How to Respond To Ageism in the Workplace

Ageism in the workplace, whether subtle or blatant, takes an emotional toll. Learn how to combat ageism in the workplace.

These are tough times for workers over a certain age. Nowadays, today’s technology becomes yesterday’s news in the blink of an eye and one cannot afford to lag behind.

Many of the fastest-growing industries are geared towards innovation and a culture of youth. Hence, there are many mid-level and senior workers who are feeling left out or overlooked. Anyone hitting forty in today’s work scenario is like hitting the invisible wall—you are no longer a correct fit in the work culture.

With life expectancy increasing, people are living longer and have the ability and the need to be a part of the workforce longer. A US study by AARP reveals that the fastest-growing segment of the American workforce is employees aged 65 and older. The average age of an American worker is 42 years. A 2019 “State of Workforce” study reveals that more than 30 percent of people have experienced some form of ageism at work before reaching 45.

People in their mid-40s and later, who have hit the peak of their working career, are suddenly faced with a very empty near future.

ageism in the workplace

We may consider ageism at work as minor, a report from the EEOC revealed that age discrimination has a one-fifth share of all discrimination cases received by the commission in 2016.

Added to this scenario are a slow economy and related upheavals hampering development and expansion. This has led to many companies trying to cut costs and tightening their belts, which has translated into layoffs.

But there are ways to combat ageism in the workplace:

UPSKILL

Foremost is keeping up with the latest developments in your field. With the world changing so fast it would be professional suicide to rest on your laurels. Use every chance to learn new skills and technologies. Companies on their part can offer opportunities for mid-level seniors to ramp up their skillset with workshops or tech modules.

ADOPT FAIR EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES

Companies routinely list themselves as having fair employment practices including diversity in their workforce but this is rarely the case. The number of women in the workforce is a case in point and now we can add the bias for a younger workforce.

According to Peter Cappelli, Wharton professor and co-author of “Managing the Older Worker,” “I thought the picture might be more mixed, but it isn’t. The juxtaposition between the superior performance of older workers and the discrimination against them in the workplace just really makes no sense.”

Human resources people should consciously base their hiring decision on the skillset, experience, job suitability rather than the age of a candidate. It is discriminatory to even ask age-related questions during interviews.

MENTORSHIP

Another way of having a balanced workforce is to have mentorship programs. Intergenerational mentorships are a great way for mutual engagements, exchange of views and building a collaborative workforce. The movie “Intern” starring Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway is a great example of an aged intern bringing in the voice of reason, experience, and observance.

A young workforce brings to the table new ideas and the enthusiasm of youth, an older workforce counters this with knowledge, patience and the ability to turn that idea into a working project.

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Diana Coker
Diana Coker
Diana Coker is a staff writer at The HR Digest, based in New York. She also reports for brands like Technowize. Diana covers HR news, corporate culture, employee benefits, compensation, and leadership. She loves writing HR success stories of individuals who inspire the world. She’s keen on political science and entertains her readers by covering usual workplace tactics.

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