While it seems once again grey haired people are first in line for receiving pinks slips (a.k.a. layoff notices for those who aren’t familiar with the terms) it is not a result of simply a downturn in the economy. It appears that companies have now determined that these people lack the grey matter to help move them forward. That’s right; organisations now believe that older personnel lack the ability to adapt to the changing face of business. They think that this demographic does not have the vision of young people and that they can not grasp the need for change or adapt to it fast enough.
While this has been proven false, it is the younger and now a more aggressive generation that is pushing the concept. Younger people are challenging the choices, positions, and experience of not only their fellow senior workers but their superiors. They are more confident often over confident and are not afraid to share their opinion that grey hair has lost its’ grey matter.
There was a time a few years back when if you were on the second story of an atrium and looked down to the lobby you would see many grey haired heads in the crowd, more grey than brown. Today that view is vastly different; grey is an oddity.
It should be pointed out here that when speaking of grey hair we are not relegating that to the 60 plus group. Greying includes the 50+ age group that now being challenged by the millennials.
Another phenomenon that is sweeping the business environment these days is that experience and longevity in a certain field are no longer a requirement for climbing the corporate ladder. It is aggressiveness that wins the days.
So here is the secret to getting ahead in business, ignore your grey hair and grey matter lessons learned mentality and get aggressive. Speak your mind even if what you think has not be asked. Develop your determination to be heard no matter what the topic.
Show that your ideas are valid and appropriate.
Speak loudly and often about what you are doing, not what you have done.
If you are pushing 50 or just over that hill, change your approach to match that of your younger colleagues as foreign and disrespectful as it may seem. Learn to think in concepts more than facts. Look at the issues from a broader perspective and don’t look to the past to solve the problem. In fact, don’t refer to it at all use it as a personal reference that you can relate to the present issue.
If you follow any of the US election reality TV programmings, you will hear the many grey haired commentators revere the past elections. They go one and on with statistics, how Regan did this, how Bush’s or Clinton’s campaign did something else. And then you hear these historical theories be shot down by the new young millennial surrogates on both sides state their statistics are irrelevant in today’s’ election. And you know what maybe they are right.
The world and technology have changed and continue to change at a rapid rate, but that does not mean that those of us that have been around long enough to witness it are not just as able to adapt to it. What it does mean is that we need to acknowledge those changes and adopt them. We can use our “experience” to see how the changes can work to make the old work in better and different ways. And in doing so, we can effect change more quickly than those who see little benefit of looking at the past.
One of the most important changes we need to make is to ensure we do not get stuck in the past. We are the ones that must use the past only as a marker, a starting point that is only considered a building block of the future but a springboard to get to the future fast and a reminder to not repeat the old, only improve upon it. We are the guardian of knowledge that the new workforce is too impatient to concern themselves with. It is our grey matter that we need to show as being something not only required but relevant to ensuring the mistakes of the past are not repeated. We need to vocalize it and make management at every level aware of the value we bring. We need to stand up and as the book says “lean in” to the conversation. And while written for women it can be adopted for the older workforce. In doing so, we can demonstrate that we are still able to lead the way forward just as well, if not better than our younger counter parts. It is up to us to show them our time is not passed and that we are capable of moving at an even faster pace because of our age, in spite of it that we do indeed continue development of our grey matter.