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Ageism and the Workplace: How Bad Is it?

Top Chef versus Julia Child. Real Housewives of Orange County versus The Golden Girls.  The Jonas Brothers versus… The Beatles??? Okay, scratch that last one. The point is, generations may differ on what’s great in TV shows or music or clothing, but in the workplace, generational differences add up to more than just entertainment preferences — and the consequences of ageism can be dire. Until Gen Y came onto the scene, generations mixing in the workplace wasn’t as big of an issue. Or rather, the issues were simply different. Fifty or sixty years ago, we were still dealing with extreme female inequality in the workplace.

Fast-forward to today’s technology-filled world, and we are seeing the effects of “Sally,” tech-savvy, new-on-the-scene Gen Y worker, sitting down to a project with “Bob,” baby boomer who’s been with the company for 20 years and still writes people actual letters (non-electronic!). We are seeing these workers clash. They complete tasks differently. They demand different things. Their communication methods are vastly dissimilar. And Bob is afraid he’ll be pushed out of his job any day now due to “not fitting in with the company culture.” After all, companies are cutting back — and layoffs abound.

Although the recent economy has brought about tough times for many of us, older workers have been hit particularly hard in their attempts to rebound from the recession. Between 401 (k) troubles and rising health care costs, these workers have had a slew of problems to deal with. On average, workers over the age of 45 are experiencing longer periods of unemployment; many have been out of work for six months or longer. According to the New York Times article above, even when older workers do finally find employment, many suffer a much steeper drop in earnings than their younger counterparts.

In addition, over the last two years, the number of Americans age 55 and older who are still working has climbed by nearly 1.5 million to over 26 million in March, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even worse,  the number of people 55 and older who want a job but can’t find one has more than doubled over the same period to nearly 1.8 million. Joblessness is lower among older workers than the general labor force, but it’s growing much faster.

The question many are asking is: Does this all tie back to a severe case of ageism? Older workers haven’t enjoyed the advantages of growing up in a digital world, and consequently, the skill sets of many baby boomers and beyond vary greatly from those of younger workers. Still, many are tech-savvy, and many are learning how to be. My mom, for example, can walk circles around me in online picture editing and swears she knows what Twitter is all about (yes, I am a bit scared for the day that she begins “tweeting”).

Despite some workers of generations older than Gen-X and Gen-Y, however, there is still a gap. A gap that some believe is causing older workers to be discriminated against in the workplace. As discussed in the “Older Workers Need Not Apply” New York Times article above, there are many conflicting views on what both older and younger generations bring to the workplace — and how they hinder  said workplace as well.

Is it a problem of generational miscommunication, or even a lack of communication altogether? Some seem to think so. Without Gen Yers and baby boomers or retirees interacting in the workplace, the article points out, knowledge is not transferred. Since Gen Y members are the primary storehouse of techcentric information, if they’re not working with older co-workers, they’re not sharing that information — and those older workers are left in the cold.

What do you think? Do you notice increased ageism in the workplace? Or do you think the whole thing’s being blown out of proportion?

Speaking of “blown out of proportion,” The Jonas Brothers? Yeah.

Amy K. McDonnell

About Amy K. McDonnell

Originally hailing from Ohio, Amy is the editorial manager on the content services team and has been with both CareerBuilder and the city of Chicago for nearly a decade. She writes on a range of recruitment topics on The Hiring Site, striving to bring a dose of clarity and humor to sometimes complicated issues around employee attraction, engagement and retention. When she's not working, Amy spends as much time as possible reading, pretending to be a chef, writing short stories, eating Nutella out of the jar, waiting for CTA buses and trains, going to see her favorite bands live, and spending time with people who inspire and challenge her.
75 comments
rawrthas
rawrthas

Ageism goes both ways. I am 19, have a 'going through puberty'-ish voice, and work at a high profile IT company. I was on a bridge call with some more experienced people, and after I announced I was dropping off the call, some person made a few remarks like 'don't go having any wild parties', and 'your mother and I've been talking' etc etc., of course, this was hysterical to everyone else on the bridge, but the guy who said the things (who only had heard my voice about a couple times the whole call), wasn't apologetic at all. It was quite embarrassing, and whether he was joking or being harsh/chastising is questionable. I did feel quite down and out of place after that. Nothing to really get my jimmies rustled over, but it did get me to google ageism and post on this blog. Just thought I'd share an experience from the other side of the coin.

