Tuesday, April 08, 2008

5333: Ageism Is Getting Old.

TalentZoo.com recently published two columns on ageism by Euro RSCG Chairman and Chief Creative Officer Steffan Postaer, which can be viewed here and here. Although the writing is clumsy—and the second column is contrived pap—the perspectives warrant examination. The comments actually reveal more than the words that inspired them, provided you can navigate through the haters spanking Postaer for sport.

While Postaer may be a member of Generation X (and that’s not for certain), he displays a host of Baby Boomer attitudes, including the cultural cluelessness usually associated with the elder group. Plus, folks have already addressed ageism and generational differences in the past years (see Ernie Schenck’s musings here and here).

Postaer can’t seem to make up his mind on matters, backpedaling and even contradicting himself. For example, he stated that “every other creative employee in [the typical agency is] a scruffy, white male replete with loose jeans and ironic tee shirt.” Yet when pressed on it in the comments section, Postaer announced that his current shop features more women and minorities than other places he’s worked at. Of course, this doesn’t mean much, as he spent the bulk of his career at lily-White Leo Burnett. Additionally, when questioned about the number of older staffers on his team, Postaer declined to respond. Postaer and his HR director will undoubtedly deny it, but he appeared to admit that young, White males are favored in Euro RSCG’s creative department.

Postaer later suggested older creatives aspire to management positions. The notion disregards the reality of today’s workforce and workplace. In the decades ahead, the industry will see a greater mix of generations than ever before. And given the trend to flatten hierarchies, there simply won’t be enough managerial slots for senior staffers to fill. Don’t forget the challenges of new media too. Many Baby Boomers and older Gen Xers are not exactly experts in the digital arena. Sorry, but we hardly need to increase the legions of inept, unqualified people in leadership roles.

Postaer should be careful when warning older workers that the kids are after their jobs. He ought to know it’s illegal to fire seniors and replace them with youngsters.

The disturbing part about Postaer’s columns and the accompanying comments is the open recognition that bias and discrimination exist in our business. In fact, numerous commentators expressed a sense of resignation. Ageism is just another mouthful of vomit from the sickness that continues to go unchecked, untreated and ultimately ignored.

Then again, there’s irony and hypocrisy within the furor ignited by this particular strain of prejudice.

White men have traditionally turned a blind eye and deaf ear to the inequities so prevalent on Madison Avenue. Yet now the boys are throwing a fit because they’re in the cultural crosshairs.

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