One of the consolations of getting older is that one gets wiser, or so the saying goes. So why is it that in the West
trips off the tongue so easily as a
Japan is also a technology-driven culture, but there Respect the Aged Day is a national holiday when young people are encouraged to remember the contributions older people have made to their lives. But in the West, who would want to be aged even if it did bring respect with it? We want to be admired for the money we ve made, our
But in many Asian countries, like China, Japan, and South Korea, age is seen as an outward sign of wisdom and is accorded a high status. In the Confucian heritage everyone in the family has a role, and the roles with the highest status go to the oldest
Age is not something we actively work toward, of course, it just happens. It s this
In such cultures gestures of respect aren t always appreciated by the elderly. My father, in his eighties, was nonplussed the other day when a youngish
One Finnish manager I know moved to the city from the country many
Parents and children may inhabit the same country but different
FROM THE U.K. ABOUT RUSSIA
We are a British company trying to get a foothold in Russia. We are considering entering into a partnership with a Russian company but have a real problem finding the right people to talk to. The more
experiencedmanagers don t seem to understand business, and the youngerones have no practical experience.
With the rapid decline of communist control in the 1980s, state-owned
This is a problem for many Western companies operating in the former communist bloc, and although there are many multinationals operating successfully in Poland, Hungary, and other Eastern European countries, getting these partnerships started has been far from painless. In Russia the problems are compounded, as free enterprise and
Age is often a consideration when it comes to employment.
FROM INDIA ABOUT THE U.S.
We are going to be opening a subsidiary in the U.S. soon and will need to
employlocal staff. I heardinterviewers aren t allowed to ask questions about age during job interviews there. Is that correct?
However, if you really think that it is important to know someone s age before offering them a job, it is often possible to read between the lines of someone s resume to deduce, more or less, how old they are, and there is usually a face-to-face interview before you make your final choice.
FROM SWEDEN ABOUT TURKEY
I have heard that there is a tremendous respect for older people in Muslim countries
generally. I m a male manager in my early thirties and about to take up a post in Turkey. Do you think my age will be a handicap?
It need not be a handicap, but it certainly won t help. The Muslim tradition tends to be strongly patriarchal, which means that the status of men is higher than women, and older men are more highly regarded in the family and the workplace than younger ones. In this, Muslim cultures are no different from those of East Asia, India, or non-Muslim Africa. In fact, you can say that the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Northern Europe are the exceptions in their encouragement and ready acceptance of the whiz kid boss who may be
However, as you are from Sweden, you will inevitably find yourself in the role of outsider in Turkey and will not be judged by local standards. Also, as you come from the home of the parent company, you will automatically have a high status, and as a manager you will be seen as having the weight of headquarters behind you. This does not mean, of course, that you can afford to ignore local traditions and values, so be particularly tactful when dealing with older employees. Make an effort to build good relationships with them, and listen to what they have to say, because they will have a lot of valuable information and insights that will be useful to you. By demonstrating respect for these older individuals, you will also indirectly be showing respect for the Turkish culture as a whole.
How respect is shown varies greatly.
In Asian and African cultures respect for age is particularly
FROM AUSTRALIA ABOUT SOUTH KOREA
I will be visiting a small South Korean firm
nextmonth and will be meeting the family who owns it. I know I m supposed to show special respect to older people there and want to know how to go about doing it.
It s certainly important to observe hierarchy, for this social order is what holds society together and defines the position of the individual within it.
When meeting older people, address them by their title plus
Listen politely to whatever older people have to say,
FROM HUNGARY ABOUT MULTINATIONALS
A large U.S. American multinational took over our production plant six months ago and now it has started to lay off large
numbersof workers, myselfincluded. I have worked loyally for this company for thirty-five years, and I am losing my job while young kidswith less than five years experience are staying.
This is a sad but
FROM POLAND ABOUT CHINA
I feel a bit stupid asking this, but how can you tell how old someone is? A group of us will be going to China for the first time and we ll be meeting a corresponding group of Chinese managers. We ve heard that it s important to give special respect to older people, but what if they re all old? How will we be able to tell who is the most senior?
Luckily there s a simple answer to this that doesn t involve counting
GLOBAL BUSINESS STANDARD
Argentina: The fact that it has a very young population and that a high value is placed on an attractive personal appearance may work against older employees (especially women). However, within the extended family the status of older members is high. (See Letter 123.)
Australia: Legislation makes it illegal to discriminate against older employees. What you achieve rather than your position outside work is important. Status diminishes both inside family and in the workplace as people age. Youth is frequently valued above experience. Managers may be very young. (See Letters 120 and 122.)
Austria: The European Union will make ageism in the workplace illegal in 2006. Legislation is partly the result of Europe having an aging population. (See Letter 120.)
Belgium: See Austria. (See Letter 120.)
Brazil: See Argentina. (See Letter 123.)
Canada: See Australia. (See Letters 120 and 121.)
Everyone in the family has a role, and the roles with the highest status go to the oldest (male) members of the family. This is reflected in the workplace, where
Denmark: See Austria. (See Letters 120 and 121.)
Finland: See Austria. What you achieve rather than your position outside work is important. Status diminishes both inside the family and in the workplace as people age. Managers may be young. (See Letters 120 and 121.)
See Austria. Educational qualifications may outweigh seniority when it comes to management
Germany: See Austria. Educational qualifications may be just as important as seniority when it comes to management positions. (See Letter 120.)
Hong Kong: See China. Third-highest life expectancy in world: 79.9 years. (See Letter 121.)
India: In Muslim and Hindu traditions, elders have higher status in the extended family. India has a young population with many young graduates. Well-educated, bright young managers may attain high positions in high-tech industries. (See Letters 120 and 121.)
Indonesia: Muslim tradition ensures that older men have high status within the family and at the workplace. Respect must be shown to older coworkers and managers; their right to decide is undisputed by the young. (See Letter 121.)
Italy: See Austria. (See Letter 120.)
Japan: See China. Highest life expectancy in the world: 81.5 years. (See Letters 121 and 123.)
Mexico: See Argentina. (See Letter 123.)
Netherlands: See Austria. (See Letter 120.)
Norway: See Austria. (See Letters 120 and 121.)
There is a significant generation gap, where theoretical knowledge about the market economy is the property of the young while the middle-aged and elderly have
Russia: See Poland. (See Letters 119 and 123.)
Saudi Arabia: See Indonesia. (See Letter 121.)
South Africa: In black African cultural tradition, elders of both genders have high status. (See Letter 121.)
South Korea: See China. (See Letters 121, 122, and 123.)
Spain: See Austria. The Spanish population is relatively young when compared to some of the countries around it in Europe. (See Letter 120.)
Sweden: The European Union will make ageism in the workplace illegal in 2006. Status diminishes both inside family and in the workplace as people age. Life expectancy is the second highest in the world: 80.1 years. Youth is frequently valued above experience. Managers may be very young. (See Letters 120 and 121.)
Switzerland: See Austria.
Taiwan: See China. (See Letter 121.)
Thailand: See China. (See Letter 121.)
Turkey: See Indonesia. (See Letter 121.)
UK: See Austria. What you achieve rather than your position outside work is important. Status diminishes both inside family and in the workplace as people age. Youth is frequently valued above experience. Managers may be very young. (See Letters 119, 120, and 121.)
US: See Australia. (See Letters 120, 121, and 123.)
Venezuela: See Brazil. (See Letter 123.)