rawrthas
rawrthas

Ageism goes both ways. I am 19, have a 'going through puberty'-ish voice, and work at a high profile IT company. I was on a bridge call with some more experienced people, and after I announced I was dropping off the call, some person made a few remarks like 'don't go having any wild parties', and 'your mother and I've been talking' etc etc., of course, this was hysterical to everyone else on the bridge, but the guy who said the things (who only had heard my voice about a couple times the whole call), wasn't apologetic at all. It was quite embarrassing, and whether he was joking or being harsh/chastising is questionable. I did feel quite down and out of place after that. Nothing to really get my jimmies rustled over, but it did get me to google ageism and post on this blog. Just thought I'd share an experience from the other side of the coin.

brittany
brittany

i think that this artical is very helpful with the idea of ageism which i do believe plays a big part in the job market today.

brittany
brittany

i think that this artical is very helpful with the idea of ageism which i do believe plays a big part in the job market today.

Anonymous
Anonymous

We can't win. I'm 50, supported myself steadily for close to 30 years, and now suddenly am deemed unemployable due to my age. As if I've never worked a day in my life or something. As if I've become indecent for remaining alive this long.
Have you noticed the ads capping the minimum years experience required? The standard is 3-5 years. Isn't that a subtle way of stating no one over 25 need apply?
Our willingness to take a cut in salary is even more of an embarrassment to employers who would rather dole out higher salaries to younger workers anyway.
I'll probably become a bag lady once my unemployment runs out. After a year of searching, I can't even get a job paying minimum wage. There is no longer any place for me. I've become useless and obsolete in the workforce. Like a dinosaur on the verge of extinction because I am too young to collect social security and too old to get hired.

Anonymous
Anonymous

We can't win. I'm 50, supported myself steadily for close to 30 years, and now suddenly am deemed unemployable due to my age. As if I've never worked a day in my life or something. As if I've become indecent for remaining alive this long. Have you noticed the ads capping the minimum years experience required? The standard is 3-5 years. Isn't that a subtle way of stating no one over 25 need apply? Our willingness to take a cut in salary is even more of an embarrassment to employers who would rather dole out higher salaries to younger workers anyway. I'll probably become a bag lady once my unemployment runs out. After a year of searching, I can't even get a job paying minimum wage. There is no longer any place for me. I've become useless and obsolete in the workforce. Like a dinosaur on the verge of extinction because I am too young to collect social security and too old to get hired.

DwayneB
DwayneB

Ageism is essential to the success of American corporations today. Try getting a job in engineering if you are over 45, you'll see.

There are two main reasons for this.

Culture: Generation Y's disdain for Boomers makes it extremely difficult for the two to coexist in the workplace. Therefore companies are actively excluding Boomer's from consideration for many jobs, in order to prevent corporate cultural collapse.

Health care costs: The lower the average age of the workforce, the cheaper the insurance coverage. Don't kid yourself.

DwayneB
DwayneB

Ageism is essential to the success of American corporations today. Try getting a job in engineering if you are over 45, you'll see.

There are two main reasons for this.

Culture: Generation Y's disdain for Boomers makes it extremely difficult for the two to coexist in the workplace. Therefore companies are actively excluding Boomer's from consideration for many jobs, in order to prevent corporate cultural collapse.

Health care costs: The lower the average age of the workforce, the cheaper the insurance coverage. Don't kid yourself.

DwayneB
DwayneB

Ageism is essential to the success of American corporations today. Try getting a job in engineering if you are over 45, you'll see. There are two main reasons for this. Culture: Generation Y's disdain for Boomers makes it extremely difficult for the two to coexist in the workplace. Therefore companies are actively excluding Boomer's from consideration for many jobs, in order to prevent corporate cultural collapse. Health care costs: The lower the average age of the workforce, the cheaper the insurance coverage. Don't kid yourself.

annachestnut
annachestnut

I am very computer comfortable. I have been working with computers for nearly 30 years and have "grown" with them. I am now into CMS websites and have no trouble building on an already strong skill set. Although I can "keep" a job, I cannot get a better job no matter how hard I try. Maybe because I am 56.....

annachestnut
annachestnut

I am very computer comfortable. I have been working with computers for nearly 30 years and have "grown" with them. I am now into CMS websites and have no trouble building on an already strong skill set. Although I can "keep" a job, I cannot get a better job no matter how hard I try. Maybe because I am 56.....

annachestnut
annachestnut

I am very computer comfortable. I have been working with computers for nearly 30 years and have "grown" with them. I am now into CMS websites and have no trouble building on an already strong skill set. Although I can "keep" a job, I cannot get a better job no matter how hard I try. Maybe because I am 56.....

