It’s the big question for older workers and job seekers: How to overcome ageism.
This interview will provide you with answers and methods that will help you not only overcome it but elevate your position and #success.
They can also be a powerful tool in your #jobsearch.
Megan Gerhardt, Ph.D. co-wrote Gentelligence and developed the Gentelligence Method which is a revolutionary yet incredibly sensible approach to getting past the presumptions, assumptions, and stereotypes of age (young to old and old to young).
Knowing and applying these methods and #mindset will enable you to remove ageism toward yourself and others, but also be a critical success factor for your business, team, and career.
Megan is a professor of management & leadership and director of leadership development at the Miami University Farmer School of Business.
Connect with Megan at:
Get Gentelligence – The Revolutionary Approach to Leading an Intergenerational Workforce at: https://www.amazon.com/Gentelligence-Revolutionary-Approach-Intergenerational-Workforce/dp/1538142147
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Older Workers & Job Seekers: How to Overcome Ageism
[00:00:00] Part of your role as an older person isn’t just mentoring, but it’s also how do I connect with somebody who maybe has grown up in a different way than I have and isn’t isn’t seeing what I see, at least initially. So I think what people want to hire is someone who’s adaptable, somebody who is engaged, motivated, excited to bring their value and work with others collaboratively. I don’t think that there’s an age attached to that. I think people who believe there is our operating from stereotypes.
[00:00:33] Helping you find your New Way Forward to the best years of your life. This is a new way forward vodcast with your host, Paul Long. Ageism is stupid. I mean, it’s literally like a stupid thing, like racism and the other isms in business and in our careers. It’s really stupid because it gets it gets in our way. We need to get out of our own way and get past these false assumptions and presumptions and stereotypes that, well, millennials are like this and boomers are like this, and so on and so forth, which generally are untrue. But how? Those are the kinds of answers I have in this interview with my friend and colleague, Dr. Megan Gerhardt, who, along with Josephine Nachemson-Eckwall and Brandon Fogel, wrote intelligence and came up with the intelligence method, which is how all of us can approach regarding people just because they’re of a different age and different generation in a different way, to our benefit, to the organizations benefit to get past all of that stuff and instead leverage each other’s talents, abilities and skills and relationships and what we can learn from each other. And I also put some emphasis in this interview on those of us who are older. How do we overcome these age stereotypes and situations to keep our jobs or find a job or start up an endeavor? So first we start with intelligence. What is it?
[00:02:05] Gentelligence is in a nutshell about becoming smarter, about the power of intergenerational collaboration and learning. So it’s taking what we somehow have decided should be a negative conversation and reframing it as something that can bring opportunity for people older and younger. So. Really a lot of what we tend to see in this field are things that encourage older people to better understand younger people, which of course, is very important. But much of it ignores the fact that this needs to be a two way street, that there also has to be the effort and intentionality of younger people to also understand the value that our older workers and employees bring. So it’s all about championing every generation, as I like to say. It’s about how we learn from each other and we step away from some outdated ideas that the older you are, the more you must be the expert. And instead, I wouldn’t say reverses it. I would say nudges our understanding to say every generation has different kinds of expertise and it’s not about valuing one or the other. It’s about the potential of combining them and what we actually can can learn and create if we’re able to learn from each other instead of really acting like we need to compete in some sort of no. When Battle of the generations in the workplace, I think this battle began without really thinking about whether it needed to be framed that way, and instead gentle giants ask us to frame it more as a collaboration than a competition.
[00:03:48] There’s a competition maybe without people asserting a competition, but there’s certainly this, you know, just prejudicial stereotyping, presumptive ness of not only younger people toward older people, but older people toward younger people. In these the stereotype of, well, in the case of our audience, those of us who are older, you’re done, you’re out of tune, you don’t have it. And yeah, it kind of does turn it into a competition, a little bit of a we versus them thing and excuse me, as I’ve often touted. It’s not up to us to wait and hope for society to get the memo and say ageism is wrong and it’s self defeating and stuff. It’s up for us to change it. But if I’m looking for a job or looking to keep my job or start something up, I need to do something about it now. And so in the in the intelligence context, what, what, how do I need to start looking at things so that I can convey myself to my employer or potential employer or whatever as as being up to date and able to not only get around this, but contribute in this topic.
