How to Deal With Ageism at Work

Age discrimination, also known as ageism, is a silent epidemic infiltrating workplaces all over the world. Since the financial crisis, many workers in their winter years have decided that rather than planning their retirement, it would be best to stay on to replenish their retirement accounts, which has drawn the ire of so many millennials and Generation Xers. 

It has gotten so bad that thousands of older workers - usually over the age of 50 - have filed complaints and argued their employers have maintained a bias because of the age factor. Although many would point to younger workers of holding a prejudice towards Baby Boomer professionals, it can be older workers, too; employers who feel their 60-year-old staffer can’t keep up anymore. 

There is no doubt that ageism doesn’t dominate the headlines like sexual or racial discrimination, but it’s still a problem for so many businesses and senior workers. In many instances, when a 55-year-old professional has to apply for a job, they actually go to extremes, like dying their hair, undergoing plastic surgery and trying their best to look young. According to Liz Ryan of Forbes magazine:

"If you’re a job-seeker of a certain age and you’re not having an easy time of it, worries about age discrimination could sink your mojo to the point that it’s hard even to keep trying."

For businesses that are looking to advance in this economy, it’s best to take on older workers with years of experience in the industry. Whether or not you disagree, you can’t argue against that fact. Are you an older worker who may be discriminated by your co-workers and the higher-ups? Here are six ways to deal with ageism at the workplace: 

1. Take Pre-emptive Measures

One way to avoid age discrimination and to keep your employment position is to take any preemptive measures. Are there any training programs being held at your company, such as software lessons, computer seminars and industry changes? Can you work with an IT staff member to learn something new? Or, is it possible for you to take lessons on your own? Similar to what you would do in your younger day, you’re taking initiative and suggesting to your boss that you want to learn as much as possible before finally leaving the company. You want to give the business everything you have until you give your two-week notice and retire. 

It’s these types of preemptive measures that can prove you’re even more of an asset to your company than previously realized. Not only do you have years of experience, but your acumen for all things technology is right on par with the younger workers.

2. Start to Improve Your Health

When you get older, you get more fatigued easily. You can wake up at 7 a.m. with ease, but once 3 p.m. rolls around you feel as if you’re just a few inches in the grave. Moving forward, begin to take actions to improve your health. By doing this, you’re viewed as someone who can keep up with more youthful workers. 

Here are a few ways to start improving your health and energy levels: 

  • Change your diet: eat more vegetables, consume less meat and stay away from desserts. 
  • Exercise more: go for a jog, go for long walks and start lifting weights. 
  • Learn how to do yoga: this is a great exercise for any age! 
  • Try to stay up later than usual to adjust your body clock. 
  • Throughout the day munch on fruits, nuts and vegetables.

3. Defeat the Common Stereotypes

A method to refute common stereotypes is to actually defeat those common stereotypes. A lot of younger workers view the older people as those who aren’t hip to anything related to pop culture or just want to listen to Frank Sinatra (if they know who he is). So start to dispel these myths. 

Around the water cooler, talk about some interesting television show you watched, discuss sports and consider heading to the movie theater to learn what’s actually popular. These will help diminish the stereotypes. It’s important, however, not to overdo it and not use millennial vernacular to the extreme.

4. Collect Evidence of Age Discrimination

If all of that fails then you will have to start collecting evidence of age discrimination within your company. When you start this process, maintain a notepad and record the date, time, name and what actually happened to believe you were being discriminated against. This will be important if or when you decide to file a complaint with the body in charge of this type of thing.

5. Research the Process of Filing Complaints

When you have all of the evidence, it’s important to start researching the entire process of how to begin filing complaints. There are numerous resources available online to help guide you to the right place and documents to file a complaint.  Unsure where to begin? Here are a few resources to check out: 

6. Encourage Fellow Senior Employees to Work Longer

If you have multiple colleagues who are in the same age group as you and are on the cusp of leaving the labor force entirely and retiring then perhaps you can do a little persuasion. If you plan to work for several more years while they step down from their positions then you will be the only senior person left. This doesn’t bode well for your immediate future with the company. 

The logical step to take is to speak with some of your co-workers and encourage them to stay on for a little while longer. In this negotiation process, you can outline the pros and cons of doing such a thing. Some of the pros consists of earning a little bit more money for the family and retirement, keep you energetic for another year and ensure you have enough funds to last if you live another 20 or 30 years. These are some important suggestions. 

Indeed, they really have nothing to lose. If they stay, they earn some more money. If they stay and get fired then it’s no real loss because they were leaving anyway.

See AlsoHow to Write a Farewell Email to Coworkers 

Millennials don’t think about it now, but it’s incredibly difficult working at a youthful company as you’re getting older. The Baby Boomer employee likely looks at the new crop of talent and realizes they were that person at one time or another. It’s quite overwhelming for any older employee to think about. Whatever the case, a senior employee is just as good as a younger employee so their lives shouldn’t be in constant fear. 

In fact, for a lot of senior workers feeling like Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman is not unusual. Many of the senior workers fell like they need to  constantly beg and plea to earn a steady paycheck for just a little while longer. Not only does that make them feel useless, but it also hinders their productivity. 

Are there any older employees were you work? Have you ever witnessed or been a victim of ageism at the workplace? Let us know in the comment section.