I was talking to my mom on the phone the other day and she was telling me about a problem she was having at work with one of her employees.
My mom is the head of the human resources for a large government agency and has over 35 years of human resources and management experience. However, she explained that she was having issues with an employee who had been in the department almost his entire career but produced what she considered to be poor-quality work.
She said to me, “His work is just not up to par and I have to constantly review it and send it back to him to re-do. But he has so much experience. I’m afraid to challenge him directly on it.”
I thought about this for a minute and came back with this advice:
“Experience doesn’t equal competency.”
There’s a lot of talk about inter-generational relations in the workplace. Gen-Y/Millenials, Gen-Xers, Baby Boomers, Traditionals—each age group is defined with the precision and detail of a PBS nature documentary. Boomers are competitive, Gen-Xers are lazy, Millenials are demanding and tech-savvy, etc.
Why are we all so quick to judge people based on age? Are we participating in a socially acceptable form of ageism?
The story about my mom just serves to illustrate my point: respect should be given based on proven performance. Period. Years served is only a measure of how long someone has managed to hold onto a job, not on whether they are a good employee. Past experience can be a good indicator of whether someone will have the skill set to perform well at a certain position in the future, but the true test of their productivity and quality as an employee can only come from actually doing the work.
As one of the youngest employees at my company (beat out only by the former college intern we just recently hired on full time) I find myself running into a new glass ceiling—one in which younger but more senior (in terms of years of service to the company) employees are being passed over for promotions in favor of hiring “more experienced” candidates from outside. This often makes me wonder:
Why do we favor the potential of “experienced” employees over the proven track record of younger ones?
Which should command more respect? A résumé of tiny successes over a long period time or a large amount of success in a short amount of time?
I don’t really have answer to these questions. But maybe in another 10 years I’ll begin to understand.