[00:05:02] I think the most powerful thing that we can do is look at what stereotypes are out there that that exist. So in our book Jar Intelligence, we found research validating the existence of stereotypes not not that those stereotypes are accurate, but that they exist for both younger and older workers. But for for our conversation today, older workers are stereotyped often as rigid, as uninterested in change, as not being willing to learn new things. Those are just three of them. So if we start there, right, we sort of call out the elephant in the room and we say, okay, those are those are assumptions. Those are largely, for most of us, unfounded stereotypes that we somehow become uninterested in learning or that we aren’t interested in change. So if we believe that those are false and that we individually are not people who fit those generational stereotypes, then I think it becomes a question of great, how do we make sure that we’re replacing people’s stereotypes with a different idea of who we are or what we bring to the workplace? So. Kind of calling out the elephant, right. And saying, I am really excited to learn about all the new things that are going on here. Not. Undermining or downplaying one’s own experience or expertise or credibility in any way, but beginning with this genuine, authentic interest to learn, to help contribute, to create, to being sort of engaged and fascinated in how to solve new problems with the people that we’re working with.
[00:06:51] Because I think the other sort of low key stereotype or perception maybe is a better word for this one is that older workers or older people want to come in and tell everyone else how to do it based on how they did it. I read some interesting things and looked at some interesting research that the perception is we’re going to we’re going to be lectured to by this older person. And when it’s looked at that way, right then of course, there’s a resistance to, well, okay, Boomer, right, that’s where we get our OC Boomer because I feel like I’m being lectured to, I feel like I’m being talked down to as a younger person. So how do we bridge that? How do we say, well, there’s contributing your expertise and experience in a constructive way, and then there’s lecturing to someone, right? And to us, you know, the question is, where is the line? Because I may feel very much like I’m contributing and educating and sharing and collaborating, and someone else might perceive that as being lecturing. And so I think awareness of the fact that sometimes our sharing of experience can come across when we’re older as lecturing and then thinking about how would I approach this conversation differently to not have that be a perception. So the thing that I found from a intelligence standpoint, that’s. Very effective is to begin with that Walt Whitman quote, be curious and not judgmental.
[00:08:19] Right. So starting with an inquiry to someone else, someone younger. How would you do this? I’m interested in your your thoughts. I’m interested in your input. Kind of putting out the olive branch almost. Right. That we would love to hear their perspective and to get their input. And it does a couple of things. One, it negates that stereotype that we’re not interested in learning. Two, it shows mutual respect, right? It shows respect for the fact that there’s lots of ways to look at something and lots of different perspectives. And then the third thing it does is it then creates this opening where our expertise and our mentorship and all of the things that come with being older are better received by other people. So when we first listen and are open to input, it positions us much better to respond with our feedback or our ideas or our. Our. I guess, experience in a field in a way that has a much higher likelihood of being heard. It’s hard to say someone’s lecturing to you if they first asked you what you thought or got your input. So, you know, I think. Taking the strategy of being willing to first listen and be curious and ask can help check a lot of boxes to fight against unfounded stereotypes and then also allows us to share what we know in a way that’s maybe more more apt to be heard.
[00:09:52] I love that point and I found it. I find it to be so foundational. So certainly if I’ve got a job or and or I convey this attitude to a hiring person or whatever, it’s just so foundational because I know in my own experience of working with people who are younger, who I’ve hired or younger clients or whatever that, that. I was doing intelligence without knowing it before you finish the book. And and and not only did that work. Well, I did it because it just made sense, you know, because I knew that these that I love collaborating. I was open to other opinions. I also knew that, you know, am I up on the vibe, especially if my audience, you know, was a millennial or someone of that nature. And then when I first started in this endeavor, you know, and I was talking about what are the attributes of the older person? How can you get hired with it and everything? And it was like, well, you’re bringing experience and you can mentor. And something always bugged me about that. And I think this very point did where it’s like, okay, great. Yeah, having that experience and some skills and talents require a lot of experience. Been there, done, that can be really helpful. But if that’s just that. But then it’s what you said it was. It’s me lecturing is me telling you the way it is and how to do it rather than being more inclusive of it. And lo and behold, then I end up learning tons of stuff from my younger colleagues because I’m open to it. So it is really just like ageism, a two way street.
