Article 43

 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Age Bias? Tell Us About It

By Rob Walker
New York Times
July 9, 2015

The Workologist has a problem. The question below has been in my inbox for over a year. I cant answer every query, of course, so I periodically clear out older emails. But IҒve never been able to delete this one. So Im asking for your help in (finally) responding to it:

I am a 52-year-old clinical research coordinator who has been looking for a new position. A contact told me her firm was hiring; the job involved marketing experience that I dont have, but she assured me this wasnҒt an issue. And the company did indeed set up an interview. I was told this would involve a short PowerPoint presentation. I stated I did not know PowerPoint but would learn it, and again was told that was fine.

During the interview, I met with several of my potential new colleagues all women in their 20s and 30s. One asked: דAre you sure you wouldnt mind reporting to women who are so much younger than you?Ҕ Then she quickly added, Forget I said that. What I meant is, you have so much depth of experience on your rөsum, and this is an entry-level position. I said this wouldn锒t be a problem Iגd rely on their judgment as I learned this new area. Everyone seemed satisfied.

Afterward, the H.R. person called to say the job required a PowerPoint expert,Ӕ but the company had been impressed and wanted to set up another interview to bring me on as a consultant. I told her I was thrilled; I even sent an upgraded version of my presentation and followed up by phone and email. But I never heard back.

What happened? Could age discrimination be a factor?

E. R., PHILADELPHIA

This touches on an important subject: the challenges of being, and also managing, an older employee. Now, before you start attacking me for suggesting that age 52 is anything less than the prime of life, please note that I mean the term olderӔ comparatively a mathematical age difference of a decade or two between a worker and supervisor, or job-seeker and hiring manager.

The Workologist has elsewhere addressed other details raised by this question ח age discrimination, the vanishing recruiter but itגs this issue, lurking under the surface, that I keep coming back to: Our work culture and the culture in general ח does seem to put a premium on more youthful qualities (perceived tech fluency among them), often shortchanging the value that could come with a more seasoned perspective. And this can manifest itself in subtle and even unintentional ways.

But what, as a practical matter, can real-life workers and managers do about it? And that, readers, is what I want to ask you. Are you a worker on the older side who has figured out how to overcome the not-always-conscious biases of a youth-venerating workplace? Are you a younger manager who has learned how to see past age differences? What advice would you offer to job-seekers who suspect that the market puts a premium on younger prospects?

The occasion for this turning of the tables is the approaching two-year anniversary of this column. Id like to mark that by offering you the floor to counsel fellow readers. Send your advice to workologist at nytimes.com.

Scheduling Scrutiny

When I was hired, my boss (who does not work out of this office) told me that I could choose the hours I wanted to work.

I chose to work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. My colleagues either work those hours or from 7 to 4. Sometimes I have altered my schedule to suit my needs. Recently, for example, I came in at 7 so that I could leave early. I did not ask permission, because I was told that I could choose my hours. I know that others sometimes do the same thing. But one of my colleagues, M., has started criticizing me for not clearing my schedule changes with everyone else in advance. She is not my superior, but she is close to our boss. Now she says I need to ғcoordinate any changes to my schedule ahead of time.

Others (including M.) come and go early and late without saying a word to me, so why should I not be able to do the same? ANONYMOUS

Your boss’s scheduling system sounds like a recipe for chaos. That’s not your fault. But giving your colleagues advance notice that you’ll be leaving early seems straightforward. If you dont want to position this as asking for permission, state your plan as a fact, presented as a courtesy.

This approach is likely to give you more autonomy. If you wait until you’re asked why youre skipping lunch, you end up on the defensive. And even if your behavior is technically defensible, you come across (intentionally or not) as indifferent to the office at large. It is not your job to think up a better scheduling scheme. But sometimes it’s easier to use your own better judgment to rise above a poorly designed system.

Send your workplace conundrums to workologist at nytimes.com, including your name and contact information (even if you want it withheld for publication). The Workologist is a guy with well-intentioned opinions, not a professional career adviser. Letters may be edited.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 07/12/15 •
Section Dying America • Section Workplace
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