Wendy
Wendy

If you doubt that ageism is real, all you need do is study the tenor of this article.

Now why would CareerBuilder assign a piece on ageism in the workplace to someone in the third or fourth decade of their life, with no real-world experience to draw reference from?

No, this is not a chicken-and-egg type of argument. Unless a person has actual experience in a subject, or at least takes the time to check credible references, they will not be qualified to posit the questions, "Do you notice increased ageism in the workplace? Or do you think the whole thing’s being blown out of proportion?"

"Increased" from what - the Dark Ages? And in today's economy, the "whole thing" is the only thing.

I speak from both reference and personal experience.

The way to address this issue is head-on, Not couched in cutesy allusions to PDA's and musical tastes.

There is nothing cute about the economic ramifications of workplace ageism. They are pervasive, ugly, and are tearing apart the fabric of our culture.

Wendy
Wendy

If you doubt that ageism is real, all you need do is study the tenor of this article. Now why would CareerBuilder assign a piece on ageism in the workplace to someone in the third or fourth decade of their life, with no real-world experience to draw reference from? No, this is not a chicken-and-egg type of argument. Unless a person has actual experience in a subject, or at least takes the time to check credible references, they will not be qualified to posit the questions, "Do you notice increased ageism in the workplace? Or do you think the whole thing’s being blown out of proportion?" "Increased" from what - the Dark Ages? And in today's economy, the "whole thing" is the only thing. I speak from both reference and personal experience. The way to address this issue is head-on, Not couched in cutesy allusions to PDA's and musical tastes. There is nothing cute about the economic ramifications of workplace ageism. They are pervasive, ugly, and are tearing apart the fabric of our culture.

Julie Lovelass
Julie Lovelass

Ageism is alive and well especially in the age of technology. However, I think that being "of age" has its advantages in the restaurant industry. I'd rather have a seasoned restaurant manager than a young whipper snapper!

Julie Lovelass
Julie Lovelass

Ageism is alive and well especially in the age of technology. However, I think that being "of age" has its advantages in the restaurant industry. I'd rather have a seasoned restaurant manager than a young whipper snapper!

Julie Lovelass
Julie Lovelass

Ageism is alive and well especially in the age of technology. However, I think that being "of age" has its advantages in the restaurant industry. I'd rather have a seasoned restaurant manager than a young whipper snapper!

Sue McCabe
Sue McCabe

Age discrimination is terrible. I have never had a problem getting a job, since I turned fifty I can't get a job to save my life. I have been unemployed over a year, I apply every day but no one wants a women over 50

Sue McCabe
Sue McCabe

Age discrimination is terrible. I have never had a problem getting a job, since I turned fifty I can't get a job to save my life. I have been unemployed over a year, I apply every day but no one wants a women over 50

Karen
Karen

Does ageism exist? Yes. I saw it 20 years ago when I was barely 40 and being interviewed by a 20 year old; today I am in my early 60's and have been passed over for promotions, since my company restructured and hired all new and younger managers. My skill sets in every area match and exceed theirs, but that does not seem to matter these days; what managers look for is employees who mirror them and will make them look good. They are afraid of anyone who might compete with them. Qualifications for a particular job take a backseat to everything else. However, knowing that age discrimination is there and illegal is difficult to prove.

Karen
Karen

Does ageism exist? Yes. I saw it 20 years ago when I was barely 40 and being interviewed by a 20 year old; today I am in my early 60's and have been passed over for promotions, since my company restructured and hired all new and younger managers. My skill sets in every area match and exceed theirs, but that does not seem to matter these days; what managers look for is employees who mirror them and will make them look good. They are afraid of anyone who might compete with them. Qualifications for a particular job take a backseat to everything else. However, knowing that age discrimination is there and illegal is difficult to prove.

Kelly Fryer
Kelly Fryer

Ageism is real and effects older people in real ways. But we think Betty White has some lessons to teach us about what older people can do to counter ageism in the workplace (and elsewhere). Have more fun. Seriously. People today want to laugh, play, create together. "Bob" can learn how to send an email. But even more challenging will be learning to lighten up a little; and learning to treat his employees and co-workers like creative partners. Thanks for this article on an important topic. But Mary (above) is right: It goes both ways. http://www.arenewalenterprise.com/2010/05/leadership-lessons-from-betty-white.html