[00:11:33] Yeah, absolutely. And I think that’s. Been an important discovery. I think also generationally, many of us were raised to think when you become the oldest person on the team or in the room, there’s some sort of inherent responsibility that you’re supposed to know everything and that admitting you don’t or asking for input or help or guidance is somehow going to result in people losing respect for you. And that’s, of course, one of the biggest leadership. Myths out there that that being vulnerable and asking for help makes you less respected. In fact, it makes you more respected, right? Because you’re admitting that you have things to learn and that you don’t know everything. And it gives other people opportunities to engage and contribute and be part of what you’re doing, which is what all of us want. And I think I did a piece of research back in maybe 2017 where I looked at how did different ages determine credibility, right? How do I determine if Paul is a credible leader, a credible source for me, because I had this inkling that younger people were using different decision criteria than older people. And it turned out that the quick version is that we all care about things like character, we all care about experience, we all care about perceived knowledge and expertise, broadly defined, but younger people rated connection as a really key part of determining credibility.
[00:13:11] And older people didn’t list it, which was fascinating to me. And I think a lot of that has to do with the shift and how we get information. So it used to be to get information, you had to go find the person that had it, whether it was at a university or on your job, or you go pull your encyclopedia off the the shelf. And now, of course, my students don’t need me for information. They can get information much more quickly and broadly from the Internet. They need me for connection and context and facilitation and conversation. And so their determination of me as credible is in part based on my ability to connect. And that often means inviting them into the conversation so they can better understand. What they think of it or how it affects them or what they can contribute to it, it’s just different. And so I think remembering that that part of your role as an older person isn’t just mentoring, but it’s also how do I connect with somebody who maybe has grown up in a different way than I have and isn’t isn’t seeing what I see, at least initially?
[00:14:21] Yeah, it kind of define for me a little bit more like what you mean by connect. It’s making that personal connection. It’s helping them connect the dots to the relationship connection or. How would you characterize it.
[00:14:34] In the study connection was defined as someone that I, I think more personal connection. Right. But personal connection allowing them to connect the dots, I think is maybe the longer answer. So somebody that doesn’t talk down to me, somebody that figures out why and how I might be interested in this topic or who I believe cares about me and what’s in my best interests. Then I’ll listen to them, right? If I believe they’re on my side, if I believe that they’re invested in something that I care about, then I connect with them. And I think there’s a lot of that could probably be a whole show about why that matters so much, who do we look up to and for what reasons? But certainly that idea that I connect with that person in some way and therefore I believe they’re more credible, I trust them more, seems to be trust and credibility is less of a given for younger generations. And you can think about why. Right? They grew up in the era of fake news. So I got to have some reason to believe that we’re we’re both on the on the same side or we both are caring about the same things or that you care about me, and then I’ll listen.
[00:15:51] And, you know, what’s what’s absolutely amazing about that is that that’s not just intelligence or a intergenerational multi generational thing. I mean, that’s called good relationships. That’s called that’s Dale Carnegie. That’s that’s that’s leaders listening. Not just, you know, putting, putting forth edicts and everything where it’s just that mutual respect and understanding, which again, I feel like I’ve understood I’ve gained from by being inclusive, by being you get back what you put out.
[00:16:30] Well, and I think that raises a point you and I have talked about in the past, which is. Most of this is just good leadership. But what’s fascinating is how rarely good leadership practices are applied to this topic. Right. It’s almost like this topic. Someone put a circle around it and said, Yeah, but we’re not going to do that when it comes to generations or age, whether it’s DNI, whether it’s cross cultural, whether it’s leadership practices, all of those are relevant and give us great tools for for understanding and navigating difference. But but we seem to have parked age and generation like in a different lot and been like except that’s not important when we’re dealing with all of these things. So certainly this idea of mutual respect or this idea of all of those things that we know are important with any kind of of difference, we don’t tend to apply them here. And I thought a lot about why. And. In part, it’s hard to operate from a position of mutual respect when you’re operating from presumed threat. Right. So we talked about when we opened our conversation about this mysterious generational war that’s been going on for a long time and any time your position, quote unquote, is threatened. So then you sort of gather your toys and hold them tight and you don’t want to share and you need it’s very important to you that everyone understand the value of your toys.
