In a society obsessed with youth, the fear of aging spreads like a wildfire. People often say “the older, the wiser” and yet, older adults are rarely welcomed in a working environment as ageism pervades. Ageism, also known as age discrimination, is defined by The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as “treating an applicant or employee less favorably because of his or her age.” Despite the government has enacted laws prohibiting discrimination based on age, many goes unreported and the pandemic seems to amplify this issue.
Ageism in the workplace is a worldwide issue that must be addressed seriously. More individuals are losing opportunities to land jobs and advance their career due to the natural phenomenon of aging despite their abilities, skills, and experience. If leaders are committed to prevent and combat ageism in their organizations, they can reap the benefits of proven maturity and professionalism brought by older talents.
Signs of Ageism
Identifying ageism practice in the workplace might be difficult, but it is not invisible. The first step in countering age discrimination is understanding its many forms through signs and treatment. When employees or candidates are treated differently due to their age, they might experience direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment, and victimization. Further, below are five indicators of ageism to look out for in the workplace.
A repeated age-related remarks that is framed as jokes among employees or even managers can be considered as an act of age discrimination, especially when delivered in a demeaning tone. The comments can appear in topics such as retirement plans, intellectual growth, and biological changes like menopause.
Passing over difficult project assignments to younger employees is a clear sign of ageism that is purposely done to make the older employees seem less useful and less capable. This also applies to learning opportunities like educational coursework and access to continuing education. If these opportunities are only offered and prioritized to younger employees based on the assumption that they will gain better knowledge, then maybe the organization has been mistreating their older workforce.
Pay hikes and promotions are exciting boosters that will encourage employees to stay. However, these benefits will be no longer meaningful if they are only given to younger employees despite the older ones being more qualified for the raises. Noticing its repeated patterns over a period of time can become legal evidence of ageism.
Deliberately excluded from important agendas such as team meetings and outings is a clear sign of ageism if younger employees are contrastingly encouraged to participate. Over time, it builds the notion that the older employees pay little contribution thus becoming an invaluable member.
It is not rare to find companies that consider older age to be a liability to their career growth. That being said, an organization’s recruitment process can be starting point to notice for contingency of age discrimination in the workplace.
Tackling Ageism in the Workplace
As an employee, you can prevent yourself from becoming a victim of age discrimination by staying on top of your career game. Being proactive while investing in personal growth makes you a reliable and valuable talent to the company. It is also important to challenge the stereotype of an aging professional by paying close attention to upcoming trends and keeping up with technology.
Holding the authority, employers can come up with organizational rules regrading acts of age discrimination and establish policies to address the matter. Acknowledgement on ageism and its boundaries with policy to protect it will prevent ageism from happening.
Examine areas where biases might occur. Recruitment procedures can be assessed as hiring should focus on applicants’ competence without making age a limitation. Employee training, layoffs, wage, promotions and even sick leave policies can also be evaluated to avoid biases towards ageism.
Ageism oppresses everyone from all age, gender, race, and nationality, thus becoming an urgent matter to be dealt with. It neglects humans ability to grow and adapt when it should be celebrated instead. It is time to stop internalizing ageism in the workplace and conduct fair recruitment and assessment. Aging is not the problem; it is the discrimination on aging that becomes the actual problem worth addressing.