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OVERCOMING AGEISM IN THE WORKPLACE

OVERCOMING AGEISM IN THE WORKPLACE

OVERCOMING AGEISM IN THE WORKPLACE

There is good news and bad news about the American job market. The good news? We are experiencing the lowest unemployment rates in a long time. The bad news: Older workers are still being discriminated about in hiring, inclusiveness and promotions. Ageism is alive and well in the workplace.

A recent survey of 1,265 baby boomer (people born between 1946 and 1964) job seekers, 52.5% of respondents said they have experienced age discrimination by an employer or potential employer. Similarly, 44.5% of baby boomers surveyed believe their generation is unfairly stereotyped by employers. If this sounds familiar to you, keep in mind it has little or nothing to do with your skills or experience. It has everything to do with a youth culture that permeates the American workplace.

“I have worked in hospitality management for 37 years,” said Dan R., 64, of New Orleans. “I have worked in some of the best hotels in the country, largely in the area of catering and convention services. It is only in the last four or five years that I have started to feel a bit marginalized because of my age.”

Dan said he first felt the pressure of ageism when a new general manager was transferred into the hotel where he was working in 2012.

“The new GM was about 44 years old, highly qualified and very good at his job,” Dan said. “But from almost the first time I interacted with him, he seemed very standoffish. I asked some of my co-workers if they noticed his behavior, and most of them did not. And most of them were much younger than I am.”

Dan started to notice that there were meetings in which he was not included. These were meetings that he previously would always have attended. Little by little Dan noticed the GM was communicating directly with Dan’s employees, rather than with him. It became obvious to him that he was being treated differently than younger employees. The GM, Dan says, seemed far more comfortable working with Dan’s employees than with him.

Dan’s experience is common among many older workers. However, it is interesting to note that workers ge 55 and up are a rapidly growing segment of the American workforce. Most notably, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, people ages 65 to 74 and 75 and older are the age groups that will show the most increase through 2024. In contrast, participation rates for most other age groups in the labor force aren’t projected to change much over the 2014–24 decade.

However, most of those people will report to and work laterally with people who are considerably younger. It is not uncommon for younger workers to have stereotypical views of older workers as “old fashioned” or out of touch with current trends.

If you are experiencing ageism in the workplace, here are a few tips that may make life a bit easier, if you are willing to make some extra effort:

  • It often helps to speak reasonably and directly with the person or people who are treating you in a way that you find unacceptable. These conversations should be cordial and friendly, and not combative. Sometimes a straightforward conversation can clear the air and create a more collaborative working relationship.
  • Avoid subtle or blatant references to your age. Statements such as “I’ve been in this business since before you were born” only serve to create further distance between you and younger people.
  • Be willing to go the extra mile in terms of the job function. That means that even though you have years of experience, sometimes older workers have to once again prove themselves in the workplace. Demonstrating your ability and willingness to take on extra projects or tasks and complete them in a superior fashion often engenders respect and acceptance among younger bosses and co-workers.
  • Keep yourself current and educated on technology. One of the stereotypes many people have of older workers is that the older worker is technologically challenged. You can easily fight that stereotype by being proficient not only in commonly used office software, but also any technology that pertains specifically to your business.
  • Keep in mind that younger co-workers may feel intimated by you. That means you may have to make extra effort just to make your working peers comfortable working alongside you.

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