[00:18:07] And so I think. As an older person, right? When you see all this attention and energy and resource going to younger people, first it was the millennials and their digital savvy. Now it’s Gen Z. I think there’s this inherent sort of, well, what am I, chopped liver, right? Like, I’ve been here a long time. I’ve been I’ve learned all of these important things, and now no one cares. Now it’s not relevant. If you know the question being, if you’re relevant as a young person and what you know is valuable to our company, does that by default mean I’m less relevant? And that’s what I’d like to change, is it doesn’t have to be a fixed pie, right? It’s not if if Megan knows things, then Paul can’t know things or the things Paul knows are less important to me. It should be additive. If we take what I have learned and know and add it to what you’ve learned and have discovered, then what’s possible. But that’s not how we do it. We operate from threat, and when you operate from threat, it’s pretty hard to say. Well, Paul, I’m intrigued by what you think and what you want to say is, I don’t want you to have an opinion because I’m afraid it’s threatening my viability and my value to this organization.
[00:19:24] Yeah. And I’ll throw in on that, that it’s even like what’s been going on with news being through generation and see there I am right there. And in that I wish they’d come up with this quote quote, people are looking for affirmation or excuse me, people are looking for validation, not information. Because another part of what you’re saying that I see is, is that we are going to see what we want to see, to validate ourselves and to invalidate the others. And so if I view a younger person as a threat, I’m going to see everything I can and remember what I can that invalid. Well, millennials are like Gen Z or like the Gen Xers or like that. Wow, boomers. Okay, Boomer and stuff like that. Some of that stuff we bring on ourselves. That’s why I say it’s up to us as individuals to do it. But it’s it’s that diversity, equity and inclusion and I’m sorry, it’s now access thing. It’s becoming an alphabet on which I support it all. But it is amazing that the one thing that we all share in common is age and that’s not in it. And yeah, we absolutely have to get past this. I’m going to see things differently. I grew up under different circumstances. I’m in a different phase of my life. Fine, but I don’t care. I once in an editing room, got a breakthrough, an idea from the janitor that was in there because we were editing late at night. I don’t care where the idea comes from. When I’m trying to do something or achieve something, just give me the idea. And that in an organization as well as for a careers is the ultimate handicap of of being ajuste is that we close ourselves off from what the very things that we need, right.
[00:21:12] Yeah. I have a great story on this. So I did a book signing last October and my nephew Sam came to the book signing. He is seven, I believe, and he had written me a book. His sister Molly had written me a book as well to celebrate my book signing, which of course was adorable and cute. And after I thanked them for the books and we sat down, we were talking and he had he came up to me was very serious and he said, I need to know how you publish a book. And I said, well, you know, I’m happy to tell you all about it and all the things I did. And he said, How old do you have to be to publish a book? And I said, Well, you can publish a book right now if you want to. And he said, What? I thought you had to be older to do that. And I said, No. I said, You just have to have a good idea. And good ideas belong to all ages. You’re just as likely to have a good idea as me, I said. Now I might know some things about how we get this done that you haven’t learned yet, and I would be happy to share those with you. But you probably know a bunch of things about your idea that you could share with me. And so he was just over the moon and we sat down and I was very serious about letting it be his ideas.
[00:22:28] And, you know, it was such a great I can’t wait for the book. We’re not done writing it yet, but it’s going to be a bestseller. I’m confident. It was great idea he had. And so I think that’s true. Is, is you see people who think they’re operating from a place of confidence and they’re operating from a place of fear and threat. I did a talk. It was just like a lunchtime brown bag at an organization that was a lot of older members in the community. And I remember there was a gentleman in the back who at the end of my talk raised his hand. He’s like, Yeah, yeah, I heard all that. But why would I take hints from kids about how to run my business? What does a kid know about how to run my business? And it was really interesting because I thought, wow, well, I’d like to ask you, what might a kid know that you don’t know? Right. But it was just this assertion, this very angry assertion that that was a ridiculous premise and it’s a position of defense. Right. We’re defensive rather than being open to possibility. And defense comes from fear and threat. It doesn’t come from a place of of openness or interest or curiosity or any of those things.
