The Modern Workplace Feels… Strange

Oh! You’ve worked many years at this job, developed sterling skills, made a name for yourself. It was all going well, and still is. There really is nothing to complain about. Only…

Well, things are changing. Change is inevitable, not something you need to fight. For as many years as you’ve been on the planet you know this. But it feels so strange! As if the song you’ve sung for all this time is now suddenly off key. As if the magic lyrics no longer open the door. And—it must be said—all these bustling faces in the office look so young.

You’re not alone. There are thousands out there feeling strange, just like you. Though older adults will still work in large numbers for at least the next decade, business follows youth. Selling habits, buying habits, work habits, are all changing fast, to connect with the young cohort.

Which explains why the people with glossy hair and iPhones get so much attention. They are seen as important. They are seen as powerful. They buy things online and expect groceries delivered to their door. They follow social media and their fellow consumers more than advertising and traditional influence. They want to work at home sometimes and get flexible hours. They have friends on the other side of the world, and they understand good corporate citizenship.

This is probably the largest reason you feel like a stranger, but there are others. Perhaps the largest one is—we’ll go ahead and say it—the bias cued by your gray hair. Now, judgments reflecting on older adults certainly are survivors from those olden days of storybook geezers relaxing by the fireplace, lost in reverie and pipe smoke, and it’s a little insulting.

But guess what. Of the 15 million workers added to the American work force this decade, nearly half will be in the 45 and over category. Workers in the 45-65 year old range will multiply substantially, and those between 65 and 69 will increase 37 percent. This doesn’t even count the number of older adults who will branch out in a new direction entirely, reinventing themselves as entrepreneurs, marketers, freelancers.

So, yeah, it can be a confusing time. We have no accepted models, no procedural plan. The world has never seen a population of vigorous older adults like this. That means we gotta invent our own future.

When the old music cuts out, it’s time for smooth improvisation.

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