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Age discrimination at Shell: a message directed at Shell Ethics Chief Richard Wiseman

By John Donovan

Interesting that this posting on our Shell Blog, raising the issue of age discrimination in the restructuring process, is directed at Shell veteran Richard Wiseman, the Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer of Royal Dutch Shell Plc who is close to retirement age.

FROM A SHELL INSIDER

A POSTING ON SHELL BLOG BY rockdude1950 on Dec 6th, 2009 at 2:51 pm

Shell encourages anyone with knowledge of activities that go against the company’s code of conduct to step forward and bring those activities to the attention of the Ethics and Compliance manager. The reorganization has provided many examples of actions that violate not just the code of conduct, but the laws of several countries in which Shell operates. I use this way to bring these actions to the attention of the Ethics and Compliance manager since I do fear retribution and a witch hunt, even with all the assurances to the contrary. The violations permeate throughout the process and come down from the high level in the EC.

Now that a new round of open resourcing has finished and that the annual ranking sessions are in full swing it is even more clear that one of the objectives of the reorganization is to weed out everyone over 54 years from the ranks of higher management,  EC-1, -2, and -3. Since openly discussing age is not polite and it is in violation of the code of conduct, the HR organization and the hiring managers use code words. The marching orders are to take potential, meaning youth, and demographics, meaning youth, as criteria that can trump experience, performance, skills, expertise, and ability. I have witnessed the manipulation of information to move youth up the ranking scale and into coveted management positions. Some HR managers have been so dumb as to publicly acknowledge that rebalancing the demographics means moving younger staff to higher positions and trying to off-load the older generation.

Age is not the only blatant discrimination that I have witnessed. As someone has already pointed out, diversity of opinions was the first casualty in the early resourcing rounds. The new command and control structure needs people that will tag the line, and anyone that can challenge the EC has no room in this structure. But while seeking uniformity is bad business practice, age discrimination is also illegal. Many old timers decided not to fight it and take the packages. Bless their souls! Not all are happy to become redundant because of age. I expect many court challenges if this policy is not reversed.

If the Ethics and Compliance manager monitors this site, you are now aware of what is going on. If you look at your own HR statistics you will see a disproportionate number of people above the 54 year barrier that have been let go or have seen their ranking dropped. If you think I am wrong just publish the numbers and let an independent assessor look at the factors that determine chances of success in getting high performance ranking and higher grade jobs.

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