At work, we judge people based on several things, one of them being age. Ageism is real. It’s hurting many people especially those workers past age fifty and it is important why employers should fight ageism at work. Ageism in the workplace occurs when companies, managers or co-workers present negative attitudes towards an individual because of their age. Whether this means the employee is stereotyped as someone who can’t complete their job anymore because they are aging, or perhaps they are being phased out of the company because a younger generation is thought to have a better understanding of new technology, like AI, or the current workplace ecosystem.
The problem with ageism in the work place, is that as you grow older you have more experience under your belt. You know what work was like years ago, and you know what it’s like now. Often, companies disregard the fact that you have years of knowledge holding you up in the workplace, and may dismiss that for “new knowledge” brought in by younger generations. Instead, all generations should learn to work together to create a well-rounded knowledge filled work environment.
Ageism in the Workplace.
Ageism runs rampant in workplace settings. Just as we have been programmed from a young age to judge ourselves, we have also been taught it is okay to judge others. It’s almost impossible to stop the split-second judgement people have about others, but it is possible to learn to take that judgement and slow down before acting upon it.
Our immediate judgement about someone at work may be that they are too old to be any help on a fast-paced project, or that they shouldn’t be promoted because they should instead be thinking about retirement.
Instead of assuming your immediate stereotypes about those you meet are true, tell yourself that you must first get to know each person before you are allowed to act on those immediate beliefs. You will find a couple of different things happen.
First, you will find yourself interacting with a wider group of individuals at your organization. Second, you will find that your immediate biases about others are most often incorrect.
Studies have found that the more you interact with individuals at work that you normally would not, the more you will be working towards a solution to ageism.
It can be traumatizing if you have spent the majority of your life in the workforce, agonizing about companies, projects, and meetings for hours each week only to have your capabilities overlooked by the organization you work for. It’s completely unacceptable for companies to act in ageist ways, not taking into account the time and energy you have invested in them. Yes, they’ve paid you over the course of your career, but is it really okay for them to see numbers on paper rather than see you as a person? Is it okay for them to disregard your current and future value to the organization?
Whether the company wants to let you go so your salary can be given to multiple younger employees, or the company is looking to remove “old ideas” from the workplace, our society needs to stop allowing inhumane emotional trauma from companies towards their aging workforce.
Studies have revealed that individuals forced to retire earlier than they planned may have worse health-rates than their counterparts. Being phased out of a company before you are ready can cause emotional trauma in addition to money worries, and feeling bad about yourself.
Create Educational Experiences in the Office.
Create opportunities for multiple generations of workers to come together and share-out their knowledge. The result will be two-fold – first you and your co-workers will get to showcase your individual knowledge, and also everyone in the office will have a chance to expand their learning.
This is a way for you to reveal that you are knowledgeable in any topic that you may have experienced ageism stereotypes for perhaps you were told you couldn’t be a manager quite yet because you weren’t old enough, but if you run a workshop about how to best manages workers and it’s well-received, you may be able to eliminate that stereotype.
Creating a Collaborative Environment.
Many younger employees feel a daily struggle to prove themselves to their co-workers, their manager or their company. They spend hours agonizing over how they can be taken seriously, how they can get their ideas across, and how they can make an impact at work. However, if there were structures in place where they could equally share their ideas and opinions, it would help as the younger generation does have a different understanding of technology and emerging platforms just as older generations have unique ideas based on the benefit of more years of experience in the workforce.
It’s necessary to create a collaborative environment instead of older generations fearing younger generations because of job displacement (caused by ageism within their workplace), and younger generations feeling silenced because employers don’t believe that they have the years of experience to make big decisions (caused by reverse ageism stereotypes).
It’s important to be aware that every person, as an individual, comes from a unique background, has a unique way of looking at the world, and owns a unique way of working and innovating. Every single person, as a human being, has opinions that can change a project for the better, and change the way a company does business. If you look at every employee within a company on a human level, disregarding their age, you can make the most of a workforce creating a plethora of exciting ideas, instead of stifling the voices of stereotyped groups.
Reverse ageism can be difficult to compete with since it is the least discussed form of ageism. However, that doesn’t make it any less difficult for the individuals affected by it.
Reverse ageism happens when younger generations are believed to be too young or inexperienced to be helpful, knowledgeable, or able to manage a situation or team. Often, these stereotypes are completely false.
Just as with typical ageism in the workplace against older individuals, younger individuals should have the same opportunity to prove who they truly are and what they are capable of before other people’s judgement about them is acted upon.
Contrary to what we have all been taught to believe, age is not typically a good judge of someone’s abilities. There are plenty of young CEOs and inexperienced managers who lead teams to major wins. Capability doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with age. Thats why employers should fight ageism at work.
How Companies Can Handle Retirement In A Healthy Way.
Companies should unite to determine a healthier way for organizations to handle retirement and phase-outs. Perhaps if a company is trying to let go of older workers to save money, they could partner with organizations looking for part-time employees, and the two organizations together could split the yearly salary for the individuals.
This would free up money for the original company to hire new workers, which may be the reason they are looking to phase out their older workforce, who are most often the highest-paid employees.
By coming up with innovative solutions, organizations around the world can make a massive impact in lessening how often employees feel the burden of ageism throughout their careers.
Final thought why employers should fight ageism at work.
In today’s world stereotypes run rampant at workplaces and biases based on age, like ageism, are becoming a more measurable problem. Ageism is the discrimination against an individual strictly on the basis of their age. Ageism is most often thought of as prejudice against older individuals, however there are forms of ageism that affect younger generations as well.
Ageism can appear in multiple areas of everyday life and take many forms. Ageism discriminatory practices can appear in the workplace, the healthcare system, forms of marketing, and even online shopping.
As we aim for diversity and inclusion in the workplace, let’s be aware that age is a part of that conversation too. By raising awareness and continuing to expand knowledge on age discrimination, you can create a healthy work environment with happy, productive employees. And that is why employers should fight ageism at work.