Article by Dr Lynda Shaw
As our working lives are extended, Dr Lynda Shaw offers her tips for addressing ageism in the workplace
If you are the employee experiencing ageism
- Always try to look your best, and dress in a vibrant and business appropriate way. The sad fact of life unfortunately is we do judge a book by its cover – even if its subconsciously.
- Make sure you keep up to date with ever changing technology. If you don’t have the technical understanding look into libraries, courses at colleges or other venues where training is offered. Be on top of your game!
- Don’t look at your age as a negative in fact market it as a positive. If you are an older worker you know how to get a job done, have experience on your side and are likely to need less advice and managing. Younger workers are more likely to be bubbling with ideas, creativity and energy.
- If you apply for a job, an employer can ask your date of birth but they cannot use this to discriminate against you. Older people are more likely to experience age discrimination but it also happens to the young.
- If you are experiencing age discrimination voice your concerns to your supervisor or the HR department. If they don’t know you are having issues or have concerns, they can’t change the situation. Sometimes a minor intervention can sort an increasingly volatile or uncomfortable scenario.
Tips for an employer to avoid ageism
- Encourage mentoring in your department. Workers of any age can pass on their experience, and help others develop through the use of their knowledge, skills and expertise. Pair older and younger workers together on projects so they can learn from one another.
- Make sure you clearly communicate your organisation’s age discrimination policy by posting it on bulletin boards and on the company’s intranet including definitions and consequences of harassment, reporting and grievance processes, and anti-retaliation language.
- Provide adequate training for all jobs – for example just because someone is older does not mean they will necessarily not be au fait with technology.
- It is important to remember a candidate who has only five years left until retirement may be with your organisation longer than the average new hire who may want to jump ship earlier.
- Effective training sessions can raise employee awareness of discriminatory practices. Encourage participation for employees at every level of the organisation. The focus of the training should go beyond information to ensure real changes in behaviour.