Age in the Workplace

21. januar 2021 kl. 10:01


In any society, we can encounter many negative attitudes and prejudices towards people who deviate from social norms, toward those who do not appear to ‘fit into’ the majority in the given environment. In the labour market, one of the most common forms of discrimination is age discrimination - whether it be against either young workers or older workers.

This often expressed as prejudices or stereotypes about the abilities, knowledge and, skills of age groups - and these can vary from industry to industry and the age demographics concerned.

Although some companies and industries may prefer certain types of employees, for example; younger or middle-aged people, age differences can be beneficial for almost any organisation in terms of team dynamics and skills diversity. If we imagine one company with a group of employees of different age groups, we can conclude they will have many diverse skills and talents acquired during a lifespan. Furthermore, they will have a greater diversity of skill sets than a company that purely aims to employ just young, or just older workers. 

If we take a somewhat stereotypical example, let us assume that a younger employee may be in fact be more accustomed to using modern business media - such as social networking. On the other hand, an older worker in the same position may have interpersonal and communication skills that have been specifically developed and honed for the industry. Perhaps the younger worker is familiar with the use of modern technologies, it is these skills that young people possess that can be used to train older workers. In much the same way, the older worker may be able to impart some of the interpersonal techniques that they have learned over time to their younger colleague. 

Besides, sharing experiences and passing on knowledge from generation to generation can be a good way to develop interpersonal relationships among employees. According to research, age diversity has a positive effect on employee productivity and performance as well. That is, productivity is significantly higher when mixed-age workers are represented in companies.

With that being said, it’s a sad fact that ageism can appear in any company, and it can manifest itself in many situations. For example, additional training, more opportunities to gain new knowledge and skills, or participation in conferences may be more often offered to younger employees, on the assumption that older employees either cannot or should not take advantage of the same opportunities. 

How to deal with ageism in the workplace?

  • Invest in your - and your team’s - personal development by reading new literature, and staying up to date with the latest technology trends. Set yourself new goals, and if necessary, seek support in your work environment. 

 

  • Be prepared and determined to fight negative stereotypes in the work environment, however subtle and insidious. Try to avoid emphasizing age - either yours or that of others. All of us, no matter the stage of our lives that we find ourselves in are up to the task of learning new skills. Let your colleagues know that you are willing to accept challenges and have the determination to deal with them successfully. 

 

  • Even if you feel you have a lot of experience compared to younger colleagues, don’t underestimate them. Remain consistent with yourself and the professionalism you have successfully developed over all your working years. By the same token, do not underestimate and seek to marginalise them and their wealth of experience.

Ultimately, different workers have different skills, and a varied workplace, is a strong workplace. Age diversity in companies allows for a wealth of different experience, perspectives and expectations. The end result is likely to be a stronger and more innovative work environment for all.

 

 

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