[00:23:42] And last but not least, it is self defeating because that guy is closing him off from people who can come to the table with things that can benefit them. So och, I’m an older person. I’m looking to keep, find a job, pivot to my new way, forward to the new career or whatever the heck it is that that’s appropriate for me. And, you know, having worked with you so much and understand your intelligence and the need and that it’s up to us as individuals to take care of it, not count on other people to do it. But we got to overcome it. We’ve got to put forth the vibe or the actions or the mentality, whether it’s to keep our job and where it’s just like, man, this, this person is fantastic to even conveying it to a hiring manager or people I want to hire to start my business or whatever. So let’s let’s kind of talk about some key applications and nothing is better for doing that. Then the four practices of intelligence. So walk us through those. And and if you don’t have a pen and paper or or a smart device or Evernote or something, get it out now. So yeah, kind of take us to through the practical application of the four practices.
[00:25:03] So the four practices are designed to be that place where we take what what most people tend to agree. Sounds like a good idea. Right? Okay. I can get behind the idea of getting smarter about this from learning about each other. How do you actually do it? So that was why we designed these practices. The first two are really designed to help us break down intergenerational bias and tension. So this is a little bit about you sensing how much of an issue is that for me or for the organization I want to join or whatever the context is? So the first practice is resist assumptions because we know that all of us are biased in ways that we don’t understand. And my favorite definition of bias is that it’s a shortcut and decision making. So if we kind of take away the connotation of bias and we look at the fact that every time we have a bias, it’s it’s a shortcut, right? We’re we’ve we’ve substituted sort of a thing that’s normally or often true for actually rationally looking at something. And so this idea of how can I examine first my own assumptions, what shortcuts am I taking about assumptions I’m making about younger people, for example, entitlement or what lazy or poor work ethic or ethical or whatever our assumptions are, right? What really dig in deep either to personally to yourself or if you’re willing to engage with other people to say what? What implicit assumptions might I be carrying around? And I recommend sort of charging yourself for a week or two to sort of be on alert for what assumptions am I carrying that I maybe didn’t realize what patterns in my seeing, but then also not just for yourself, but for others, right? How often do we assume that our younger people shouldn’t be at the.
[00:26:54] Board meeting or that the flip direction of when we’re putting our social media campaign together, that why would we invite, you know, our older members to be part of that effort or put the word out to them? I actually was on a call a couple of weeks ago. It wasn’t even about intelligence, but somebody had said it was about upskilling. And they said, well, I talked to one of our baby boomer employees and she said she hoped she wasn’t going to have to do any of this new training. And so from that, the broad conclusion was was made that none of the older workers would be interested in it. And I had to do one of those resisting assumptions and said, you know, that’s a pretty dangerous assumption to be making for a whole group of people based on one person’s off the cuff comment. And so that’s just what a resisting assumptions is. The other part of resisting assumptions goes beyond what’s what biases or stereotypes or generalizations am I making or do I hear being made to something we didn’t normally or originally think of when we when we wrote this practice? But I’ve heard it come up so often that I mention it now, you know, that saying it goes or that that phrase it goes without saying nothing when it comes to generations goes without saying.
[00:28:15] That’s what I’ve learned. Like there’s this idea of it goes without saying that, of course, first we’ll do X and it’s like not necessarily. And I found that to be really true when it comes to things like how are we defining certain things like take right now the hybrid workplace, return to the office. Everyone’s using the word flexibility. All workers want flexibility. Well, what does that mean to somebody who’s 60 versus somebody who’s 20? Right or balance is another one. What does that mean? How do you define that? Retirement is another really great one. I just did a family business webinar and one of the things we discovered, I was talking to these financial planners about retirement and they said, Well, our clients have such different views of retirement, they have different opinions on it. And I said, Well, how do they all define retirement? And we discovered very differently, like, you know, and so just things like that go into the category of versus doing assumptions and sort of say so.
[00:29:19] In other words, you can’t just say, well, it goes without saying that retirement means.
[00:29:25] Yes, excellent one.
[00:29:27] Yeah. And I think, you know, not only what assumptions are you making, but what assumptions might be being made about you as an older worker. Right. And so if you go into an interview and your concern that presumptions are going to to be coming with you, you know, what assumptions might they be making and how might you neutralize those? Right. Are they assuming you only have a few more years left in your career? And can you neutralize that by talking about what the next ten or 15 years are going to look like for you in your career? Right. Things like that.
