About Me

My photo
Fishers, Indiana, United States
Brenda gained career expertise as a human resources leader at a global company before becoming an HR consultant. Her functional experience includes a variety of sales roles in the health care industry achieving success for over 30 years. She is currently in Consulting & Analytics Business Development for a health care firm. Her passion is participating in, writing about and observing the evolving workforce. For the first time in history four generations work together. It keeps things interesting. Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) are redefining retirement and what it means to age in the workforce. It is not just about money. Okay it plays a role! At 76.4 million members strong, Boomers are leveraging technology to continue their careers and the personal fulfillment working brings. Managing a late-stage career requires a strategy. There is no roadmap or one size fits all answer. This blog is about sharing, networking & finding your own right answer to working later, managing your career, redefining retirement, looking for work in your 50s & 60s and reinventing yourself.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Are You Invisible at Work?

In a society where the President of the United States takes “selfies” and people are judged by their number of Twitter followers, LinkedIn connections or Facebook “friends”; it is easy for older workers to feel invisible at work. No one who knows me personally would consider me a shrinking violet by even a stretch of the imagination. However, even I was told by a former manager that none of his peers knew who I was and it made it difficult to “sell” me as a candidate for special assignments. His suggestion was that I do something “crazy” to get noticed. Then when he mentioned me again to the other managers they would remember me as the one who sang karaoke or did the splits at a sales meeting. After a nanosecond of careful consideration, I decided to decline his career advice.
After that discussion I began to observe other workers more closely and discovered a trend. In a room filled with multi-generational employees if a younger manager was leading the discussion; the older workers listened more and contributed less. If the manager was older (50s- 60s) the conversation was more collaborative with people of all ages participating. Watch in your next company meeting and see if holds true for your organization. I am not sure what particular dynamic this phenomenon indicates, but it has been consistent. Younger workers in their 20s and 30s exhibited an almost “Horschak” quality (fans of the mid-70s hit, Welcome Back Kotter will remember Arnold Horschak). When he raised his hand in class he wanted to be called so badly he grunted. And, so were the grunts of the Millennial and GenerationX’ers hoping to have their voices heard. Everyone has to be handed the microphone to make a comment.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered a new book, The Invisibles by David Zweig that examines this from a management perspective not through a generational lens. It discusses people who are not necessarily at work to tout their brand, expand their platform or increase their Klout score. They are there to do the job and take satisfaction in completing work correctly. It sounds like many 40+ workers who take pride in a job well done. Every time they finish a project, they are not running to their manager for validation or firing off a series of e-mails or my new favorite term—humblebragging. (i.e. Humble Brag- when one consciously brags about themselves while couching it in a phony show of humility). Humblebragging  is prevalent on Facebook and Twitter.
Invisibles are a management challenge. In some organizations they are taken for granted because they don’t survive on recognition or the jealous applause of their peers. I know older workers that have watched the rise and fall of self-promoting young peers that were given more responsibility than they could handle. (Who read the 1969 classic, The Peter Principle? His premise is true). How many corporate lay-offs have targeted people capably getting the work done and kept megaphone toting stars only to add headcount because they laid off the people who did the work? It is true there are older workers who also bask in faux modesty, banter about how hard they work and have pet names for their young peers---that is annoying too. Making sure people know you and your work is important in the current corporate culture.  It is also difficult for many experienced workers who matured in an era that didn’t include social media, so strive for balance.


  1. Thank you for writing this. My daughter told me about your website after you spoke at P2E. I've worked at my company for nearly 27 years as an administrative assistant to a senior executive. He retired about a year ago and I've been sent to administrative "pod" of six admin that answer phones, plans travel and arranges for meeting rooms. I am the oldest person in the pod at 59 years old and the executives give their work to the younger women I work with. I feel like I am invisible and with no one giving me work, I'm being set up yo be laid off. Please help me.

  2. I have a few ideas and other blog readers may have comments to share as well. One tactic you might take is to discuss the fact that you have more capacity with the person who manages this admin pod (whomever is doing your performance review). Companies usually cannot afford to have workers sitting around idle. Another thought is using your tenure with the company and admin skills to another position within the organization. You would have transferable skills that may be more utiltized in another area. Thirdly, perhaps it would help to network outside the company to gain objective feedback. A career group like P2E is connected with excellent career coaches if you are also located in Indiana. You could discuss your specific situation and brainstorm solutions. Best of success to you!