Is Ageism Real in the Workplace?
Ageism is the stereotyping and/or discrimination against individuals or groups because of their age. The term was coined in 1969 by Robert Neil Butler to describe discrimination against seniors and patterned on sexism and racism.
I never realized how much this was a problem until I hit the older age of 50 years. Recently divorced, decided that it was time to focus on myself and go back to work. My daughter was grown, and I had no distractions to keep me from performing my best. I had always been offered the jobs that I went after so I thought, “I’m a great candidate! Anyone would be a fool to not hire me! I won’t be pulled away by child emergencies, my spouse won’t let me down and I’ll have to leave for issues in the middle of the day, yada yada yada.”
Little did I know how hard it is to find a job, especially now, when everyone is saying how hard it is to find workers right now. I am hard working, already employed, and determined. What’s the problem? The only thing I can accredit to the problem is the fact that I am older. When I look at the company pictures that I am applying to, all the employees are in their 20s.
Imagine what senior citizens feel like when they apply for jobs these days. Seniors can be bored or in need of extra income and decide that retirement is not for them at this time. But how can seniors compete? They often don’t have the computer skills or understand the environment they are being asked to work in. It can be hard to keep seniors in the workforce when they struggle to fit in or have a hard time getting hired to begin with. But did you know that by the year 2024, 25% of the workforce will be 55 years or older? And according to a recent study, 36% of people aged 55 and older feel that their age is the reason they were turned down for a job.
Even more so, people aged 45 are hired less than their 20-something counterparts and are often not promoted or included in team building exercises. This can lead to frustration and embarrassment which causes less than stellar work. Next thing you know, the employee is fired. Yes… FIRED!
You might be thinking, so what? They’ll just hire a 20-something to do the job. Do you realize that people over the age of 50 have a lot of knowledge about the industry and company they work with? The 20-something employees need the seniors in the business to help them understand where this company came from. How it got to where it is now. Their shoes can be very hard to fill!
What can be done? I’m a big believer in having someone mediating these issues. Teach the 20- somethings why they need seniors in the workspace. Make them understand their continued value. Continuing education for seniors is imperative. Teach them how to use tech and help them understand why the 20 somethings always have their face in their phone. Seniors often think they are just snap chatting, but they can usually get a lot of their work done on their phones!
Helping both groups understand each other’s difficulties and opening the lines of communication will create stronger work bonds that will only benefit the company and provide a better workforce.