What do you see? The grey head or the blue wings? (This is a grey headed kingfisher.)
Recently I attended a talk about diversity and inclusion as part of a conference, the panellists did not mention age. Gender, race, LGBT were all rightly mentioned, but not age. Worse still, at Q&A, I didn’t have the courage to mention age either. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself.
I left the event wondering why age, the grey head, seems to be such a supersized unspoken elephant in the room.
The awkward truth is that aging happens to all of us, even if we think we can put it off, or pretend that it only happens to other people.
My thoughts are this. If we cannot talk about age in the workplace, we cannot be open about the things which, as we get older, we need from our workplace to perform at our best.
Genuine inclusion of older employees needs us to be able to talk to each other constructively and tackle some less comfortable topics. We may need to enter ZOUD! (The zone of uncomfortable debate.)
Here are three things about aging which, in my experience, are currently only whispered. I’m wondering if as older employees we can take a more active part in the solution. We could become more overt about our requirements to:
- Use our energy wisely. I’m told there is research that anyone over the age of 40 has better health and wellbeing from not commuting five days a week. As we age it seems to me we need to focus our energy and responsibilities more, not less. What are the options for flexible working or making the most of our energy some other way?
- Update our skills and review our attitude to tech. Some of us need to be more tech savvy. Face the fear and do it anyway. Acknowledge that we need to learn some new stuff, get skilled, competent and comfortable, not just good enough. We need to keep up. What could help us?
- More clearly role model ourselves as colleagues. Mutual respect is key, even when (initially) we or our colleagues may be a little uncomfortable we are old enough to be their parents. This seems a particularly hard one to voice from either set of shoes. What can we do to get this on the table and develop a peer working relationship fast?
These are my thoughts. What are you noticing about age and the workplace? How is it working out for you?
Age related challenges will not be going away for any of us, as an individual or organisation. Government statistics tell us that one third of workers will be over the age of 50 by 2020.
We need more mature discussions and honesty about age. We need to become more comfortable generating solutions which work well and respectfully between different age groupings, so that everyone can ask to be and actually be at their best.
Looking again at the kingfisher, being at our best might be seeing the blue wings as much as the grey head.
If I can help your organisation make this shift, get in touch.
And what about you? If you do not feel that you have reached your potential, personally or professionally, whatever your age, and would like to take action, please get in touch if a conversation would help.
I’d love to help you direct your focus to your beautiful blue wings, and what your next adventure can be.
Let’s make 2018 the year to focus on your best possible career opportunities and outcomes!
Gill How loves to help people ignite or re-ignite their passions and professional ambitions and to help organisations become more effective enablers of talent. Please get in touch for an exploratory conversation about how her skills could support you or your organisation’s success. She has availability to work as a coach, as a specialist trainer or as part of your project team.
Photo Credit: RobReiziger