Kelly Fryer
Kelly Fryer

Ageism is real and effects older people in real ways. But we think Betty White has some lessons to teach us about what older people can do to counter ageism in the workplace (and elsewhere). Have more fun. Seriously. People today want to laugh, play, create together. "Bob" can learn how to send an email. But even more challenging will be learning to lighten up a little; and learning to treat his employees and co-workers like creative partners. Thanks for this article on an important topic. But Mary (above) is right: It goes both ways. http://www.arenewalenterprise.com/2010/05/leadership-lessons-from-betty-white.html

Mary Fletcher Jones
Mary Fletcher Jones

Ageism can work both ways. The expertise and contributions of people who are younger than 40 can also be discounted. However, it is more commonly associated with people over 40 years old, so much so, that there was legislation passed against it. Unfortunately, I have found that ageism is rampant, but particularly so in the fields of public relations, advertising, and social media, where I and my 40+ colleagues encounter it on a fairly regular basis.

Ageist remarks and policies can be difficult to detect, particularly if people are not sensitive to age as legitimate (and desirable) difference.

Here are some examples that come to mind, although there are many more...

• An HR recruiter is frustrated because digital and PR agencies reject her candidates for being "too experienced" or "too senior" for positions for which they are qualified. (These terms are commonly used in age discrimination in hiring).
• In a PR volunteer organization meeting, a woman proposed inviting Diane Rehm as a guest speaker for a signature event. The chairman of the event rejected the suggestion, joking that the noted media personality was too old.
• A successful advertising executive who had managed important national accounts is let go when he reached age 50.
• A 20-something speaker on a social media panel made the analogy to an audience of primarily under 40 y.o. participants (but including several 40-60 year old participants) that companies that didn't use social media appropriately were like "creepy old men" who tried to fit in at a night club.
• The 20-something president of a social media organization refers to something she doesn't like as "retarded," apparently oblivious that older women with families in her audience may have children, including children with cognitive disabilities.
• The younger, childless planners of PR and social media events routinely schedule professional development events at 8:00 a.m. in the morning, when professional women with school-age children are taking their children to school or bus stops, thereby effectively excluding professionals who happen to parents from participating.

I think it bears discussion: why would a professional make an ageist remark? Why would a company institute an ageist policy?

There are many reasons.

• Ageism is still accepted as okay in our society. People who would never dream of dropping a racist or sexist remark in networking situations, will freely (and unconsciously) make ageist remarks.
• PR, advertising, and digital are highly competitive fields. There are far more people who want jobs than positions are available. In a competitive environment, it's common for people to disparage the attributes, experience or skills of others in order to appear more capable themselves, especially if they feel threatened by someone who appears more experienced. You will see this type of behavior in business graduate programs, for example, where minority students and female students are on the receiving end of subtle (or not so subtle) racist remarks or exclusion. It's easy to detect when it's sexism or racism; less so when it's ageism. It's just, unfortunately, how some people and groups operate under stressful conditions.
• Birds of a feather flock together. It is natural to associate with people who are in the same life stage as yourself. After age 40, these differences between generations are less acute, because people age 40 and up share common life experiences (marriage, bearing and raising children, the loss of a parent, owning a home, starting a business, etc.) People who are over age 40 can relate to people in their 20s and 30s because they have experienced those life stage events themselves (college, first apartments, first jobs, etc.) but the reverse is not true. Much is said about adapting to Millenials in the workplace, but you don't often hear about the need for Millenials to try and understand people older than themselves.
• For some younger people, I think older people represent something too close to their fears. In our society, people commonly fear becoming old. Also, people in their early to late twenties are often still at the point where they are separating -- emotionally and financially -- from their parents. So they may feel uncomfortable interacting with a person that is an older generation in professional situations (such as a subordinate or peer), because of this internal struggle (whereas a person in their 40s does not typically have the equivalent reluctance to engage with someone who is twenty years older, for example.)
• Companies, unfortunately, have a lot to gain by practicing ageism. Although older professionals bring much needed experience to a business or organization, they are more expensive for companies. They tend to have families, so they use more costly benefits, and require reasonable amounts of leave, and can't travel as much or work extended hours, or socialize after work. Their salaries are often higher. Some companies will let go people to avoid paying their retirement benefits. Younger people are less expensive to hire, are more willing to accept less than desirable work conditions and lower pay to obtain needed experience, and are easier to let go, and usually have fewer life circumstances that may interfere with work. I think the worst example of this is how many nonprofit organizations and PR companies exploit young interns, often not paying them at all, or using them to replace jobs which should be filled by regular employees (both practices violate the Fair Labor Standards Act).
• There is also the popular conceptions that older people are less skilled in social media, IT and other desirable skills. I have read that ageism is particularly problematic in IT, with some companies refusing to hire anyone over age 35! However, personally, I have not found it to be true that older people do not know how to use social media, or acquire new skills. Some of the people I know who are the best expert users of social media are over age 50. I have taught several Millenials how to use social media, myself.

