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The age worm

by Miki Saxon

Today I thought I’d add my two cents to the commentary on one of the most studied and discussed worms in the workplace can. The complaints of the over forty crowd are well documented, but after the 2000 meltdown I heard many of the same comments from the under thirty crowd.

I don’t have a PhD in psychology, but fools do rush in, so I want to share a theory I’ve had for awhile regarding an underlying cause of age-related hiring and management problems—whether old or young.

Over the years I’ve found that the inability of many older and younger people (not all, but some) to work with and for those in the opposite group has more to do with their own hang-ups and personal issues than anything else. As a shrink friend once said, how many truly functional families do you know?

  • Older workers tend to minimize the judgment and knowledge of those much younger than themselves and offer to “guide” them—the younger worker sees this as patronizing and insulting;
  • younger workers often assume that older workers won’t listen and don’t “get it,” and so they rebel.

Recognizing this, why are people so surprised when the work dynamic in play is that of parent/child, not worker/manager or worker/peer. People aren’t water faucets. It’s difficult to turn off those programmed reactions and hire your “parent” or “kid,” but it’s time you learned. Why? Because there is a long-term, serious people shortage and your future reviews depend on being able to hire the best—people who’ll make you look not just good, but great!

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