The Juniorization of the American Workforce

A friend of mine, Tom, recently commented on this obvious trend. At age 51, Tom works as an IT consultant (form 1099) for a new medical technology company. Tom recently shared that he had just returned from a reunion with his high school friends. Many of the people Tom referenced had been in leadership positions at large companies and had followed long and distinguished career paths to achieve their career goals. So, Tom saw more than a coincidence that the only currently employed people among his friends were those who were self-employed or owned their own businesses. All of the individuals in Tom’s group who had risen through the ranks of corporate America were now “displaced due to circumstances.” You don’t have to look far to see how this phenomenon infiltrates the lives of an entire generation.

The contemporary application of the noun “juniorization” refers to the “elephant in the room”. It is now common practice to “push out” senior employees who “don’t have as much track left.” This is HR parlance for an illegal practice of age discrimination through a strategic deployment of streamlined hiring, forced retirements, shifts, and layoffs.

The fact that there has not been (yet) a wave of lawsuits for age discrimination, does not mean that the problem has not reached a state of crisis. It just means that these illegal practices are hard to prove. Departing employees are extorted with severance packages that have been assessed as significant in terms of fiscal financial savings for the company. Either you sign, agree to keep your mouth shut, and take what’s offered, or take the initiative and face a lengthy and costly litigation process.

Even while reading this article; HR teams are working feverishly to show that they are not employing juniorizing practices. They will publish lists of displaced employees that illustrate the diversity of ages of the people who are about to join the ranks of the unemployed. However, there is a strong possibility that the company will change and rehire younger staff in newly defined positions, or replace displaced senior staff with “more economically favorable” options, including outside “1099 form consultants,” and fewer employees. experienced and cheaper. .

Hiring managers are strongly discouraged from hiring teams of seniors, even when the senior employee candidate has a particularly strong track record as a leader or innovator.

There’s no denying that senior employees may not be as technically up-to-date as their young rising star counterparts. But, that is not an acceptable (or legal) reason to put them out to graze. They still have a lot to offer in terms of historical knowledge* and leadership** (more on that in a minute).

An interesting analogy can be drawn from the definition of juniorization provided on the ‘BrickWiki’ website, which is a wiki intended to cover all aspects of what will become known as the LEGO hobby. ‘BrickWiki defines juniorization as:

“A term used by adult LEGO fans[AFOLs]to describe and criticize the inclusion of some highly specialized elements in assemblies rather than already existing elements that could be assembled in the same configuration. A BURP (Big Ugly Rock Piece) could be considered a juniorized element but it is more common to refer to pieces as simply an element that reproduces five of stacked together”. [AFOLs)tobothdescribeandcriticizetheinclusionofafewhighlyspecializedelementsinsetsinsteadofalreadyexistingelementsthatcouldbeassembledintothesameconfigurationABURP(BigUglyRockPiece)mightbeconsideredajuniorizedelementbutitismorecommontorefertopiecessuchaswhichissimplyanelementthatreproducesfiveofstackedtogether”

‘BrickWiki continues: “The main complaint is that the use of junior parts reduces the possibilities of building alternative models, a cornerstone of AFOL activity.”

So, as the Lego analogy portrays: Companies are laying off senior employees who have finely honed specialized skill sets, and replacing them with younger, cheaper employees who have less evolved, but more diverse skills. As discussed in The Lego World, employing the least skilled and least senior employees will eventually result in long-term organizational deficiencies in flexibility and adaptability.

*Historical knowledge is something that those who use juniorization processes are not evaluating. They are willing to give up years of experience for short-term savings.

“We learn from history that we don’t learn from history.”

• Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.

“Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.”

•Edmund Burke

**Leadership is not a talent that can be taught in graduate school. It is a set of acquired skills. And guess what. Not everyone has a propensity for leadership. That’s why it takes years and years to examine good leaders. Therefore, throwing less experienced employees into the management group to see who goes under is not the best leadership development process. It will result in the loss of valuable talent due to burnout and frustration.

The term juniorization is not new. In an October 2004 article in the Columbia Journalism Review (“Letter From Johannesburg: The Trouble with Transformation” by Douglas Foster in Cape Town, South Africa), the term was credited to the online source: Double-Tongued Dictionary as:

n.- The survey generated a terrible new word: juniorization. It covers a multitude of sins. When the most experienced reporters left the profession because they were traumatized from covering the political violence that hit the country in the 1980s, or crime or AIDS in the 1990s; when talented reporters are kidnapped by the government or corporations for double their salaries as mobsters; when someone is promoted beyond their abilities, and even when a reporter gets a story wrong, “juniorization” is the one-size-fits-all label used to shame newsroom denizens without explicitly mentioning that most the “young” are black”.

So the term juniorization has long had a negative connotation. However, the contemporary problem at hand threatens an aging population already struggling to establish retirement plans without the promise of social security benefits.

A recent blog post on theSkimm defined the term Juniorization like: “The term for your office happy hours getting louder and louder. It’s when a company lays off older employees to replace them with younger ones. Because 40 is the new 30 is the new 25.” The new ones are not so legal?

In Skimm’s coverage, they referenced a Business Insider article headlined Wall Street is in the grip of something called ‘juniorization,’ and it’s scaring some people in which the practice of firing senior traders and salespeople and replacing them with talent was cited. younger. main cause for concern. But this trend, which has been recognized in the world of financial services, is not limited to that sector.

None of this is intended to put all the blame for these juniorization practices on Human Relations professionals. Obviously, these directives come from a higher level. But, the level of complicity that the human resources people are exercising is amazing. They are smiling in the faces of the employees and kicking them in the butt as they walk out the door.

Working days for a corporation throughout your career is at the danger level on the extinction scale. But don’t show me a rat and call it a puppy. You may be “just following orders” (think war crimes trials), but don’t tell us you’re making fair and non-discriminatory business decisions. Because we are not that stupid.

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