The Gen debate: Is all fair in LOL and war?

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young_oldI’m fascinated with Generation Y, but of course I would be, because that’s such a selfish thing to do and as I a member of Gen Y, why wouldn’t I be fascinated with myself.

Don’t worry this is going somewhere.

What I am actually genuinely fascinated with is other people’s perceptions of my generation. I’ve written about it before, you know those lovely things called generalisations, like we’re all selfish, lazy, obsessed with technology, don’t work hard, don’t work at all, all those things.

So when I read an article on SMH.com.au titled “When is an employee too old to work” all my Gen Y defending mechanisms kicked into gear again.

Here’s how the story goes:

Karen, 62, and Bryan, 57, have decades of experience. They say they rarely get interviewed by the actual person for whom they’ll be working. Instead, they’re interviewed by meddlesome middlemen in their 20s from recruitment agencies who aren’t interested in older folks. Karen’s been looking for work for three years. She’s just given up. Bryan’s been unemployed for a year and is still searching for a job.

Michael, 58, was made redundant when his employer went into receivership. He’s since applied for several jobs that he’s qualified to do, but was disqualified for a government job even though he scored higher on the test than the other applicants. He missed out in favour of a younger candidate. Discrimination was too hard to prove.

A quarter of Australians will be aged over 65 by 2047 – double the current level. This will keep employees in the workforce for longer, as will the lift in the pension age to 67. If Tony Abbott’s proposed increase to 70 comes through, as it should, then managers will have even more older workers working for them. Despite popular opinion, I think older people will be happy to continue contributing in some capacity. As George Burns said, “I’m very pleased to be here. Let’s face it; at my age I’m very pleased to be anywhere.”

This brings us to the imbalance in today’s workplaces, where there’s too much of a focus on Generation Y. Older workers might not use terms like “LOL”, “sweet as”, and “fully sick”, but all generations generally want the same thing. Everyone wants a work/life balance. Everyone wants to use their talents. Everyone wants to have close relationships at work. The only difference is that Gen Ys demand these from their employers, while older generations have become accustomed to putting up with whatever they get.

Gen Ys are as loyal to employers as Elizabeth Taylor’s husbands. Older workers, on the other hand, hang around for as long as Elizabeth Taylor herself. The world needs to move on from Gen Y. It needs to embrace the grey matter of the grey generation. This means seeking older employees’ opinions and suggestions; respecting and harnessing their experience; being patient, especially when skilling them up on new technologies; and being sensitive to their possible discomfort at having a young boss.

I am all for keeping older people employed, but sometimes they aren’t willing to keep up with the times, well actually more specifically the technology times. Many ‘older’ people carry resentment at the ‘youth’ of today for our ease at picking up new things, but unfortunately for them that is just the way of the world.

I do not envy employers when often faced with decisions between maturity and experience, versus eagerness and the ability to pick up things quickly.

What do you think? Do the mature workers get a raw deal or is all fair in LOL and war?

2 Comments
  • Belinda
    August 11, 2009

    I don’t know enough stats about the topic to form an opinion on whether they get a raw deal or not, but, like you Ami, I’m all for keeping older people in the workforce as long as they accept and are willing to at least try new technology – because technology is pushing business forward. I just hate how articles like this stereotype the generations!! And I know this is petty, but I don’t exactly walk around saying “ohh fully sick!” *rolls eyes*
    The whole bashing of other generations is really getting under my skin – check out this article, and read the comments!!

  • Ami
    August 11, 2009

    Thanks Belinda! That article was great. The comments were even better. It seems getting riled up about Gen Y is a classic Gen Y trait! The problem with stereotypes and generalisations is it seems they can actually affect work prospects etc which really is quite unfair.

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