Too Much Vinegar? Bring on the Honey!

Will anger help us build a cross-generational society?

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I recently chatted with George Tannenbaum, a fellow member of what I’ve dubbed “The Ageless Crusaders” movement (treating people fairly and respectfully regardless of the number on their birth certificates).

I had never spoken to him before and he politely asked if I was addressing the issue angrily or intelligently and persistently.

As in the feminist movement, many people have adopted the “Howard Beale” approach to making change.

I’ve discovered over the years that ranting, cursing, and abusing can be a great way to get short-term attention, but it doesn’t necessarily build credibility or result in long-term transformation.

Especially among my older peers, the stereotype of “self-righteous gensplainers” can be accurate at times.

I’m often reminded of that cheesy but still-accurate proverb: “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

In this case, the “flies” are the hiring managers, recruiters, colleagues, and decision-makers who have an influence on diversity and inclusion.

If we’re going to really make progress in raising awareness of discrimination against people based on age (across all generations, but especially among the up to 98 percent older adults who have experienced it), we can’t be perceived as a bunch of cranky geezers.

I’ve been watching Mrs. America and observing the fictional Gloria Steinem (my spirit sister) carefully. She was militant but also charismatic and compelling, using media to make change.

Gather Facts

Quantifying the issue is a critical step. Data is always more powerful than anecdotal evidence.

For example:

  • Two-thirds of workers 45 and older have experienced age discrimination and that’s cost companies between $2.8 million and $250 million in lawsuits. Overall, 20 percent of workers have experienced some form of age discrimination.
  • People over 50 spend $548 billion annually — the greatest spend of any generation, yet marketing companies tend not to target them or hire people in that age segment.
  • Older women currently have the highest poverty rate in our country

Collaborate, Don’t Compete

I’ve been a bit blown away by how many of the “anti-ageism activists” are still treating this movement like it’s a profit center.

Infighting and pettiness will not benefit anyone in the long-run. Having both young and old people involved in the movement is critical and I’ve met some amazing men and women over the past few months who are passionate about creating cross-generational workplaces.

Is Anger Ever Good?

The answer is “it depends,” according to scientists. Although it can lead to health problems over time, a little bit of grit and forcefulness can be effective in building a movement.

“Anger during a negotiation has also been shown to increase the chances of succeeding in it – people are more likely to yield to someone who is perceived as stubborn, dominant.”

The Guardian

Not surprisingly, however, angry women are not perceived quite as favorably.

I’m Laughing (Not)

“I’m just joking,” people sometimes say when making fun of a generation. But unless you know your audience well, passive-aggressive humor can be more of the latter than the former.

Making fun of any group based on sexual orientation, ethnicity, height, or any other factor beyond their control is just not kind and can cause damage.

Humor can be effective in making change, but know your audience well, and strike that delicate balance between fun and disrespect.

Turning Anger into Action

As we know, movements arise from people turning their beliefs and energy into positive change.

Groups of all ages are beginning to emerge to raise awareness of and combat ageism in our society.

Whining and ranting can alienate rather than engage. So, let’s add that spoonful of sugar to what is a very real and very serious issue and be Ageless Crusaders rather than cranky geezers or self-righteous militants.

Facts, tenacity, cooperation, and the right type of humor can ultimately help foster age-blindness and cross-generational collaboration.

Are you an Ageless Crusader? Join the movement right now…right here.

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