Age Discrimination: The Dark Side of Diversity

I used to work at a Big Four accounting firm. At the time I was there, our department had not had a person promoted to the rank of director who was over the age of 50 in 12 years. To me, this seemed wrong. Yes, I understood the math of promoting someone on the backend of their career but to me, given the benefits, it still felt discriminatory. Discrimination based on age.   

At the same time, the firm was forming a number of affinity groups for Latinos, people of color, LBTQ, etc. Diversity and Inclusiveness was sinking its teeth into almost every aspect of the firm at the time -- encouraging people to speak up if they felt that they were being treated differently. People were encouraged to look for micro-transgressions. In the meantime, every possible division for people had some group representing them, but not the older employees. 

Having a master’s in human resources, I raised the issue with the firm’s leadership.  I told them what was unfolding was age discrimination. I suggested they should tackle it head-on.  I even suggested a name for it -- Chrono-Diversity.  The needs of older employees are different than that of younger staff. Many are focusing on retirement and need understanding of that process and the changes to benefits. Having groups to support them seemed like a low-cost, easy win.

Seasoned staff also have a great deal to offer. They understand the culture of the organization and the ways to circumvent obstacles. More experienced (older) employees have vast experience and are usually willing to share that if given a chance.    

A handful of companies understand this and exploit their older staff to help accelerate the careers of young personnel. Others form seasoned employees into teams to tackle problems because they often have the expertise and experience in implementing such solutions.  I was hopeful that Chrono-Diversity would be embraced as an opportunity to leverage and enhance the work experience for employees in my age group.   

I was wrong.  I was told that the plethora of affinity groups were aimed at younger staff.  They existed because college students expected companies to have such programs in place.  They have been so coddled they want their safe spaces to follow them from the universities to the workplace. The real interest was recruitment of campus graduates, not actually attending the needs of the people working there.  It had nothing to do with productivity or quality, but coddling the youth they were trying to hire.

It was infuriating but far from surprising. I was thankful that I planned on retiring shortly thereafter.

For me, it solidified my belief that the Diversity and Inclusiveness programs that so many companies have rushed into place were facades. Some are thinly veiled attempts to push CRT into corporate America, targeting white employees as privileged.  They pick and choose the groups they want to elevate, more often than not ignoring their greatest assets -- the older employees. 

This is important because we are approaching a recession. It is often the more experienced employees that are laid off first when it comes time to swing the axe. While companies claim that is not the case, it is a stark reality that any employee over 50 understands. The thinking is often that the older staff are paid the most, so you get a bigger bang on the payroll by letting them go.  Senior employees can be replaced with a larger number of inexperienced hires -- regardless of their skills, abilities, or actual productivity.  It is no myth.  I have been in meetings with senior leaders who have said these things out loud. When layoffs begin, the older employees feel as if they have a target on their back.

If you are a victim of Biden’s economy, getting a job if you are 50 or older is far more difficult than for a younger person. While you have a better array of competencies making you desirable; organizations are reluctant to hire older staff and train them because their tenure is destined to be short.  Why train someone for a new role when they will be gone in a decade or less?  In my career I have seen people who are dramatically overqualified for open jobs be passed up for younger people.  Make no mistake, with layoffs looming in our future, it will be the older employees that suffer the most.  It is the ugly, unspoken discriminatory practice that corporate America secretly embraces while decrying every other form. When it comes to older employees, hypocrisy is the corporate world’s watchword. 

It is amazing that the younger employees openly express their discrimination with phrases like, “Okay Boomer…”  The youthful staff don’t see the problem with being discriminatory to old people. The people that are triggered by every slight, intentional or imaginary, have no problem tossing around snide “Boomer” comments. Worse yet, HR in most companies ignores the slights against older employees.   

The irony is that it will be an issue for the youth in the workplace -- when they get older. The Millennials of today will be in an uproar when the reality of America’s ugly discriminatory practice catches up with them.  Sadly, by then, it will be too late.  

Blaine Pardoe is a New York Times Bestselling and award-winning author who contributes regularly to a number of mainstream conservative sites. His most recent works include the conservative political thriller Blue Dawn tells the story of the violent overthrow of the government by Progressives. The sequel, A Most Uncivil War, has just been released.   His political humor book, The Democratic Party Playbook 2022 Edition is also available. 

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