Notes on Political Venality, Pomposity and Associated Stupidity.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

"Come In Here Larry, and Close The Door Behind You"

"It is likely that many people will have multiple careers throughout their lives." This statement, which has been bandied about for some years now, is, I believe, an attempt to "innoculate" American corporations against any charges of ageism or dirty dealing with their older employees.

What these companies hope to do is engage in a constant process of what I call "downsourcing," by sloughing off their older, my highly paid employees and replacing them with fresh-faced college grads eager to pay their dues -- at a much lower price. This is a huge benefit to these companies, but it is certainly not the only one that comes as a result of downsourcing. For instance, older workers often have experience and knowledge that makes them more likely to question authority. They can see when management is mucking something up, and they are sometimes compelled to raise a red flag. Well, lay off those people and the problem walks out the door with a cardboard box. Corporations, despite protestations to the contrary, do not want to hear from employees. They want a placid, flaccid work force that sits quietly and never asks questions. Another windfall for the corporations is the way this process will maintain control over the older workers that do remain, but who worry, every day, about when the axe might fall.

But perhaps the biggest bunch of hokkum regarding this diaphonous sociological "trend" is that these re-trained employees would actually be hired once they retrained. You ever try to get a job after you turn 50? It is murder. Even getting an interview is nearly impossible. And if you do manage to hide your years of experience and land an interview, here's what the interviewer is thinking. "Oh no, some old guy who is set in his ways, won't listen to younger workers, wants too much money and would be a pain in my ass." Thank you for coming. We'll be in touch.....

Am I saying that workers shouldn't learn and retrain throughout their careers? No, anything but. But I contend that most employees already do that and have been doing it for years. And sure, there will always be examples of industries that evaporate due to some new technology. People love to use the "buggy whip" as an object lesson. But, by and large, most people, even in the late 19th century, didn't work in that niche manufacturing area. They had skills that could grow and transfer as the world changed around them. By the way, it is rarely mentioned that many blacksmiths shops mutated into early gas stations, as the skills of the smithy could be adatped to the new-fangled machines.