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The ‘obligations’ of older workers – if they want to stay working for longer

by on August 28, 2014

Here’s an interesting piece on the Business Life website that includes the suggestion that older workers have certain obligations if they wish to remain employed in later life. It argues that older workers fill a real skills / labour shortage – rather than ‘stealing’ jobs from the young – but that they need to pay attention to what the labour market requires.

It cites the MD of an executive recruitment firm as saying: “The mistake senior people make is to talk all the time and not listen. I’ve seen a number of very capable people get turned down because a panel found them to be cocky and act as if they knew everything. Employers couldn’t see them fitting in with their culture.’

Another contributor, a Chairman of a consulting and technology company, is quoted as saying that older workers need to honour their obligations to develop ‘personal communication skills, the ability to work in a multi-aged team, and [to be] a lifetime learner who actually likes gaining knowledge’.

I think what’s interesting in this piece is that it begins to qualify and go beyond some of the so-called positive stereotypes of older workers (which, we have argued, can be as damaging as negative stereotypes in their capacity to limit employment opportunities). Indeed, could it be that some of the quoted behaviours (being cocky and acting as if they knew everything’) be an unconscious reflection of needing to fulfil the stereotype of being wise and experienced?

Finally, I would also say that these ‘obligations’ could usefully extend to people of all ages who are in work or seeking jobs.


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