How can ageism be overcome, particularly in these fields? I think professionals, networking organizations, and companies should thoughtfully approach how they speak and present themselves, and examine their perceptions. Just as we would be sensitive to create an environment that is inclusive of people of different backgrounds, genders, and orientation, we must also create that setting for people who are older than forty.

Mary Fletcher Jones
Mary Fletcher Jones

Ageism can work both ways. The expertise and contributions of people who are younger than 40 can also be discounted. However, it is more commonly associated with people over 40 years old, so much so, that there was legislation passed against it. Unfortunately, I have found that ageism is rampant, but particularly so in the fields of public relations, advertising, and social media, where I and my 40+ colleagues encounter it on a fairly regular basis.

Ageist remarks and policies can be difficult to detect, particularly if people are not sensitive to age as legitimate (and desirable) difference.

Here are some examples that come to mind, although there are many more...

• An HR recruiter is frustrated because digital and PR agencies reject her candidates for being "too experienced" or "too senior" for positions for which they are qualified. (These terms are commonly used in age discrimination in hiring).
• In a PR volunteer organization meeting, a woman proposed inviting Diane Rehm as a guest speaker for a signature event. The chairman of the event rejected the suggestion, joking that the noted media personality was too old.
• A successful advertising executive who had managed important national accounts is let go when he reached age 50.
• A 20-something speaker on a social media panel made the analogy to an audience of primarily under 40 y.o. participants (but including several 40-60 year old participants) that companies that didn't use social media appropriately were like "creepy old men" who tried to fit in at a night club.
• The 20-something president of a social media organization refers to something she doesn't like as "retarded," apparently oblivious that older women with families in her audience may have children, including children with cognitive disabilities.
• The younger, childless planners of PR and social media events routinely schedule professional development events at 8:00 a.m. in the morning, when professional women with school-age children are taking their children to school or bus stops, thereby effectively excluding professionals who happen to parents from participating.

I think it bears discussion: why would a professional make an ageist remark? Why would a company institute an ageist policy?

There are many reasons.

• Ageism is still accepted as okay in our society. People who would never dream of dropping a racist or sexist remark in networking situations, will freely (and unconsciously) make ageist remarks.
• PR, advertising, and digital are highly competitive fields. There are far more people who want jobs than positions are available. In a competitive environment, it's common for people to disparage the attributes, experience or skills of others in order to appear more capable themselves, especially if they feel threatened by someone who appears more experienced. You will see this type of behavior in business graduate programs, for example, where minority students and female students are on the receiving end of subtle (or not so subtle) racist remarks or exclusion. It's easy to detect when it's sexism or racism; less so when it's ageism. It's just, unfortunately, how some people and groups operate under stressful conditions.
• Birds of a feather flock together. It is natural to associate with people who are in the same life stage as yourself. After age 40, these differences between generations are less acute, because people age 40 and up share common life experiences (marriage, bearing and raising children, the loss of a parent, owning a home, starting a business, etc.) People who are over age 40 can relate to people in their 20s and 30s because they have experienced those life stage events themselves (college, first apartments, first jobs, etc.) but the reverse is not true. Much is said about adapting to Millenials in the workplace, but you don't often hear about the need for Millenials to try and understand people older than themselves.
• For some younger people, I think older people represent something too close to their fears. In our society, people commonly fear becoming old. Also, people in their early to late twenties are often still at the point where they are separating -- emotionally and financially -- from their parents. So they may feel uncomfortable interacting with a person that is an older generation in professional situations (such as a subordinate or peer), because of this internal struggle (whereas a person in their 40s does not typically have the equivalent reluctance to engage with someone who is twenty years older, for example.)
• Companies, unfortunately, have a lot to gain by practicing ageism. Although older professionals bring much needed experience to a business or organization, they are more expensive for companies. They tend to have families, so they use more costly benefits, and require reasonable amounts of leave, and can't travel as much or work extended hours, or socialize after work. Their salaries are often higher. Some companies will let go people to avoid paying their retirement benefits. Younger people are less expensive to hire, are more willing to accept less than desirable work conditions and lower pay to obtain needed experience, and are easier to let go, and usually have fewer life circumstances that may interfere with work. I think the worst example of this is how many nonprofit organizations and PR companies exploit young interns, often not paying them at all, or using them to replace jobs which should be filled by regular employees (both practices violate the Fair Labor Standards Act).
• There is also the popular conceptions that older people are less skilled in social media, IT and other desirable skills. I have read that ageism is particularly problematic in IT, with some companies refusing to hire anyone over age 35! However, personally, I have not found it to be true that older people do not know how to use social media, or acquire new skills. Some of the people I know who are the best expert users of social media are over age 50. I have taught several Millenials how to use social media, myself.

