How I Hit The Grey Ceiling

Harold Mitnick By Harold Mitnick, 7th May 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Jobs>Retirement

The beginning of the mental travels of an involuntary retiree.

Hitting The Grey Ceiling

I had never heard the expression, “The Grey Ceiling,” until I hit it myself. Actually, I heard the expression from an old friend that had hit it himself, several years ago. Basically, it describes the phenomenon of being in your late fifties, losing your job, and being unable to even get an interview for a new position.
It turns out that my situation was very similar to many other people today. I was a long time IT (information technology) worker. I had been with my company for twelve years and risen to the position of Senior Systems Administrator. At 59, I was already too old to be promoted any further. In fact, I was already one of the oldest employees of the firm.
The handwriting was on the wall, as all over the company, younger employees were being promoted to management positions above long term employees. Frankly, I was fine with this. I understood the youth movement, and figured that I just had to hang on for a couple of years until retirement.
Then, in one week, everything changed. An associate, twenty years my junior was very quietly promoted to manage my department. One of his first assignments was to write annual reviews for our department. Even though I had received evaluations of “exceeds,” on all previous annual reviews, his evaluation of me was “average.”
Then the hammer dropped. Two days after my review, I was on my way into the office, and the Vice President of our division met me in the hallway. He greeted me and told me that we needed to visit HR. Not a good sign. Perhaps, he needed to visit HR, but I did not think it was something that I needed or wanted to do.
During the next ten minutes, I was congratulated on my decision to take “early retirement,” and relieved of my company cell phone and laptop computer. I was then escorted to my office where I was allowed to pick up minimal personal effects.
Of course, this was a shocking situation, but there was a small pension, a healthy severance package and retiree health care, so I was not too worried. I figured with my experience and expertise, I would find something without much problem. It seems that I was sadly mistaken.
Having worked 50 to 60 hours a week for the past twelve years, I decided to take some time off. I wanted to relax for a little while before jumping back into the job market. All that this accomplished was that instead of being 59 and out of work, I become a 60 year old unemployment statistic.
This is when I found that I had, indeed, hit the grey ceiling. What I had thought was an impressive resume, actually became a stumbling block. The length of my tenure with my last firm was actually an indicator that I was too old to hire.
Please look forward to future installments of my antiquarian search for employment and security.


Retired Life, Retiring

Meet the author

author avatar Harold Mitnick
I live in Florida with my wife Catherine. I have spent many years in the IT industry, and enjoy cycling, golf and many outdoor activities.

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author avatar Kingwell
7th May 2013 (#)

I hit the grey ceiling at 53 and it was anything but easy to get back down. Looking forward to your next article..

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author avatar Pegbain
7th May 2013 (#)

What a shock! My landlady just got "retired" for much the same reason....and I'm working in retail for many of the same reasons. I was just as unaware. It's a cold world.

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author avatar Rose*
20th Nov 2013 (#)

Wow - they should have given you a little notice to plan. Businesses can be ruthless

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