One of our team leaders waited until his last day at our company to tell us how old he was. Apart from the fact that he looked much older than he really was, I was suddenly aware of why. The rest of his team was older than him and he wanted to avoid that this might call his leadership into question. Yes, ageism in the workplace has become an important issue. Many worry that headhunters disqualify candidates immediately because the company wants someone “younger”. But who says younger employees perform better than their more seasoned colleagues? If you reach a certain age are you actually doomed to be seen as slow and unproductive? And are you unable to keep pace with the changing times? And on the other hand, does being young mean that you can never be a great leader?
Often here a self-fulfilling prophecy exists. According to recent studies, contrary to assumptions, older employees are less productive or motivated in comparison to their younger colleagues. What can be observed, however, is that older employees feel pushed to the edge due to the prevailing age discrimination and identify less with their work and the company. This declining employee loyalty has been identified, by researchers at the University of Bayreuth, as a response to stress. We don’t do our senior colleagues justice if we say that the technological advances of recent years have been lost on them. Age also has strong advantages, for instance, what guarantee is there that the young employee you’ve hired and poured all of those resources into will not immediately jump ship for the next great opportunity? Older professionals are generally more settled in their personal lives and in their careers.
So, to make your employees realize that age has nothing to do with success, achievement and/or recognition, you can take action. We have the most important tips from the study at the University of Bayreuth summarized for you, and in addition a couple of thoughts on how to fight ageism in the workplace.
Tips to fight ageism in the workplace and avoid discrimination
- Treat employees of varying ages similarly: This may sound trite or trivial, but it’s the first step against discrimination. If you keep this in mind, then it will positively affect the relationship between you and all of your employees.
- Provide further training and professional opportunities: For all your employees, irrespective of age, provide equal opportunities. Do you believe it isn’t worth much to invest in an older employee? Think again. Build on their years of experience.
- Provide performance-related and age-independent feedback: No matter how old we are, everyone makes mistakes and everyone has a right to learn from his or her mistakes.
- Distribute tasks according to the ability of your employees not according to their age: You believe a younger employee is more powerful? Maybe an older employee has far more experience or agility to offer…
- Refrain from prejudices and stereotypes immediately from the top: If certain prejudices have crept into the company culture, it becomes more difficult to control discrimination. So pay attention to your corporate culture!
- Practice active age diversity management – Inform your employees about the implications of ageism and age discrimination and encourage them to fight it.
- Train young people not to be discriminatory – Focus on the strengths and key skills of your employees, not the irrelevant sides that only point to discrimination. Do not trust young people to automatically know, train.
Hopefully these tips come in handy in your management positions!