[00:30:00] And yeah, my my quick and you’ve heard this before, but people watching him, I’ve had several instances where I’ve been on a conference call. No, people didn’t have their cameras on stuff like that. Creative meeting, new people, younger people on the client side or other agencies or whatever on it. We have a couple of these conversations and we’d meet in person and I’d be like, Oh, hi, I’m Paul Wong. And they’d be this. Oh, hi. Nice to meet you. And in a couple of cases, I approached those people afterwards and said, I got to ask, you know, you had a really funny reaction to it. And in every case, it was like, I just didn’t picture you as an older guy. You know, and I mean, it’s. It’s almost like a double blind study, right? Except a very small one. Of just this presumption, you know that because, you know, the only way I feel my age is when I look in the mirror, you know, without going into it now, there’s a lot of deep meaning in that, you know, just because also a younger person could sound very mature and very grounded and solid. And and then you look at them and they’re like, oh, my gosh, you’re 25 years old. And so that is, you know, identifying and resisting the assumptions. Now, what about adjusting the lens? This is one of my favorites.
[00:31:27] It is one of my favorites, too, Paul. Adjusting the lens is it goes, of course, hand in hand with resisting assumptions. So once you realize that you’ve identified these assumptions you’re making or that you believe are being made around age or generation, what do you do? So adjusting the lens, my my story or my example on this is the idea that that when you travel abroad, you don’t go to a foreign country believing that everyone’s going to see everything the way you do or that you’re going to be well understood or that your meaning will come across or that you’re going to understand everyone correctly. And because of that, you have a mindset where you’re engaged, you’re motivated, you’re interested to make sure communication goes well. You’re sort of on alert for places where maybe it’s falling apart. So what would happen if we took that same mindset to generational and age differences? So I always say generations are a form of culture. If you look at the definition of culture, it almost fits generations to a T right growing up in a different way or having different experiences, all of those things. So generations are a very interesting form of culture. So adjusting the lens is basically a practice where you think about that first part from resisting assumptions. What what’s my initial assumption I make when I have in my world a student come in my door questioning an exam grade. Right? My initial assumption might be, well, who do you think you are? Or That’s so entitled, or do you think you’re smarter than me? But adjusting the lens is sort of that moment where you pause and go, Okay.
[00:33:05] Maybe there’s a communication breakdown here. Right. I’m assuming intent. I’m assuming this person is disrespecting me or is entitled. Why am I assuming that? So it asks you to pause and adjust your perspective and think, Is there another way to view this? So there’s a couple of tools we give in the book. One is not mine. It’s from the seventies, actually. A great cross-cultural exercise called the D. Describe, interpret, evaluate. What’s the behavior? A Students coming in my office asking questions about a grade. What’s your interpretation? Megan Well, that they’re being entitled and they’re being disrespectful that remember, that’s an assumption. So what are we going to do about it? Well, what are some alternative explanations? And then you start unwrapping that, right? Well, maybe this is a generation that’s taught to to raise their hand and have a voice and be proactive and go after what they want and stick up for themselves. We raised them that way. So is it that surprising they’re coming in? Does it really have anything to do with me? And if I don’t think that’s an appropriate norm. Right, even regardless of age, if I think that’s that’s not really how I want to have this conversation, that’s fine.
[00:34:25] But I’m not going to start with, well, you’re entitled and disrespectful because nothing productive is going to happen that way. I’m going to start with. Can you help me understand your concern? Right. Can you help me understand is just a great phrase anyway, right? It’s that Stephen Covey, you know, start with curiosity, not judgment. Begin with the end in mind. All of those good things where we we think about if I give the olive branch out and assume the best that they care about what I care about, they might just be expressing it differently and give them an opportunity to say, Well, I studied really hard. I want to be successful in this class. I care so much about this topic. Clearly I misstepped. And so I just I want to make sure that I give myself the best chance possible to be successful in the future. Oh, well, I want you to be successful in the future, too. So we’re not in competition. We’re just kind of approaching this differently. Let’s have a conversation. So adjusting the lens is about challenging the way we automatically see things and then going to that next level of saying what else could be true here? And if I don’t know or I’m having trouble asking. Right? Just like you would ask if you were traveling for help understanding or help interpreting something, asking and assuming that maybe instead we’re a lot closer together than we think.