How can ageism be overcome, particularly in these fields? I think professionals, networking organizations, and companies should thoughtfully approach how they speak and present themselves, and examine their perceptions. Just as we would be sensitive to create an environment that is inclusive of people of different backgrounds, genders, and orientation, we must also create that setting for people who are older than forty.

Mary Fletcher Jones
Mary Fletcher Jones

Ageism can work both ways. The expertise and contributions of people who are younger than 40 can also be discounted. However, it is more commonly associated with people over 40 years old, so much so, that there was legislation passed against it. Unfortunately, I have found that ageism is rampant, but particularly so in the fields of public relations, advertising, and social media, where I and my 40+ colleagues encounter it on a fairly regular basis. Ageist remarks and policies can be difficult to detect, particularly if people are not sensitive to age as legitimate (and desirable) difference. Here are some examples that come to mind, although there are many more... • An HR recruiter is frustrated because digital and PR agencies reject her candidates for being "too experienced" or "too senior" for positions for which they are qualified. (These terms are commonly used in age discrimination in hiring). • In a PR volunteer organization meeting, a woman proposed inviting Diane Rehm as a guest speaker for a signature event. The chairman of the event rejected the suggestion, joking that the noted media personality was too old. • A successful advertising executive who had managed important national accounts is let go when he reached age 50. • A 20-something speaker on a social media panel made the analogy to an audience of primarily under 40 y.o. participants (but including several 40-60 year old participants) that companies that didn't use social media appropriately were like "creepy old men" who tried to fit in at a night club. • The 20-something president of a social media organization refers to something she doesn't like as "retarded," apparently oblivious that older women with families in her audience may have children, including children with cognitive disabilities. • The younger, childless planners of PR and social media events routinely schedule professional development events at 8:00 a.m. in the morning, when professional women with school-age children are taking their children to school or bus stops, thereby effectively excluding professionals who happen to parents from participating. I think it bears discussion: why would a professional make an ageist remark? Why would a company institute an ageist policy? There are many reasons. • Ageism is still accepted as okay in our society. People who would never dream of dropping a racist or sexist remark in networking situations, will freely (and unconsciously) make ageist remarks. • PR, advertising, and digital are highly competitive fields. There are far more people who want jobs than positions are available. In a competitive environment, it's common for people to disparage the attributes, experience or skills of others in order to appear more capable themselves, especially if they feel threatened by someone who appears more experienced. You will see this type of behavior in business graduate programs, for example, where minority students and female students are on the receiving end of subtle (or not so subtle) racist remarks or exclusion. It's easy to detect when it's sexism or racism; less so when it's ageism. It's just, unfortunately, how some people and groups operate under stressful conditions. • Birds of a feather flock together. It is natural to associate with people who are in the same life stage as yourself. After age 40, these differences between generations are less acute, because people age 40 and up share common life experiences (marriage, bearing and raising children, the loss of a parent, owning a home, starting a business, etc.) People who are over age 40 can relate to people in their 20s and 30s because they have experienced those life stage events themselves (college, first apartments, first jobs, etc.) but the reverse is not true. Much is said about adapting to Millenials in the workplace, but you don't often hear about the need for Millenials to try and understand people older than themselves. • For some younger people, I think older people represent something too close to their fears. In our society, people commonly fear becoming old. Also, people in their early to late twenties are often still at the point where they are separating -- emotionally and financially -- from their parents. So they may feel uncomfortable interacting with a person that is an older generation in professional situations (such as a subordinate or peer), because of this internal struggle (whereas a person in their 40s does not typically have the equivalent reluctance to engage with someone who is twenty years older, for example.) • Companies, unfortunately, have a lot to gain by practicing ageism. Although older professionals bring much needed experience to a business or organization, they are more expensive for companies. They tend to have families, so they use more costly benefits, and require reasonable amounts of leave, and can't travel as much or work extended hours, or socialize after work. Their salaries are often higher. Some companies will let go people to avoid paying their retirement benefits. Younger people are less expensive to hire, are more willing to accept less than desirable work conditions and lower pay to obtain needed experience, and are easier to let go, and usually have fewer life circumstances that may interfere with work. I think the worst example of this is how many nonprofit organizations and PR companies exploit young interns, often not paying them at all, or using them to replace jobs which should be filled by regular employees (both practices violate the Fair Labor Standards Act). • There is also the popular conceptions that older people are less skilled in social media, IT and other desirable skills. I have read that ageism is particularly problematic in IT, with some companies refusing to hire anyone over age 35! However, personally, I have not found it to be true that older people do not know how to use social media, or acquire new skills. Some of the people I know who are the best expert users of social media are over age 50. I have taught several Millenials how to use social media, myself. How can ageism be overcome, particularly in these fields? I think professionals, networking organizations, and companies should thoughtfully approach how they speak and present themselves, and examine their perceptions. Just as we would be sensitive to create an environment that is inclusive of people of different backgrounds, genders, and orientation, we must also create that setting for people who are older than forty.

