Ageism-at-Workspace-What-It-Is-and-What-We-Can-Do-About-It

First things first. Ageing is a natural process that is beyond our control. But the way we perceive it and turn the invaluable experience piled to a competitive advantage is in our hands.

But what makes me talk about ageing?

I recently came across this quote “I don’t care how old you are—fifty, sixty, or seventy. Your value doesn’t diminish with each birthday,” by Bonnie Marcus, the author of Not Done Yet!: How Women Over 50 Regain Their Confidence and Claim Workplace Power.

This made me think:

How prevalent is ageism in the workspace? 

How is the corporate world perceiving aged candidates? 

By terming ‘aged’, I am looking at how workspaces treat employees over 45-50 years.

What Exactly Is Ageism?

Ageism is age-related discrimination and bias against older workers. It can creep into many tasks ranging from resume screening, interviewing, watercooler talk, team events to promotions and opportunities.

What does ageism look like?

The following scenarios will help to understand what ageism looks like in the workspace:

  • You are an HR and screening resumes. You come across candidates with hotmail.com or aol.com email extensions. What’s the immediate thought that strikes your mind? This candidate is ‘too old’ and doesn’t fit the modern work culture.
  • Imagine the birthday party of an older employee in the workspace. Colleagues passing jokes and comments on their age is undeniably ageism.
  • An exciting project lands, and as a Project Manager, you would want to pick ‘freshers’ or ‘millennials’ in your team, putting aside older employees.
  • Your job advert contains terms such as ‘tech-savvy’, ‘new grads’, ‘freshers’, ‘young and enthusiastic’, etc.
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Not just these, ignoring experienced employees for promotions, team events, meetings, and brainstorming sessions come under age-based discriminatory acts.

What does the law say about ageism?

Various countries have a firm stand against combating ageism in the workspace.

In Australia, for instance, the Age Discrimination Act 2004 (ADA) prohibits discrimination in employment based on age.

Similarly, the US Department of Labor passed the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA). It protects applicants and employees 40 years or higher from age-related discrimination in hiring, promotion, compensation, conditions, and employment privileges.

Unfortunately, there is no statutory regulation in India that deals with age discrimination.

Does this mean Indian corporate culture is immune to ageism? As bitter as it sounds, the answer is No.

According to a report published in The Business Standard, around 33 per cent of Indian employees were victims of age-based bias at their workspace.

Besides, age-related discrimination is not just present in the IT Sector, but Manufacturing, Healthcare, and BPO also have traces of it.

What’s the harm with ageism anyway?

A lot, actually.

By ignoring older candidates, companies miss out on the rich talent pool that brings in diverse experience along with them.

Studies find that teams with a good mix of employees of all ages are culturally and intellectually richer than their counterparts. Older people add different viewpoints that younger generations might often miss. Their inputs add massive value to instances such as brainstorming and problem-solving.

Occurrences, where companies shelled out hefty amounts as settlements for ageism, are also well known. For example, Google recently paid $11 million as settlement for a class-action suit that alleged the company displayed preferential hiring towards candidates aged less than 40 (The Guardian).

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Also Read: 8 Principles of Developing Strong Tech Teams

How Can We Curb Ageism At Workspaces?

How-can-we-curb-ageism-at-workspaces

Though implementing strict HR policies is the right place to start, curbing ageism in the workspace demands a collaborative approach of team members, leaders, and managers. Companies can put these practices in place to eliminate ageism at the workspace:

#1: Make Your Hiring Bias-Free

  • Frame your job postings so that they do not showcase age-related discrimination.
  • Consider the education and work experience of the candidates irrespective of their years of birth and graduation.
  • Do not judge candidates just by the email accounts or absence of social media presence, presuming that they don’t fit the latest workspaces.

#2: Form Laws, Implement, and Educate Your Employees 

At most times, employees may be unaware of the ageism impact and its consequences. Hence, HR personnel must put strict laws that discourage ageism, educate employees about what counts as ageism and prevent it from happening.

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#3: Implement Reverse Mentoring

Older employees are treasures of experience. Younger generations are rich in enthusiasm and can be adept with the latest technologies.

By encouraging reverse mentoring where employees with an age gap mentor each other, they will understand how the other generation thinks and add value. It promotes a nurturing employee relationship that can build a healthy work culture in the long run.

#4: Merit Talent and Promote Continuous Learning

Beginning with project allotment to promotions, encourage a culture that merits talent irrespective of age. To encourage older employees to catch up with the latest work-related needs, build a continuous upskilling culture by offering regular training, workshops, and seminars.

Also Read:  How to Successfully Start Your Campus Recruiting

Let’s not miss the diversity that aged people add to workspaces.

I cannot sign off without mentioning Robert De Niro’s classic “The Intern.” The movie is a subtle take on how employers discriminate against older candidates and how elderly employees can add value to the workspace.

Let’s not forget this fact: “Ageing is like climbing a mountain; the higher we go, the better our views and perspectives become.”

If you are looking to improve your hiring process, CodeQuotient is here to help you find talented job-ready candidates. Contact us to know more, and keep following this space for more insightful reads.


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