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I’ve had enough of lists about generations at work

by on February 25, 2016

I was stuck today but these two articles on the issues of age discrimination in USA.  Remember that in the US the issue of age discrimination is defined as applying to ‘older’ workers only and means those over 40.

So the first article is this comment in US News, “4 ageist phrases to quit saying at the office” .

The four phrases are: 1. “You’re overqualified.”2. “Don’t worry, you don’t need to take that computer training class.” 3. “When are you going to retire?” and 4. “Baby boomers are … ” (Although usefully the article does highlight that you could replace any generational label in this last phrase and still have a problem with stereotyping according to age).

The second article is from the Wall Street Journal appears to answer the question “Why Baby Boomers Are Their Own Worst Workplace Enemy“.  Again it adopts a list like approach offering a number of things to avoid: Adopting a role as elder statesman, Overvaluing the status of seniority, Raining on your colleague’s parade, Refusing to adapt.

My issue with these lists is that they tend to pitch one age group (or generation – or sometimes a mix of the too) against each other and actually make gross generalisations about both older and younger workers.  Perhaps we should term these ‘GENERATIONalisations’?   Such lists also ignore the possibility of alternative combinations of age, skill and experience.  As we move around between jobs more frequently and people retrain and start second, third and even forth careers assuming that the older person in the workplace is the most senior, skilled and experienced is a dangerous assumption (indeed assuming those three always go together is also something of a risk).






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