Most businesses pride themselves on being unbiased and including people from all walks of life in their organization. However, you may unintentionally ageist and not realize it. Older and younger employees who aren’t considered may feel overlooked and unappreciated if you don’t take steps to include all generations.
What Is an Example of Unintentional Ageism?
Although traditionally, ageism is used to describe discrimination against older people in the workplace, it can also apply to any age group.
Ageism leads to older workers retiring before they originally wanted to. By the same token, workers in their early twenties sometimes find they don’t get the same call-back interview rates as those around 28 years old.
Even though employers don’t mean to be ageist, the natural interplay between different generations can lead to it. What are some ways your company might be unintentionally ageist and how can you fix it?
1. Refusing to Hire Workers Over or Under a Certain Age
If you have a company policy–spoken or unspoken–where you don’t even consider workers over or under a certain age, you might be ageist. Limiting your employee pool to only those in their mid-20s to early 30s
If you want a stellar team that meshes well, you want to choose people with the same work ethic. You should base which candidates make the final cut on their experience and what skills they possess. At times, it will be the person who stayed home with their children for 20 years and developed some entrepreneurial skills while finishing an education. At other times, it might be the 20-something who just graduated from college but also has some internship experience.
2. Not Designing for Older Adults
If you use software, apps or cloud-based programs with your employees, think about the obvious things that might be more difficult for your older workers, such as font sizes or audio. However, also understand not every person over 65 is going to have vision or hearing issues.
Around 60% of those over 65 don’t have any functional disability, such as wearing glasses or being restricted to a wheelchair. When you treat each staff member as an individual, you’ll know what their needs are and be able to meet them regardless of age.
3. Stereotyping Workers
Have you ever made a joke with Jim about his gray hair and not being able to drive at night? Perhaps Ashley laughs when you talk about how she is still a baby and just doesn’t understand. Even though the intent might be in good fun, making age-related jokes can hurt some people’s feelings and make their contribution to the company seem less than it is.
Even stereotyping based on the person’s generation can damage your company culture. It’s natural for baby boomers and Gen-Z to point out the vast differences between their two generations, but it isn’t very helpful to building a team-like atmosphere.
Instead, equip all your workers with the tools needed to complete their jobs effectively. If someone needs a bit more training to understand technological changes, that’s fine. Perhaps another worker needs to better understand perseverance. Focus on all the strengths and weaknesses so you can address the areas each member of your team needs to excel.
4. Brushing the Issue Under the Rug
Open up the lines of communication about concerns with ageism in the workplace. Ignoring that it might be a problem is the worst thing you can do. Instead, ask for feedback from your employees. If you don’t have any older workers, figure out why that is and what you can do to change the lack of experience on your staff.
Talk to staff of all ages and find out what concerns they have about potential ageism within your company. Even opening up the conversation can make people more aware and improve the situation simply by raising awareness.
5. Paying People Less Than They’re Worth
Younger workers often complain they aren’t paid fairly based on the level of work they do. While experienced workers should make more, it also isn’t fair to throw a heavy workload on anyone and take advantage of their lack of experience.
Pay attention to the pay scales based on years of experience. Understand that someone may have gone back to school for a degree at an older age and have less experience than someone who is younger and has been in the field for a few years.
6. Lacking Mentorship Programs
If you want to build rapport and help your workers play on their strengths, you need a mentorship program where different generations learn from one another. Every person on your team has a vital role to play. Mentorships help share skills across the workforce and also build bonds between ages.
Mentoring requires matching the right personalities, though. Make sure you have a thorough understanding of personality types and which ones grate on one another. If you match a melancholy with a sanguine, it isn’t going to turn out well. The melancholy likes quiet, steady personalities and the sanguine will find the more introverted person unrelatable.
Build Awareness and Lines of Communication
The more aware leadership is of the potential for ageism, the less likely it will occur. Keep the lines of communication open and listen to staff’s concerns. As long as you keep your employee’s well-being at the forefront of what you do and build a family-like atmosphere, everyone will learn how to contribute based on their specialized knowledge and skills. Ageism won’t be a major concern, just as it isn’t in a personal family unit.