Logan’s Run at Circuit City…

“The average age of our employees is thirty two.”

This quote is from a young, and some would argue, airheaded, human resources professional who was interviewing a friend of mine for a position at a media company several years ago.

My friend was approaching fifty so this casual remark was not lost on her.  It was if the H.R. functionary had informed her that “the average skin colour of our employees is white“.

My friend had lots of high level experience in both marketing and management.  She continually upgraded her skills and was up to date and competent with the latest technology.  She was seasoned and very professional and would have been an excellent addition to this company.  However, not unexpectedly, she did not even get a call back.  This was an experience that she had over and over during her job hunt, which lasted almost two years.

Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon story among my peers as they bang against the gray ceiling.  I am not naive enough to believe that ageism doesn’t exist, I know that it does. As a consultant I often find myself meeting with much younger professionals who I am certain are judging me by the gray in my hair and not the content of my experience.

Hey, getting older is just a fact of life.  We all have to deal with it.  Age is one of those things that you can’t really hide.  You might be able to mask some of the effects with hair dye or botox, and some desperate individuals even go to the extreme of having plastic surgery.

Lately, I have been reading more and more about the coming employment crunch as the boomers start retiring and there will be a shortage of experienced, skilled workers to fill these gaps.  Apparently, the experts assure us, that will make mature workers a hot commodity in the job market.

So I found it ironic that one major employer in the United States, Circuit City, recently laid off 3400 older employees because with their experience and long service they were paid more.  Circuit City decided that they could reduce the bottom line by replacing them with younger, minimum wage workers.  It reminds me of a bad science fiction film from the 1970’s called “Logan’s Run” where anyone over the age of 21 was hunted down and killed.

So what does this say?  The old workplace philosophy of hard work, loyalty and seeking a rewarding career doesn’t play at Circuit City anymore.  Circuit City is hardly alone here.  Plenty of other short-sighted, badly-run companies are doing similar things.

However, in the case of Circuit City, we do have a choice, we can just stay away from their stores (something that has been happening for years, which is why they are taking such extreme measures in the first place).  Rather than saving a few bucks they have created a public relations disaster for themselves.

People over forty have plenty of disposable income to buy flat screen televisions, MP3 players, cell phones and computers.  Why should we buy these items from a chain where there is such ageism?

Up here in Canada, Circuit City owns The Source chain of stores, which used to be Radio Shack.  Staying out of a Source store is not that difficult, since this chain is already on life support.  In fact, the entire Source debacle is just one more example of Circuit City’s visionary strategy.

So, if you are over forty, and we all will be sooner or later, tell Circuit City just how you feel about their ageist policies by shopping elsewhere.  Maybe they will get the message but somehow I don’t think so.

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