I’ve been in the corporate world for a year and a half now. I really didn’t know how I would like it since I’ve always worked for smaller companies... BUT I love my job, the people I work for/with, and the great stuff I get to do.
Thankfully the inspiration for this post DID NOT come from the happenings at my place of work. But it is something I believe is becoming more prevalent in all industries.
I recently met a gentleman who has worked for the same company for a couple decades. He’s a Boomer, closing in on retirement age. He was recently let go from his job, along with several other older, near retirement-aged coworkers.
I think not.
This makes my blood boil.
This man is incredibly good at what he does.
He gets to work early and stays late.
He has integrity.
He’s ridiculously experienced.
And they just let him go.
Maybe it has something to do with being able to pay a younger person less money for a similar role. Or perhaps it's about gaining fresh perspective. Or maybe our Boomer peers are a little slower with technology. Whatever it is, one thing rings true: Boomers are being pushed out and young folks are being brought in as a REPLACEMENT. This is a problem.
A fresh perspective is imperative to the success of a company, but not at the expense of valuable, irreplaceable experience and traditional work values.
Why are we trading decades of experience for fresh perspective or lower wages?
Why are we swapping them out like they each can replace the other?
Why are we not integrating the two?
Why are we not putting ALL GENERATIONS together to solve problems?
Surely I am not the only one who sees the value in this.
Here's a little personal story. I had an internship at an advertising agency my last year of college. In true intern fashion, I did a bunch of crap work. I didn't mind though...I wanted a job once I graduated. I was in our kitchen one day, loading the dishwasher. Yes...real Account Service experience right there! The resident Boomer came in the kitchen and began teaching me the proper way to load the dishwasher. Apparently, you tilt the coffee mugs on the top rack so the water doesn't pool on top of them. (I still think of her every time I load a dishwasher and you bet I tilt those coffee mugs on the top rack!) Anywho, while I shared our encounter with coworkers later that day, they all marveled at my accommodating her lesson in a patient, polite manner. But little did they (or I) know, I was doing something much more than "respecting my elders" in that moment. I was creating an ally in who seemed to be a disgruntled queen of the office. This small act of respect proved invaluable to me time and time again. She was more open. She was more flexible. And most importantly, I gained her respect and thus she taught me a great deal about our business.
Now, all that being said, I have absolutely worked with those completely frustrating “can’t teach an old dog new tricks" kind of Boomers. And they are impossible. But just as every Millennial is not identical, neither is every Boomer. I recently read an article from the perspective of a Boomer who started working at Airbnb at 52, where he was twice the age of most employees. He has some great perspective on how he thrived right where he felt incredibly out of place.
I am so thankful to have worked with Boomers who are open to ideas and new ways of thinking. They have made me better. There is so much to learn from these people! And we older Millennial, younger Gen-Xers are dumb to not take advantage of the wisdom our Boomer co-workers have in abundance.
Not only do they offer wisdom, but they offer an exemplary work ethic. Young adults don’t have a clue what this type of hard work looks like. And while we should always push for the work life/environment we want, we would be fools to not learn a thing or two from the Boomer’s work ethic play-book.