Hamburgers, Sushi and the Young at Heart

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My latest blog for SHRM on talent acquisition and older employees:

When I used to eat meat, my favorite food was a hamburger (with French fries). I don’t think I would have been as enthusiastic if I had to order chopped cow.

I had dinner with someone eating sushi. I asked them if they would enjoy it as much if they had ordered raw fish. I owe them a dinner.

We use euphemisms appropriately to help us accept with what we otherwise would struggle. Shift away from food. Think of—or perhaps not—the alternative to “rest in peace.”

And, that brings me to older workers. Older workers are a critical source of talent as we try to fill the skill gap.

Yet, so often I find well-intended people look for euphemisms for older workers. I don’t think we do that for any other “protected group.”

I read an article about hiring the “young at heart.” I am glad their hearts may be young but what is that saying about the rest of their bodies?

Then, I hear about “mature workers.” I thought about this as I watched with childlike delight Sunday night’s game shows.

I also have heard “experienced workers.” That is true of many older workers. But some older workers, like younger workers, look to pivot into areas where they don’t have experience.

Perhaps my favorite, and by that I mean not, is “chronologically challenged.” This definitely challenges my patience, which already is challenged.

I guess it is better than “still alive.” But not by much. Grrr.

We need to look at people as individuals and not members of identity groups. But when we need to identify the group, let’s call it what it is: “older workers.”

Getting older is a gift not everyone gets. And, many of these workers have gifts they can share with and benefit your organization.

So let’s ban the euphemisms where there is no need for them. The euphemisms may be suggesting a message we don’t intend.

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