Managing people

Age discrimination: avoid playing the numbers game

Let’s face it, no matter how good your policies are or how amazing your workplace culture is, it can take a single comment or slip of the tongue for an employee to have a case for discrimination. 

While many people view discrimination as unfair treatment based on race, gender and disability, ageism is one of the highest forms of discrimination experienced in the workplace.

In a survey by Always Designing for People (ADP), out of 1,908 Australian workers who responded, nearly a third (31%) reported experiencing a form of discrimination at work, with ageism topping the list.

The survey showed 11% of the respondents reported they had experienced age discrimination in their current role. Younger workers experienced ageism more than older workers – 38.5% of 18 to 24-year-olds and 21% for the over 55s.

With age discrimination a problem in the workplace let’s explore why age really is just a number. 

Employ diversity

When recruiting, you have an obligation to hire the best candidate for the role based on skills, qualifications or work experiences. Hiring managers should refrain from making decisions based on personality or cultural fit as this can lead to making unfair assumptions.

For instance, if a candidate in their 20s appears enthusiastic compared to a candidate in their 60s who seems calm and collected, it would be unfair to assume one is more passionate, the other is less driven.

Ensuring you have talent from a range of age groups allows different perspectives and gives your workplace more substance and unique strengths, so employ diversity in your recruitment processes

AVOID STEREOTYPES

From time to time, you may find yourself forming stereotypes but with awareness, you can quash them. One thing COVID-19 has proven is that people from all age groups can successfully adapt and learn new skills in technology, collaborate and deliver on work.

Stereotypes such as older employees can’t keep up with technology or be retrained couldn’t be further than the truth. Older employees do put up their hand for fresh challenges and embrace opportunities to acquire technology skills. By preventing ageist stereotypes you can also avoid any discrimination allegations – give everyone a fair-go and enjoy the harmony. 

MIND YOUR LANGUAGE

The language you and your employees use sets the tone which shapes attitudes and influences workplace culture. Avoid terms such as “you youngies”, “us oldies” and phrases including “in the good old days” or “today’s young generation”.

Such language may appear tongue in cheek but can make some employees feel discriminated against. Think before speaking and help keep workplace dynamics inclusive by avoiding discriminatory language. 

Eliminate the signs of ageism

So, by simply being mindful of the language used and refraining from making assumptions or forming stereotypes, you can help pave the way to a happier workplace. On a more formal note, when hiring allow for a multi-generational workplace. Make ‘age’ a criterion in any diversity and inclusion programs you put into play and allow everyone the opportunity for learning and development. It will make staff feel equally appreciated and stamp out any potential discrimination lawsuits.  

Jenny Dikranian

Content Writer, Business Australia

Jenny Dikranian is a content writer passionate about entrepreneurship and innovation in inspiring business success.

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