[00:35:50] And I love the travel analogy, but I’ll also say, where have I heard this before? In relationships, you know, that’s the advice for relationships when that person who’s close to you and you’re just you’re wanting to say, are you nuts? Or Where the hell is or why aren’t you? And instead saying, you know, tell me about this. And, you know, having been in a multi decade relationship, I can’t tell you the number of times where I either wish I had done that or I was grateful that I had done it because I completely misunderstood and presumed, Oh, here we go. With presumptions, assumptions of stereotypes. Hmm. So the next one, strengthening trust.
[00:36:30] Or right.
[00:36:31] So the next two go hand in hand as well. And these are for feeling pretty good that we’re not mired down in active bias or tension, but we don’t necessarily feel like we’re seeing our generational differences as an asset, that that’s what these two are for. So strengthening trust, again, is about mutual respect. It’s about getting away from that us versus them dynamic. You mention that somehow it’s a competition, instead saying, Isn’t it great? I have people who have different perspectives and skills and that I could collaborate with those people that what they know might complement, not compete with what I know. So it’s psychological safety, which is a term we all hear everywhere these days. But this idea that the people you work with and for us, you know, older people who might be re-entering the workforce or starting our next chapter, you know, you want to be brought on as a trusted, valuable member where people feel excited. You’re bringing some different experiences to the table, not as someone they fear will want them to do it in a way that is different than what they want to do it. Right.
[00:37:42] And so it’s this idea of creating trust. One of the key strategies here is replacing, you know, what we think we know is some personal connections, creating intentional opportunities to allow people to get to know each other personally, not based on broad brush sort of substitutions, because research would tell us that we don’t tend to mix with people of different age groups at work where there’s a real age polarization that happens. We feel very comfortable with people we perceive as being, quote, like us. And age is a very visible signal for us of who’s quote like me. So without any kind of leadership intervention or active effort on our own part, as you say, our own accountability, we don’t seek out personal relationships with people a lot older or younger. And because of that, I don’t really know that many people older or younger than me on a personal level, if I’m your average employee. So I just substitute generalizations and stereotypes. And then I don’t I don’t really trust those people because those people I don’t really know. I just those people, those millennials, those boomers, you know, those slackers.
[00:38:58] Fill in the blank. It can be those people in terms of race, in.
[00:39:01] Terms of any political.
[00:39:02] Affiliation. And that that is where we have just it’s the growing divide.
[00:39:09] It is. And that’s where this idea of bias being a shortcut. Right. I don’t have a personal connection with somebody who is ex age. And so I’ll just go with what I’ve heard about them. Right. And that’s not where trust comes from. So strengthening trust means I’m going to get out of my comfort zone. I’m going to actually intentionally work on things that matter are important with people who are different ages so I can learn the value they they authentically bring, right? I can actually experience what it’s like to get an answer I didn’t have from someone older or younger when I didn’t expect that that would be something I could count on. So it’s it’s a process where we. The more you do it and you and I know this because it intuitively makes sense to us and we live it as part of our career is I get so many answers from my 20 year old students all the time. Literally, if you and I had a question, I could pop my head out the door and somebody out in the hallway would know the answer to the question on one end of the age spectrum or the other.
[00:40:13] And so you only have to experience that a couple of times to suddenly just be seeking it out everywhere. But you have to flip that switch to build that trust. So that’s the third practice and then the fourth one, which really does go hand in hand with that. We call it expanding the pie. It has been revised to now be called embrace mutual learning. So we’re going to be embracing mutual learning is another way to look at it. And that is really the idea that, you know, you’ve seen that T-shirt or the bumper sticker that says equal rights for you doesn’t mean less equal rights for me. It’s not pie, right? So it’s that kind of idea that my expertise and knowledge being valuable doesn’t mean yours isn’t valuable, right? It’s not a fixed sum game. And so expanding the pie is a negotiation technique or term. That basically means we’re probably going to come up with something better if we’re willing to learn from each other and be open to those different kinds of expertise, as opposed to battling it out to see who’s more relevant or important or gets to speak louder.