Anonymous
Anonymous

It exists. After 15 months of unemployment, I was hired by a software company founded by 3 dot boom millionaires. They loved me over the phone (I have a young voice) and my in person with a manager (late 30s) went really well (I also can pass for early 40s). One week in, they were very pleased with my work and learning curve. I have the skills and a fast ability to learn. Second week, at customer site, I had supper one night with 3 guys (abt 25, 33 & 38). I'm 56. The 38 year old, a Sales Exec, went to management and said I was the wrong face for the customer. They had had inappropriate BAs before, and he didn't think I could be trusted to not make an inappropriate remark. They told me they were very particular about their customer facing image. Lesson learned - skip dinner and don't try to make friends with younger colleagues - especially those who talk about all the money they make and their favorite cartoon show - The Family Guy.

Amy_at_CB
Amy_at_CB

 @rawrthas Thanks for sharing your story -- I really appreciate it. Ageism definitely goes both ways. Whether you're 19 or 79, you may experience it -- especially now, with so many generations working together in the workplace (and coming armed with clashing work styles and built-in stereotypes of each other). I'm going to have more posts exploring the various facets of ageism soon, so please check back.

Amy_at_CB
Amy_at_CB

 @rawrthas Thanks for sharing your story -- I really appreciate it. Ageism definitely goes both ways. Whether you're 19 or 79, you may experience it -- especially now, with so many generations working together in the workplace (and coming armed with clashing work styles and built-in stereotypes of each other). I'm going to have more posts exploring the various facets of ageism soon, so please check back.

Amy_at_CB
Amy_at_CB

Thanks for reading, Brittany -- it definitely has potential to play a part in the job market and the workplace. Keep an eye out for more exploration on this topic soon.

Amy_at_CB
Amy_at_CB

Thanks for reading, Brittany -- it definitely has potential to play a part in the job market and the workplace. Keep an eye out for more exploration on this topic soon.

Amy_at_CB
Amy_at_CB

Hi Anonymous -- don't give up on your search. Have you taken a look at www.primecb.com? It's CB's site that focuses solely on mature workers and helping more experienced workers find jobs. I know it's frustrating, but there are employers looking for experienced workers who aren't fresh out of college. Check out this article on our sister site, The Work Buzz, too -- there is some advice that may be helpful in your search: http://cb.com/HcScVg  Please let me know if I can be of more help!

Amy_at_CB
Amy_at_CB

Hi Anonymous -- don't give up on your search. Have you taken a look at www.primecb.com? It's CB's site that focuses solely on mature workers and helping more experienced workers find jobs. I know it's frustrating, but there are employers looking for experienced workers who aren't fresh out of college. Check out this article on our sister site, The Work Buzz, too -- there is some advice that may be helpful in your search: http://cb.com/HcScVg  Please let me know if I can be of more help!

Wendy
Wendy

Whipper snapper?

What job are you looking for ... a wheelwright, forging hoops for buggies?

Do not insult the intelligence of the rest of us with your "old fogey" language. It is neither cute nor appropriate.

Wendy
Wendy

Whipper snapper? What job are you looking for ... a wheelwright, forging hoops for buggies? Do not insult the intelligence of the rest of us with your "old fogey" language. It is neither cute nor appropriate.

Wendy
Wendy

I remember reading a piece in 2008, about this being a terrible time for insurance carriers to dis-allow cosmetic surgery for older women who are looking for work. The emphasis is on "older women."

You are correct in your assumptions. Just do not give up.

In times of high unemployment, ageism, like poverty, becomes a "woman's problem." The pendulum will swing again.

