Are you Discriminating Based on Age?

By the PlanSource HCM Team

Ageism is a system of stereotypes, policies, norms, and behaviors that discriminate against, restrict, and dehumanize people because of their age.

You’ve probably attended a seminar or read multiple articles about the four generations in the workplace today: Traditionalist, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y/Millennials. Everyone’s talking about it, but are you unconsciously discriminating in your workplace? Unintentional age discrimination can limit the contributions of people of all ages and organizational levels, as well as damage your workforce’s ability to collaborate, be productive, and build relationships (Blauth).

Don’t fall into the trap of judging a colleague by their age! There are a few simple steps you can take to avoid ageism and improve engagement in the workplace across generations:

  • Don’t focus on the differences – As each generation has entered the workforce over the decades, the older generations have always grumbled. Following the Great Depression and World War II, the traditionalists were known for commenting that the boomers didn’t know what it was like to work hard or struggle to make ends meet. In reality, that’s pretty much what the Boomers were saying about Gen X and likewise about Gen Y. Everybody just needs a chance to prove themselves. (Workforce.com)
  • Build relationships through discussion and engagement – Encourage employees to ask questions, engage in healthy debates with others and agree on work-paths that make the most sense to the project at hand. Yes, sometimes they may fail, but this is what keeps the workforce in check and on their toes. Most people learn more from failure than just successes.
  • Get to know who your employees really are as individuals – Managers at Zappos, a company known for it high engagement and strong culture, are encouraged to spend 20% of their time getting to know their employees. This time promotes the ability to see opportunity in each encounter, workers become more efficient, a new level of awareness emerges and the leader becomes a more effective coach and tears down the “Boss Wall” which sometimes is enhanced when a younger manager oversees an older employee. (Spelman)
  • Create mentoring opportunities – pair younger and older workers together to work on specific business objectives. A study by the Harvard Business Review showed that “Colleagues learn more from each other than they do from formal training.” (Knight)