[00:41:20] So. We’ve covered so much that I think is is good for everybody in the situations I put forth at the beginning of this interview. And I mean, definitely those who are trying to keep their job, those that are in a leadership position or or, you know, the older worker, younger boss, I mean, all of that really helps if you’re starting a business, if you’re going to be self employed, a freelancer, all of that, that kind of attitude of how you’re going to deal. I think the one thing I want to end with is looking for that job and leveraging the very things that you’ve been talking about. And by the way, also just get the book because that really helps to really thoroughly understand it and to do the exercises. But. When I’m looking for that job, how can I take this and convey it to, you know, as I’ve heard from some HR managers, hey, I’m not being honest is that a lot of the older candidates aren’t up to speed. And one of the ways they aren’t up to speed is in the very topics that we’re talking about. So I wonder about conveying this and showing that, hey, I’ve got your intelligence, therefore, you know, judge me on my skills and my talents and my abilities, not necessarily how well I’ll play in the sandbox. What can I do? What would you be your advice to me if I’m looking for that job and I want to convey that?
[00:42:47] You know, I think just that, right. The idea of of, again, calling out the elephant in the room and saying, you know, I, of course, think I bring to your organization really valuable expertise and experience. And I hope that that you’ll see that as well. But I want to make clear that I’m part of the reason I’m making this move is because I’m excited about what I can learn, that I don’t think you have to underplay who you are and what you bring. I don’t think that’s what this is about. Intelligence is about the value of of all generational points of view. But I think saying I’m really excited to learn, you know, and there’s things that I think I bring to the table here that I hope will be really valuable to you. But I’ve always enjoyed learning from people who have different perspectives from me, whether that’s their their skill set or their age or their anything else. And that’s what’s exciting to me about this position or this opportunity. If I wanted to stay in my comfort zone, I would have stayed in my last job or I would have spent my last ten years of my career where I started my career.
[00:43:55] But I’m somebody who really thrives on new learning and new challenge. And I’m excited about what what opportunities exist here. And I think it’s all about then you’re dispelling stereotypes that you’re not up to speed. Well, what does that mean? None of us are up to speed. There’s no playbook for what anybody’s going through now. So nobody has the required skills, in my opinion. We’re all learning them together as we go. So I think what people want to hire is someone who’s adaptable, somebody who is engaged, motivated, excited to bring their value and work with others collaboratively. I don’t think that there’s an age attached to that. I think people who believe there is are operating from stereotypes. So I think the best way to do that is to replace that stereotype for them with you, who is a personal living example of the fact that you’re excited to to teach and learn. Right. That you’re there for both.
[00:44:50] That is fabulous advice. And not only for that job seeker, but quite frankly, I mean, really for all of us. And I want to throw in at the end here, too, that we aren’t defined by our generations. That’s just one element of who we are as individuals. The stage some some of these things are stages of life. It’s like, oh, that’s a millennial. It’s like, no, I was like that when I was 25 or 32 or whatever. And, and then and then as individuals and we just need to get out of our own way. However, if we want to get in your way in a positive sense, down in the show notes, it will be the different links to get in contact with you or to order your book. But what’s your what’s your preferred way for people to connect with you?
[00:45:36] Yes. So you can always get hold of me on. Prof. Gearhart dot com. That’s my website for all of my work. I’m excited getting ready to launch a Gentleman Science Academy, which I’ll give you the link, Paul, for your show notes when that’s live, where people can of all ages can get certified in gentle giants to maybe signal that they are someone who’s passionate and interested about learning and teaching across different ages. So those are the two best ways. As you said, the book is available audiobook and hardcover book as well. So and I’m out there on social media, on LinkedIn, all those good places.
[00:46:15] What about intelligence, the movie? When do we get that?
[00:46:18] Oh, goodness, I don’t know. When are you going to direct that movie? You tell me. I’ll be there for filming whenever Paul tells me to be making.
[00:46:27] As always, thank you so much.
[00:46:31] Yes, thank you for having me.
[00:46:32] If you like this, there’s a lot more on YouTube. Also, there’s even more on new way forward. That’s new way for there. You can subscribe, you’ll get a free newsletter regularly, you will get special updates and you’ll get a free download to help you step by step. Get going on your new way forward.
Older Workers & Job Seekers: How to Overcome Ageism