He is Not a Bad Guy. But He is an Old Guy.

RJ Morris Candidate Pool, Diversity, Generations, RJ Morris

Discrimination typically lurks deep inside people’s minds and hearts, isolated in dark and hidden places.  It is usually pushed down in the unconscious, sitting there, waiting to rear its hateful and ugly head.  It is not usually acknowledged or spoken about, because it is usually a person’s deepest darkest secret.  People rarely admit their prejudice in public.

Except in the world of American politics, apparently, where some people flaunt it in a campaign ad.

To see what I am talking about, check the article about the senate race in Utah, feel ashamed to be an American and then see my take after the jump.  Full disclosure:  FOT does not usually pick political sides….we make fun of everyone equally.

 We've seen campaigns play the age card before, but a new fundraising email from upstart Utah Democratic Senate candidate Scott Howell may take the cake.

Howell, who's challenging longtime Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch this November, sent a fundraising email to supporters this week that warned voters of “the risk of an 80-year-old man taking office, only to retire or die before his term is through.” (Hatch is 78.) “Look, Orrin Hatch is not a bad guy. But he is an old guy, and he's a lifer politician,” Howell wrote in the email, which Daily Caller reporter Matt Lewis posted on Twitter…

Howell told Yahoo News that he doesn't think pointing out Hatch's age is a form of age discrimination, but rather a way to emphasize his belief that the senator has held power for too long and to express his concern that Hatch might die in office. “My father passed away when he just turned 80 and my father-in-law passed away when he was 85, and that's just the reality…that's the circle of life.” he

said….”I think a sitting senator who's been there 36 years is not doing a favor to anyone in the state of Utah nor to the country. He'll be 84 years old (at the end of his seventh term). Eighty-four. Think about that.”

Circle of Life?  Holy Schnikes.  I am not an Orrin Hatch fan, but this is a US Senate campaign spouting this garbage.

I get that anything goes in politics, but this commentary just reinforces the notion that more experienced people in their career cannot keep up.  I don’t buy it, and this campaign obnoxiousness gave me a reason to write about its impact on hiring older workers.

As you work in the trenches hiring people, keep an eye out for the code phrases that managers will throw out to cover for their discrimination:

  • “We liked her, but we have questions about her energy level.”
  • “I really need someone to be here for the long term.”
  • “I wonder if he will fit into our results-oriented culture.”
  • “Good guy, but will he be able to keep up with the fast pace of our business?”

Call BS on each of these.  No one knows how long any employee is going to be around, and young people can get lazy just like old people can be lazy.  Why would you limit your candidate pool by excluding potential candidates?

I think there are goober old workers and goober young workers.  It’s our job to figure that out, just like it is with any other candidate.  Hire people who have a demonstrated track record of success in a similar environment and who have a skillset that meets your needs.  If you allow someone to take the easy way out, using age as a reason to avoid hiring someone, I think we have to lump you in with the whack job senate candidate from Utah.

Hit me in the comments…

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RJ Morris

I have spent the last 20 years of my professional life advising leaders to make great talent decisions to drive business results. In my current gig, I lead talent acquisition and management for a multi-billion-dollar, 100% employee-owned construction company. I geek out on analytics, succession planning, etc. and love it when we position folks to do their best work. That’s fun stuff. I tease bad HR people, because I think we can all do better, myself included. That’s fun, too.