Make Your Age Work for You
I was startled by an article today in the Chicago Tribune regarding older workers at risk of being let go because of their high salaries. Well, that right there is a relative term and so is “older” for that matter. An Ohio State University study indicated that “More than 2,00- age-bias cases over a 15-year period in a large industrial state found older workers were most likely to experience discrimination when they approached 50, and again at 60 when they neared retirement.” Not good news if you’re in that age bracket nor is it good for anyone else when you think about it.
This may be a stretch, but I’ll compare the crisis (for the older workers anyway) to the way our country has finally embraced the notion of going green. For years and years, we’ve been hearing about the toxic elements in our environment (most of our own making) and how they could destroy us and finally, finally, people are beginning to pay attention. At my local Trader Joe’s (and maybe yours, too), customers are encouraged to bring in their own recyclable bags. When you do your name is entered into a drawing with the winner receiving dollars off on their groceries. Like my son who keeps forgetting to turn off his lights I, too, am not remembering to add this smart strategy to my Earth-saving efforts. But back to the age issue . . . Eventually, if not already, this trend toward sweeping older workers out of the workplace because they’re supposedly making too much money (money they’ve earned over a lifetime) is going to catch up with us. What about corporate history and mentors and plain old experience?
Fortunately, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is paying attention. Even though it’s not okay for companies to fire older workers based on their age the courts do allow firms to let go of these employees if it’s part of a cost-cutting effort. Hmm. Talk about a loophole. Still, there’s a proposed rule change by the EEOC. The new rule would put the burden on the employer to explain why letting an older worker go was based on something other than age.
That’s good news, but as we know this stuff takes a long time, which is why it’s more important than ever to always demonstrate your value. Every single day. Whether you’re an older worker or the new kid on the block. You never know when the pendulum will swing the other way and for many companies (thank goodness) it doesn’t really matter how old you are; what’s important is whether or not you’re getting your work done.
If you feel as if your age is working against you, again whether you just started working in the last few years or have a lot of experience under your belt, consider the ways you might call attention to the ways in which you could never be replaced. The more specific you can be the better and the more you can quantify your success the better. That means dollar figures on what you’ve saved/made the company, number of people you’ve successfully managed, and any other examples that would make an employer cringe at the thought of losing you.