Age begets experience, we hope. In most instances, younger people lack first-hand and foundational knowledge that the older worker has gained over time. Those things cannot be learned or taught by a book or online course. It takes time to gain real experience. Employers who fail to see that value that older employees bring to their organization are missing out on a lot.
In addition to knowledge and experience older workers tend to be more mature, timely, and confident in their skills and abilities. They also make good mentors for the younger employees. These characteristics can be critical components to getting work done correctly and efficiently.
Most people want to work in a fun and welcoming environment. Age discrimination turns a positive workplace into a negative one by diminishing worker productivity and increasing employee turnover.
I am writing this article because I have personally experienced the affects of ageism in the workplace and am pretty certain that it is more prevalent than is being reported.
I am not the only one to think ageism is rampant. According to AARP 64% of our workers have had some touch with age discrimination over the duration of their employment history. That 64% is alarming to me and should be to you too.
Here is some interesting supporting information and research on the topic or ageism.
Some of you may be unfamiliar with what ageism is and as such let me offer up the following. In 1967 the Age Discrimination Employment Act was passed. Age is supposed to be a “protected characteristic “ in workplaces according to that legislation. What this means is that employers cannot discriminate against employees based on their age. This expressly includes hiring, firing, work assignments and promotions. The loophole is that smaller, as in less than twenty employees, companies do not have to follow this legislation or are exempt from having to participate in it.
Nobody will confess to ageism in the HR world because if proven it can be quite detrimental to the organization and employee morale. Oftentimes this practice is entirely unnoticed except by those to whom this is evident, the older workers. Statistically, it is more prevalent in women than men because men are still perceived as the breadwinner for most families. Another sad realization.
It’s not just the staid organizations who exhibit signs of this. Even forward-thinking organizations have fallen prey to ageism. Natalia Autenrieth gave us 6 Signs of Ageism in the Workplace and How to Deal With It. (https://www.topresume.com/career-advice/signs-of-ageism-in-the-workplace)
The first thing on this list is that learning opportunities are given more readily to the younger workforce and not those who are older. I just came off a job that did this with regularity. Sadly, I was not appreciated for my knowledge or experience because I looked old or older than the twenty and thirties who filled all positions within that organization and were given opportunities for growth and upward movement. Sound familiar?
Next, is being overlooked or passed on for some of the more challenging work. I also experienced this in my last job and it was in part because my youthful counterpart was actually working on-site while I was remote. There is also information stating that the workers who are on-site and in front of the bosses get more promotions and better work than those who are remote. In my job when she, the new twenty-six-year-old graduate with one prior job was unable to hold her own I was given her work to critique, rewrite and edit, yet she took credit for my help and on the things that she did not change according to my suggestions made it appear as if that was what I told her to do which was a total lie. Beware!
Another example is not participating in client meetings or other client activities. This same girl was brought into more meetings because she sucked up to the powers that be and flirted with the right people.
Asking for family time off was another key item that made it onto Autenrieths’ list. I know it was difficult for me to take some time to spend at a family reunion this past summer while my younger officemates took time off each and every week. I was literally asking for three days which I had already earned. There was not vacation padded into our jobs so there was only PTO (Paid Time Off). However, I had to claim mine and the younger set were allowed to simply take it and not have the hours come off their PTO especially if children or fiancée’s were involved. So unfair.
And then there is the joke, but not joke, about old people or other remarks about old people that are not intended as jokes, but put forth as such. Exactly two of us were older in the entire firm and the other one was a man. His job was secure. I love jokes, but not all jokes need to be about old people.
There are a couple of other examples or ageism she highlighted, but some can also fall into the category or job performance so for the purpose of this article I am leaving them out.
Ageism most likely will not go away, but the older workforce can continue to improve themselves by investing in personal growth and development, keeping abreast of emerging trends and technology, using best practices, and pushing yourself to do more each year.
If you believe you are in the midst of ageism in the workplace take copious notes, include dates and times and names of potential witnesses to conversations that point this direction. Then reach out to an employment attorney to help assess and address this situation.
May the older workers be rewarded and not replaced.