CXO

Don't Ask, Don't Care

Ramon Padilla Jr. asserts: There is no place for discrimination/stereotyping in the workplace, whether it is based on age, sex, race, religion, or any other characteristic.

One of the hottest forum topics you will find on the TechRepublic boards is one that deals with age. The topic starter is usually something in the ballpark of "I think technology is for young people".

Then the comments come flooding in. I know, because I have been tempted myself to jump on those threads because I am so outraged. But for the most part, I believe I have resisted putting down my angry comments and let a cooler head prevail.

Now I thought I would take a few moments and deal with the topic in a more levelheaded fashion.

Age is an interesting characteristic in the work place. There are many preconceptions associated with it. Let's start with the tried and true: If you are too young, then you must not have much experience; therefore, you aren't qualified to do the job.

Conversely, there is the old adage that if you are over 50, you are old and slow and set in your ways. There are dozens of stereotypes that one can come up with regarding age and work that seem to be even more intensified these days due to technology.

Technology in some ways has both leveled the playing field and tilted it at the same time. The youth of the world have technology thrust upon them at an early age. Even my 2-year-old nephew carries a fake PDA and Cell Phone. Is it any surprise then that his generation and those who come after will be completely comfortable and possibly extremely proficient with technology when they enter the work place?

Couple that with the enthusiasm (brashness?) of youth, and I am not surprised when I read comments like "the old just need to get out of the way".

Considering the rapid pace at which technology changes, and the fact that older people are more encumbered with family and other responsibilities, it does become more of a challenge to keep up with the latest technology.

However, for any bit of truth you may find in those statements, you need to throw them out the window. Let me say it very clearly now so there is no confusion on this: There is no place for discrimination/stereotyping in the workplace, whether it is based on age, sex, race, religion, or any other characteristic.

Not only is it illegal, it is just plain wrong. No one likes to be typecast, one way or the other, based solely on age. Frankly, if you are doing that, you are doing yourself a great disservice – because you are prejudging a worker's ability on something that more than likely has no affect on his or her skills.

I obtained my first IT management position when I was 24 years old. At the time, I had employees who reported directly to me that spanned the range from 18 to 50. As a newly minted manager, using age as a criterion, who would I expect to be my best employee —the 18-year-old or the 50-year-old? Before you answer that, why would I even consider making that determination based on anything but performance? Do you see how ludicrous that is? When I sat in management meetings with my peers who were decades older than me, were my comments worthless or more valuable because of my age?

Similarly with hiring; when I look for qualified candidates I am looking for self-starters who can follow through and think for themselves. I don't care if they are young, old, green or blue or come from another solar system. The bottom line is; can they do the job in the manner that I need them to? Hey, I am smart enough to realize that a manager that surrounds himself or herself with stars shines just as brightly as they do.

I won't sit here and tell you that age doesn't come along with advantages and disadvantages. It is how a person deals with age that shapes them as an individual. I am certainly a different person today than when I was 24. I believe I am better at some things, and worse at others. But as a whole, I feel that I am better overall, as my goal is to always improve myself.

Yet at the same time, I feel that I fit no particular stereotype for my age. So don't you dare discriminate against me because of a number. Judge me based on my skills and abilities and my performance. Leave the rest in the trash heap – where it belongs.

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