In the latest Fortune (May 16, 2005) they discuss the unfortunate turn of events that 50+ executives face when they are forcefully retired, or fired.

They speak to the way our society is changing. In the past, society viewed older people as wise – experienced and of value (Think of the village elder and the value put on their wisdom in traditional societies). In today’s society, companies are looking at the cost of a seasoned executive, the pace of change (technology change, business change) and wondering – should I hire the older exec or the younger one who will work 7 days a week and is a lower cost?

A short sighted view in my opinion. The topic reminded me of a valuable lesson that I was given early on in my career: the lesson of the personal services corporation. What this article ultimately points to is that corporations don’t care – if the business justifies it, companies will discard at will. Look at IBM this month – bad quarter – 14,000 jobs gone.

Early on in my career I was taught two things:

1. I am a number to a company. I am expendable. If I don’t delivery – I am gone (Especially true in sales).

2. I must look at myself as a personal services corporation. I am selling my services to the company I am working for. As long as both companies are on mutually agreeable terms – the business relationship continues. That being said – if those terms change and one party is not benefiting, the relationship terminates.

For me, this is one of the key learnings of the article. People often mistake the relationships that they have within the office environment as characteristics of the corporation. By understanding that this is a business relationship, one is able to see past personal loyalties and bias, avoid an attitude of “entitlement” and align their personal corporation with the business goals of their client: the company they are working for. That leads to success.

As another boss once said to me: Remember, loyalty to companies died in the 80’s – to a company you are just a number. The only loyalty you should have is to the people that you trust.


  1. I read the same article although from a slightly different perspective: the "senior" population is being reduced because of their salary costs and not necessarily because of their work performance. Therefore, age discrimination is becoming more of an issue for companies.I regret the loss of humanity and community within the corporate setting. I\’m not convinced that the emerging models serve the interests of people, nor for that matter the interests of shareholders.But, if you happen to be a Jack Welch with a vitality curve, there\’s good money to be made in hacking out the old folk who can\’t, or won\’t, make the same commitments as a 20-something to the corporate beast.

  2. Agreed. From your viewpoint, I would add that if I think back on my years as a 20 something, I really did not know much. It was because of those mentors who took the time to teach me, that I was successful.What happens when that knowledge continues to be devalued and \’culled\’. Two 20 somethings who don\’t have a clue may be cheaper in the labour side of the balance sheet, but what is the cost to the revenue side?Isn\’t that the learning from the internet generation? Youth, an MBA and an idea do not equal a compelling business!

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