Over the past few years, hiring the right candidate for the job has been, according to some, a game of saving by using labor that is “young and cheap.” Lower salaries and bigger titles. Mature workers in their fifties are being offered retirement packages and even people as young as thirty-nine are complaining that they fear their careers are over. Will this trend reverse itself or continue and how does it relate to your ability to do business?
Of course, age discrimination is not legal, according to the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) but proving that it’s a factor in firings and hirings is another thing. There is however, always at least one inside source that will feel their conscience and spill the beans to the press. Updating their original story from 2012, “ESPN Is Now Hiring. Young And Cheap May Apply,” covered by John Koblin for Deadspin, it includes, “one ESPN source put it this way: ESPN “hacked” hundreds of jobs and will replace those laid off “with younger, cheaper, less experienced people.”
As another source put it in an email: “Most people let go were older, have been with the company a long time and collecting a decent salary for what they do. They will be replaced by younger, less experienced and most importantly a much less compensated employee.”
Logan’s Run and Soylent Green
It’s hardly news to anyone, young or old. Some say it goes against the natural order of aging and experience — the young are mentored by the older workers who teach them the way in business and life and eventually, as the older workers retire, the younger age, mature and take over, loaded with the experience of their mentors and years of their own experience. Now. it seems, younger workers are expected to know it all and keep companies running smoothly and with high profitability.
In 2003, Jim Carroll wrote “Remind Me to Stop Hiring Young People,” in his blog:
Kids are about to become politicians. That‘s right — the “Napster generation,” raised on computers, instant messaging and file swapping will come to make their presence felt on the political stage through the next decade. There is no doubt that they have views that differ from those of their forefathers. They carry with them an entirely different set of values and beliefs, and vastly different perceptions of what is required in terms of the laws and regulations that guide our society. The result? On the political, economic and social stage, we‘ll see an increasing generational dysfunction that will challenge business markets, industry structures, and accepted business norms. Smart organizations will work to understand the political and moral views and perspectives of this generation, and will take the time to learn how to tap into their uniqueness in order to thrive.
The younger generation, which is one of digital connectivity, has been accused of lacking certain human socialization skills, has been entering the job market for the past decade, and that lifestyle learning presents challenges to the workplace and dealing with consumers. Time will tell if these young workers can evolve and mature into an effective workforce, able to deal with a global marketplace that has not adopted the same “young and cheap” hiring process as has the United States.
The Beauty of Hiring
As if being hired for one’s experience and skills and not facing judgement for age, there’s a new fear on the horizon — one’s physical appearance. Ever since Hans Christian Anderson wrote, “The Ugly Duckling,” many in society have fought the ideals that physical beauty does not a great person make. Still, pictures of rock hard abs and perfect skin adorn all magazines and web sites and Hollywood continues to make coming of age teen movies. Why? Because society worships ideals of physical beauty.
According to Mashable, in their article “Job Site Wants Only Beautiful Candidates,” the practice, long denied by employers, has reared its ugly head.
BeautifulPeople.com — the controversial online dating site that allows only attractive people to join — is expanding its service on Monday for employers.
The company told Mashable it is readying a recruitment feature for employers wanting to hire “good-looking staff. “The free service would give individuals and companies access to its 750,000 member base of “attractive” people. Only those members who are voted beautiful by others on the site are allowed to stick around.
Employers will have a dedicated business profile and be able to pursue other members who are looking for a job. Members will also be able to look through job listings and apply directly to companies.
“An honest employer will tell you that it pays to hire good-looking staff,” said Greg Hodge, managing director of BeautifulPeople.com, in a statement. “Attractive people tend to make a better first impression on clients, win more business and earn more.”
Let’s not fool ourselves; it has always been this way and always will. It’s just that as with racist hiring views, no one would dare announce someone lost consideration for a position due to their physical appearance. It’s like the old joke about a man who comes into an office for an appointment and finds four women in the outer office. Three of them are absolutely gorgeous. One takes his coat, another gives him a cup of coffee and one takes him into the main office to meet with the owner of the company. As he walks into the main office, he notices the fourth woman, who is rather plain-looking and hidden from view by piles of papers as she types and answers the phone.
“How about that secretarial staff?” says the owner as the man approaches his desk.
“They’re absolutely gorgeous,” says the man. “But what about the plain-looking woman tucked in the corner. What does she do?”
“All of the work,” replies the owner.
The article continues:
Although this sounds vain and even discriminatory, it’s no secret that certain companies want to hire attractive candidates to represent the brand. For example, a salesperson applying for a job at a makeup counter may be a more desirable hire if she has clear skin than if she has severe acne.
At the same time, the news comes as clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch has been back in the news and under fire for wanting only beautiful customers to buys its clothes. The CEO has long been vocal about its staffer requirement to be attractive.
Gill Corkindale’s article in the Harvard Business review, “Exploiting Beauty in the Workplace,” includes some assertions some might question, and others will confirm:
According to Catherine Hakim, a professor of sociology at the London School of Economics, the ”beauty premium” is an important economic factor in our careers, citing a US survey that found good-looking lawyers earn between 10 and 12 per cent more than dowdier colleagues. Moreover, she says, an attractive person is more likely to land a job in the first place, and then be promoted.
“Meritocracies are supposed to champion intelligence, qualifications, and experience. But physical and social attractiveness deliver substantial benefits in all social interaction — making a person more persuasive, able to secure the co-operation of colleagues, attract customers and sell products,” she writes in a column for a London newspaper.
Does Beauty Equal Business Success?
Controversially, Hakim argues that the financial returns of attractiveness now equal the returns of qualifications, with many young women now believing that beauty is just as important as education. And while she offers up Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF as an exemplar of a woman who exploits her intelligence, qualifications, and erotic capital, she also champions Katie Price, a British media personality and former model who has built a successful career on her looks, an aspirational figure.
At one corporate job, I noticed that the upper-middle management people were quite attractive and very incompetent. The privately owned corporation was known for certain “quirks” as the founder, a simple farm boy turned businessman, used his life experience-common sense to build his company and those principles, mutated slightly through the generations of his progeny who took over the company.
“How could so-and-so ever get that position of power when she’s such and incompetent?” I asked a coworker who was with the company for two-and one-half decades.
“She has the look they want to present to the outside world,” he calmly answered.
I hadn’t run across this in the other, larger corporations for which I worked but upon considering those I knew in visible positions, I had to admit my coworker’s statement was true. On the outside chance that TV cameras or paparazzi would invade the company, it was ready to show a beautiful staff of workers and not the “ugly step-children” it would quickly lock in the basement.
Meanwhile, in my department, deep within the outlying subbasement, my manager, a less-than attractive woman whose personality was twisted from years of torment at the hands of the popular, beautiful crowd in high school, had her own standards for her “A-list” workers. Those who were not the popular kids, the not-beautiful, the ones with personalities quelled by being tagged as unworthy by societal standards found acceptance and success within their own group.
The Ugly Truth
Those of us who had a mere whiff of popularity weren’t invited. Not beautiful enough for upper management but not disrespected enough to be in the other group. Stuck in the middle, we did our work and our beatings from both sides. We tried to get things done so the company would succeed, not bothered by having to fear aging and how it would affect our physical beauty, or lamenting a life of feeling less than human among our peers.
It was an uphill battle every day. Not being judged for our abilities when that’s all that should really have been considered in the business world, while that other stuff should have been left on the playground. Is this really where business is headed?
If experience has any influence on hiring decisions, one must consider that Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Chamath Palihapitiya, to name a few successful movers and shakers, are not exactly super model material although their accomplishments should make them extremely attractive as far as an employer is concerned.
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