone’s best interest for organizations to attract and retain top talent. What are you doing, as a hiring manager or potential employee, to help or hinder that goal?

- Amy Hirsh Robinson, Principal, Interchange Group
Workforce Strategies for the New Economy