Ageism in the workplace is a very real yet underappreciated issue that can have significant implications for your workforce and their moral, productivity and mental health. Employees from 40 years old and up can be impacted by age discrimination in the workplace and because it is such an overlooked issue, there is very little that they can do about it.
Ageism falls into our ‘Unconscious Bias Training‘ at Skills4. There are some very obvious signs of a workplace suffering from ageist discrimination including:
Training and Development Opportunities
Training and Development Opportunities that are only available for younger employees. This is a classic example of unconscious bias training. An easy example is that your company has introduced a new training program for the workforce; but you have been so focused on using it for the younger employees within the company that you have alienated the older age group of employees who may also have wanted to be involved in that training.
Team Building Activities
Similar to building training sessions and workshops for a more targeted age bracket, there are other areas where age discrimination can become apparent without you noticing. If you have organised a company paintball tournament, did you take into account that paintball is a more athletic activity and can put workers who fall into an older age bracket at a disadvantage. This can have a further impact of damaging an employees morale.
An outdated company handbook
Your company policies may very clearly state your position on sexism in the workplace and racism in the workplace but does it do anything to address ageism. If an employee feels that they have been discriminated against because of their age, is there an avenue for them to report it?
Less interest in their work and those around them
You may find that staff can take a drop in work performance. This can be through the lasting effects of ageist discrimination that has left them feeling undervalued and suffering from early stages of depression.
There is a fine line between good humour and out and out age discrimination. What can begin as light hearted humour can become a frequent comment about someones age that can lead to tension in the workplace and depression for the employee. Whilst humour in the workplace is an overall positive to have, you should always be very careful about any form of humour that can relate to an employees age.
Equal Treatment for staff commitments
If a younger employee with a family asks to leave early from work to be there for their childrens Christmas Panto, you must always remember that elder employees will also have similar requests for other family commitments. It is important to treat all of your staff the same and your flexible policies must be flexible for all your employees.
How you market the company
Is your companies website and other marketing material filled with an equal balance of employees in terms of age, race and sex? A website filled with younger staff can alienate your older staff and drive away potential new job applicants from those who might assume that you are only interested in employing younger staff.
Ageism is a serious issue that is so often overlooked in the workplace yet it can have significant effects on staff moral and productivity. A well balanced range of ages in your employees with fair and equal opportunities and activities that everyone can participate in is a powerful promoter for a stronger workforce.
We provide a strong coaching program for our Unconscious Bias Training Workshops which can help you to highlight and activate positive change in your workplace and help to reduce ageism in the workplace.