The Blame the Victim post ten days or so ago provoked some lively commentary that shouldn't be left to drift off into the ether without acknowledgement.
But mostly, I'm picking on Alan G who, as he frequently does, left a provocative comment that I find impossible to let be without a response. He's a big boy, he can take it and he always has the power of the comment button for rebuttal.
“Not all elders who are looking for substantial employment should be out looking for substantial employment…”
“…we do have to be as honest with our individual abilities as we are critical of those who would simply deny us out abilities simply based on age.”
“I have had several experiences working with folks older than I am right now, all of whom were more than qualified intellectually and experience wise…[but] could not produce efficiently. They were slow…”
This is true of some elders. It is also true of some youngsters right out of school. And of some experienced, middle-aged workers.
The problem with age discrimination in the workplace is that although these failings (and many others) apply to some workers of all ages, only elders are universally tagged as incompetent for them, and always the tagging is related to their age. It could just as well be related to their laziness or stupidity which, unfortunately, does not usually improve with age - but it is always made to be about age.
In any group described by a single attribute - skin color, size, education, religion, age, etc. - some are good at what they do and some are hopeless. The sin – and in some cases, the actual crime – is attributing the failings of some to everyone within the group. And while Alan’s exhortation to be honest about our abilities is a worthy goal, it applies to elders no more than any other group.
On a factual note, Alan writes that “…many employers are looking for someone who they think will be with them for years.”
Um, not for the past two decades or more. Today, if a recruiter or hiring manager sees a job on a resume that lasted ten years, they’ll want to know what’s wrong. In general, today, anyone who doesn’t change jobs every three or four years is seen as a loser who lacks ambition, initiative and enthusiasm. And for the few employers who might be looking for long-term commitment, there are no guarantees. 20-somethings quit every day. 45-year-olds die every day. And 60-year-olds sometimes live to be 90, competent to the end. No one can predict the future.
The last item I want to tackle is Alan’s statement that “as with any issue regarding racism or prejudice, let us not forget that no one owes us anything.”
I'm not so sure. Everyone is owed respect until they prove they are undeserving of it and, on the topic at hand, everyone is owed the right to make a living. In the United States, no one may be refused employment based on race, religion, ethnic background, gender or – ahem, age. It is the law, and even though the law is flouted every day by thousands of employers, we are all owed that right. Whoever may deny it is to be denounced.
That too many elders are denied the right to earn a living merely because they are no longer young is a large part of the reason Time Goes By was created and we will not back down from that point.
Workers of any age have no more obligation than to do the job they are paid for to the best of their ability. Women and blacks have battled the requirement to be better than everyone else just to tread water in their careers. Let’s not lay the same burden on elders.