Burning Question: Do young managers discriminate against older workers?

September 3, 2010

In their new book, Managing the Older Worker: How to Prepare for the New Organizational Order, Peter Cappelli, director of the Center for Human Resources at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, and Bill Novelli, former CEO of AARP, explore the challenges of running organizations with multi-generational workforces.

One of the biggest problems, Capelli noted in an interview with the Knowledge@Wharton website, is discrimination against the older set on the part of younger managers:

If you look at the research on older workers, you see an incredible amount of discrimination against them, bigger than race, bigger than gender. Older workers struggle to get hired. And yet these are individuals who are perfectly suited to what employers say they want -- somebody who can hit the ground running, who knows how to handle work-based problems, who is not interested in a long-term commitment from the company, and who is self-motivated and self-managing. All this exactly defines older workers. They are ideally suited for many of these jobs, and yet when push comes to shove, younger supervisors won't hire them.

The deeper issue, Capelli says, is that young managers simply aren't comfortable supervising their elders:

How can I give orders to somebody who is older and more experienced than I am? In some cultures, such as China and Japan, there is deference given to age. You don't see that in the U.S., but you do see deference given to experience. So somebody with less experience managing someone with more experience seems to upset the natural order.

How is this playing out in the federal context? Are the younger people who are breaking into the management ranks learning how to effectively manage workers who have been around a long time? 'Upsetting the Natural Order': Managing Employees Old Enough to Be Your Parents
(Knowledge@Wharton)

Burning Question is a recurring feature that looks at key issues and compelling stories being explored at other publications and social media sites.


September 3, 2010

http://www.govexec.com/oversight/2010/09/burning-question-do-young-managers-discriminate-against-older-workers/32286/