Silver Lining

Older But Wiser

Obviously, hiring older workers needn't be damaging to your business. In fact, it may add a competitive zing to your work force. "Older workers are a very underutilized resource," contends Perry. "Most companies don't understand the advantages of hiring them."

Jay Goltz heartily agrees with the endorsements of graying employees. "Older workers are often less trouble than younger workers," he says. "They've already figured out the rules for succeeding on the job.

"So many of the 20-year-olds [I've hired] have never had another job, and from them, I often hear what I call the `f-word'--`fair.' `It's unfair that I can't park in front of the business, but the customers can.' I don't hear that kind of thing from my older workers, ever."

But, still, aren't older workers resistant to taking orders from younger bosses? That may be the big psychological stumbling block for many managers, but, says Singh, "A lot of older workers have taken instructions from bosses all their lives. They understand the role of the boss, and the boss's age won't matter to them."

Often the hang-up rests with the business owner. "The problem of managing older workers is 75 percent in your own head," says Goltz. "Show them respect, and you'll get the same back. They know who the boss is. Act like one, and you won't have problems."

One tip to defuse possible tensions, says Perry, is to try to shift attention away from the age difference. Age is just one of many things people potentially have in common. There are also hobbies, shared values and common interests. Put plainly, you may be a generation younger than Joe, but you're both San Francisco Giants fans, love hot dogs and can't wait for baseball season to start. As you focus on those shared interests, Joe's birth date will matter less and less in your mind, suggests Perry.

Make no mistake, however: Some older job candidates might grumble at taking orders from "a kid." Regardless of age, that's what interviews are for--to sort out who will mesh with the chemistry of your workplace and who won't.

Keep in mind, too, that older workers know that plenty of businesses discriminate against them throughout the hiring process. Because they want to keep their jobs, odds are, despite moments of occasional irritation that may crop up, their overall attitude just might be gratitude toward a boss who saw their potential despite a few gray hairs. "Research shows that older workers value their jobs more than younger workers. It also shows that they are less likely to quit and are more likely to stay committed to the organization," says Singh.

Can you really afford to ignore all the positive attributes older workers offer? "There are no valid arguments that older workers perform less effectively," says Singh. "They are good workers, and they want to work."

Like this article? Get this issue right now on iPad, Nook or Kindle Fire.

This article was originally published in the February 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Silver Lining.

Loading the player ...

Tim Ferriss on Mastering Any Skill

Ads by Google

Share Your Thoughts

Connect with Entrepreneur

Most Shared Stories