Now that I peer in on workplaces for a living, I see that too many allow age to divide them. Workers align themselves like middle schoolers at a dance - the upstarts (or young go-getters, depending on your point of view) on one side, the experienced (or past their prime, ditto) on the other. This explains why I so often hear from employees who feel disposable and unappreciated. It also explains why the Supreme Court recently lowered the threshold for age discrimination claims to 40....This is not exactly a revelation, but I found the article intriguing because at 35-going-on-36, I feel like I am in transition from the youthful go-getter category to the seasoned pro category. I had never really given it much thought until a few weeks ago, when I was asked to meet with a couple of internal consultant/efficiency expert types. All of a sudden, I found myself in the role of the Experienced Voice Of Wisdom Who Knows How It Works, trying to rein in the Bright-Eyed Young Hotshots Full Of Wild Ideas. It was a dizzying moment of inversion.
There was a time in the working world when age correlated pretty much exactly with experience and, therefore, seniority. While I do not think things were better then, they certainly were less confusing. You started at a job young, then moved up the ranks until you became either important or obsolete. Then you retired, from the same company where you began.
Don't get me wrong - I still have plenty of wild ideas of my own, and I try not to be a naysaying stick-in-the-mud - but it was still a strange experience to realize that I'm not a young turk anymore. Hell, most of the time I have trouble remembering I'm supposed to be a grown-up.