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Yo Boomer! Ach, those Millennials!

December 9, 2019

By Anthony Kaylin, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

Is discrimination on the rise at the workplace?  It appears so.  According to a survey from Glassdoor and the Harris Poll of 1,100 U.S. employees across age groups, three out of every five workers have either witnessed or been a target of some form of discrimination at work, based on their age, race, sexual orientation, or gender identity.  Yet EEOC filings have steadily decreased over the years.

A 25-year-old New Zealand lawmaker giving a speech supporting a climate crisis bill was heckled by an older member of Parliament.  Her response?  “Ok Boomer!”  This expression has now become the younger generations rallying cry against those who they think just don’t get it. i.e. the older generations.  With a generational war brewing, age discrimination is growing.  And if this approach is considered a standard for these age groups, problems will be brewing.

Moreover, a number of articles today have been written about how boomers are staying too long in the workforce, preventing upward mobility of the younger generations.  Yet, barely anything is written about how the great recession not only forced older workers to stay in the workforce longer, but also of employers who embrace these workers given that average tenure for younger workers is two to three years.  Even articles on phased retirement and knowledge fund transfers are less commonly written and found.

Further, even if the vertical progression was wide open, salaries still may not be growing as fast as all that.  Job hopping is prevalent to get the “true” promotional salaries.  This approach begets numerous issues, the least being less trained and knowledgeable placed in positions for which they may be minimally qualified.  And employers are not bringing in programs to upskill these new workers, but more likely forcing on-the-job training to determine survival or not.

“The older generations grew up with a certain mind-set, and we have a different perspective,” Shannon O’Connor, 19, said. “A lot of them don’t believe in climate change or don’t believe people can get jobs with dyed hair, and a lot of them are stubborn in that view. Teenagers just respond, ‘Ok, boomer.’ It’s like, we’ll prove you wrong, we’re still going to be successful because the world is changing.”

“Gen Z is going to be the first generation to have a lower quality of life than the generation before them,” said Joshua Citarella, 32, a researcher who studies online communities. Teenagers today find themselves, he said, with “three major crises all coming to a head at the Gen Z moment.” Rising inequality with unaffordable college tuition, political polarization exacerbated by the internet, and the climate crisis all fuel anti-boomer sentiment.

Going back to the Glassdoor survey. 52% of younger workers experienced or witnessed age-related discrimination, compared with 39% of workers over 55. The perception could stem from people under 35 getting lumped together in office conversations and stereotyped as “those millennials,” Ms. Carina Cortez, Glassdoor’s chief people officer, said.

If only everything could be done over the phone.  Anjali Misra, 30, is a grant writer who has worked for nonprofits and in higher education. She said that when she meets people in person for the first time after speaking with them by phone, she is often treated differently. “I’m short and I look young and I’m a woman of color, and I think that the ageism really crops up there,” she said. “I’m not taken as seriously.”

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