I heard a young person at work say in front of a couple of dozen people that it's important to develop a process for transferring knowledge from the gray hairs to ... well ... everyone else. There was one other woman besides me with gray hair in the group and quite a few men with gray hair. You could hear a subdued gasp. She realized she'd stepped in it a bit and said she wasn't sure what to call this group other than more experienced workers. Someone said that ought to take care of it.
Although I tried to stay out of it, she eventually asked what she should call everyone else. I suggested the brown hairs. I couldn't help myself. Yes, I was kidding. We all eventually agreed on less experienced workers and more experienced workers until someone tells us that's insulting.
Of course, I am proud of my age, my knowledge and my gray, but I did think it was sort of uninformed to round us up by the color of our hair and judge us as a population. But I suppose it's dificult to know where the boundaries are these days. I'm certain she didn't mean it to be insulting. Consultants sometimes use the term "gray beards" to describe learned professionals, but then they don't have to hang around the office explaining themselves either. And the media -- Google "graying workplace" and see what you get. It's not like she made it up.
I felt bad for her. She was right about the importance of knowledge continuity. We can't stick our heads in the sand and pretend there aren't people who are likely to retire with a head full of information somebody needs. What's the right way to have this discussion without lining people up by DNA?