Question: Hi, Alan. I have been following your internet site and also the unemployment news and I notice a disturbing trend.
I am seeing that 95% of the people put on Performance Improvement Plans (“PIP’s”) and those that are being forced to leave their jobs, those that attend job club networking meetings, and those who can’t get back into the workforce, are those in their mid-to-late 40’s and 50’s.
It almost seems like an orchestrated effort to get this age group out of the workforce deliberately to make room for “younger workers.” Baby boomers are being “weeded out” and kept out.
Why is a bad economy an excuse for breaking age discrimination laws?
Palm Harbor, Florida
Answer: Rita, I understand your perspective, share you concerns, and have also seen older employees struggle to remain employed. That being said, I don’t think it is age discrimination that is primarily responsible for what you are seeing.
I say this because I see the same degree of struggle for gainful employment – perhaps worse – among those in their 20’s, who are having a simply terrible time starting off in the world of employment. While older workers can’t seem to stay in the game, the youngest workers can’t get into it.
The root cause of the problem, I believe, is very short-term thinking by our largest employers. As to older employees – who have the most valuable experience and judgment – employers don’t want to pay the extra salary and benefits they believe older workers demand. As to the youngest workers – who don’t yet have any really saleable skills – employers do not want to invest in their promise for the future, but instead want to make as much money as they can . . . today.
In this very tight job market, that leaves those in between – from perhaps 28 to 44 – with the best chance for keeping their jobs. But they, too, will inevitably suffer from what former astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn used to say was the biggest failure of modern medicine: there is no cure for the common birthday. One day, sooner than they imagine, they will be older, too. This short-term thinking does not bode well for our society.
In the largest sense, I believe this is a reflection of the greatest problem we face as a society: the triumph of “commercial values” over “human values,” in which all too many of our leaders – business, political, civic, social, and others – believe that the assembly of as many dollars as possible is the ultimate goal of mankind. How sadly mistaken they are.
What to do? There is no easy solution, but to plug, plug, and plug ahead some more, with an inner strength and a confidence based on your value to others. Though my hair is gray, my smile is wrinkled, and my eyes have grown weaker, I maintain my bedrock belief that you simply cannot keep a good and determined man or woman down, no matter what their chronological age, or any other external characteristic. In fact, I believe it now more than ever.
That is how I see it. Hope that makes some sense to you. Thanks for being a loyal reader.
Best, Al Sklover
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