The Ten Major Complaints of Employees #2

Updated: Jan 13


Barry is 62 years old. Barry has been working in a major Memphis law firm since he graduated from law school. Throughout his career, he has accomplished much, and he is considered an expert in entertainment law with many famous celebrity clients. His work has always brought much revenue to the firm. Despite his success, he has never been named a partner in the firm. Recently, Barry has noticed that the firm has been hiring one young attorney after another. He reasons that this could be due to the fact that the managing partner is a 42-year old woman, who became managing partner when one of the founders of the firm decided to retire in 2017. Barry has been told by some of his older colleagues that the firm is seeking a younger audience because of the upsurge of successful millenials, and the managing partner believes that capturing these highly successful individuals as clients will assure the future profitability of the firm.

The fact that Barry has never made partner has always bothered him, but it has really started to affect him recently. For the past 10 years, Barry has been the manager of the entertainment law department of the firm, and has mentored many young attorneys, who have become his staff. Barry has always been the kind of guy who believes in preparing younger attorneys for long-term success, and so, he has always been happy to add another promising attorney to his staff.

This afternoon, however, Barry was totally blindsided when he was told that the firm wants him to retire at the end of the year. When he asked the HR Director why, the response was that it was felt by the partners that he was just too old and outdated for the direction that the firm was going. Needless to say, Barry was devastated by this news, and decided to sit down with his friend and colleague Mike who is also over 60 and has been with the firm as its manager of estate planning for almost as many years as Barry has been with the firm.

“Mike,” says Barry, “what is going on here? After all of these years, are we suddenly being put out to pasture because we celebrated our 60th birthday?” Mike then confesses to his friend that he too has been told that he will be retiring at the end of the year. Both men continue to talk, and being attorneys, believe that the firm is actually violating some powerful protective federal employment laws.

Barry turns to Mike and says to him, “Mike, we both know that legally they are discriminating against us. But, I am more hurt by the fact that the partners who run the firm are so ungrateful for the work we have done over all of these years, and that it seems to mean absolutely nothing to them. How insensitive can you be to drop this bombshell on two of your best and most loyal attorneys? Where is their sense of honor and appreciation for guys like us? Why should they assume that just because we are over 50, we can’t take care of the younger clients just as professionally as they can, or perhaps even better?”

Mike looks into the eyes of his friend Barry and simply says, “How can a company that you have given your entire professional life to, turn their backs on you in a second, and tell you they no longer have any use for you?”

Age discrimination and any other type of discrimination in the workplace is wrong. But today, it seems to be happening more than ever before. Companies and organizations need to be very careful to make sure that a new approach to branding does not compromise the legal obligations and allegiances it has to its older employees. While companies and organizations may, in fact, have legal grounds to encourage older employees to retire by providing incentives; morally, pushing a valued and dedicated employee out the door is bad business. The company or organization loses exceptional talent with decades of experience, and the worker is demoralized with a sinking feeling that all of the work he or she devoted to the organization was for naught and totally unappreciated. Business owners need to show their gratitude and guard against anyone being pushed out before they are ready to leave, especially after a long career. It is sad that too many younger managers lack the compassion and wisdom to understand this, and what it does to an older colleague. It may seem like the right business decision on paper, but too many younger managers fail to take into consideration what is right morally and ethically, and more importantly, what they can truly can gain if they take a different approach. No older worker should have to feel like the company no longer has a use for his talents. For a trusted employee, it is an awful way to end a career.

The team at The Pennington HR Group has over a decade of proven experience in facilitating dialogues between managers and their employees. We work with managers to help them better understand how their employees are feeling, and how the manager can be more effective in showing appreciation to all of the employees and giving them the validation that is so important to each of them.


© 2019 by The Pennington HR Institute

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