Volunteer, if you have to, to keep your skills current. I know this sounds trite, but you may not have a choice. Face your options with courage, and you will have a better future.

Amy Chulik
Amy Chulik

Hi Sue,

I'm sorry to hear you've had difficulties in your job search. Have you checked out Prime CB? It's CareerBuilder's site dedicated to more experienced workers -- Baby Boomers, retirees, and seniors. There's a lot of career advice on the site that may be helpful to you in your search and interview process. Best of luck and hang in there!

Wendy
Wendy

I remember reading a piece in 2008, about this being a terrible time for insurance carriers to dis-allow cosmetic surgery for older women who are looking for work. The emphasis is on "older women." You are correct in your assumptions. Just do not give up. In times of high unemployment, ageism, like poverty, becomes a "woman's problem." The pendulum will swing again. Volunteer, if you have to, to keep your skills current. I know this sounds trite, but you may not have a choice. Face your options with courage, and you will have a better future.

Amy Chulik
Amy Chulik

Hi Sue, I'm sorry to hear you've had difficulties in your job search. Have you checked out Prime CB? It's CareerBuilder's site dedicated to more experienced workers -- Baby Boomers, retirees, and seniors. There's a lot of career advice on the site that may be helpful to you in your search and interview process. Best of luck and hang in there!

Wendy
Wendy

Sorry. That is like telling someone who is about to lose their home to foreclosure, to "lighten-up and not be so hard on those pesky banks." It does not work that way.

Wendy
Wendy

Sorry. That is like telling someone who is about to lose their home to foreclosure, to "lighten-up and not be so hard on those pesky banks." It does not work that way.

Terry
Terry

Ageism is a very real problem, but the example of an 8:00 AM meeting excluding older professional women is silly. Most professional employees are required to be available from 8-5 or 8-6; it's not professional to expect other employees to handle customers or reschedule meetings because of the personal choice to bear children. A professional woman or man would make appropriate arrangements for her or his children that allow her or him to be at work during core hours.

Wendy
Wendy

What a wonderful contribution to this discussion. Your comments are both thoughtful, researched, and thought-provoking. You obviously have done research on the subject of workplace ageism.

I sure would like to hear from the "blue collar" side of the house on this subject. Especially since the unemployment offices in many States are pushing "retraining" programs in the trades. Those of us who are considering career switches, including trades and "semi-skilled", or "para", positions, need to know what we will be facing.

Terry
Terry

Ageism is a very real problem, but the example of an 8:00 AM meeting excluding older professional women is silly. Most professional employees are required to be available from 8-5 or 8-6; it's not professional to expect other employees to handle customers or reschedule meetings because of the personal choice to bear children. A professional woman or man would make appropriate arrangements for her or his children that allow her or him to be at work during core hours.

Terry
Terry

Ageism is a very real problem, but the example of an 8:00 AM meeting excluding older professional women is silly. Most professional employees are required to be available from 8-5 or 8-6; it's not professional to expect other employees to handle customers or reschedule meetings because of the personal choice to bear children. A professional woman or man would make appropriate arrangements for her or his children that allow her or him to be at work during core hours.

Wendy
Wendy

What a wonderful contribution to this discussion. Your comments are both thoughtful, researched, and thought-provoking. You obviously have done research on the subject of workplace ageism. I sure would like to hear from the "blue collar" side of the house on this subject. Especially since the unemployment offices in many States are pushing "retraining" programs in the trades. Those of us who are considering career switches, including trades and "semi-skilled", or "para", positions, need to know what we will be facing.

Wendy
Wendy

This anecdote says a lot about the rude, cut-throat behavior of the pigs you were working with. It also speaks to the younger-than-infancy culture of the "dot com generation."

I spent a short time in residential real estate, and will never forget the broker's open house at a "dot com" mega-mansion. The sellers were a young couple in their early twentites. Only like-minded twenty-somethings would be interested in a beautiful home with no kitchen, a huge entertainment "pit" surrounded by cushion-ware, and a bedroom full of exercise equipment.

See 'em on the way up, see 'em on the way down.

Good luck in your next position. Any hiring manager would be luck to encounter you.

Terry
Terry

Dear Wendy,

Your comment about "old-fogey language" is ageist and offensive. It's particularly inappropriate in this context!

Terry
Terry

Dear Wendy,

Your comment about "old-fogey language" is ageist and offensive. It's particularly inappropriate in this context!

Terry
Terry

Dear Wendy, Your comment about "old-fogey language" is ageist and offensive. It's particularly inappropriate in this context!

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