Combat age discrimination at Workplace – It is a third of the big thing to happen, the first sexism, second racism and third ageism in the corporate circles. We have not been able to come out of the first two, and now this third one that’s lingering like a game of snakes and ladders, making the players stumbled with a throw of a dice from the corporate heads. Yes, Age discrimination has been a continuous challenge for these gray-haired corporate workers. When the economy of America was down in 2008, mature workers were the first to be fired. Though the law barred aged discrimination yet in each corporate segment we can see middle aged and old age workers are being subjected to discriminatory attitude at the workplace. And it has become a world phenomenon.
In this new technological world companies fear oldies lack capabilities in adapting to the change and this can cause a big loss to the company. So they often prefer to appoint youngsters who are more energetic, enthusiastic, and technology graspers. Yes, youngsters are more technologically addicted as compared to the older counterparts. But on the contrary, oldies have many years of experience with them, though they would be slow in learning new technologies but they are the ones who can push the company forward. Their gray hair is the testament of their wisdom, knowledge and experience they have gained all these years. And the reports also suggest that the aged population will sure be triggered by 2050. It would be oldest and the old who would be reining the population number.
In 2002, the United Nations adopted the Madrid International Plan on Aging, which states “Combating discrimination based on age and promoting the dignity of the older persons is fundamental to ensuring the respect that older persons deserve. Promotion and Protection of all human rights and fundamental freedom are important in order to achieve a society for all ages.” As found by Professor Malcolm Sargean in his Age Discrimination: Ageism in Employment and Service Provision.
Age discrimination happens in many forms:
- The more challenging projects are going to the less qualified employees because they are young.
- Old workers are not consulted for taking many important decisions
- They do not get the feedback
- The promotion that was due to the old aged workers is being given to the one who is much junior or is showing less caliber.
- Your organization has passed rules that place the old employees at disadvantage position.
If you face any of the above-mentioned situation or circumstances, do not sit back but respond to the situation. Only laws won’t help in combating age discrimination, but employees themselves have to respond and take action to mitigate the situation.
Here are few suggestions that can help you to mitigate the situation, and bring you to an organization’s positive book.
It is not something many people of the old age bracket want to spend their time on but this is very important. Learn the technologies and software programs that are coming in use in your area of functionality. It helps to expand your skills and keep you entrenched in the current corporate environment at par with the young employees. Prove yourself as an indispensable part of the company by displaying your qualities that are you are worthy of. Seek every opportunity to learn, upgrade your skills and to take new responsibilities. Analyze what the employer values the most, and try to place yourself in their shoes. To achieve this, you need to be a self-promoter. Have your skills and accomplishments written in the company newsletter, and induce other people to talk about your contributions.
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It is a happening world and changes are coming in every now and then. So, it is best to adopt and adhere to this change and keep yourself updated.
Display the other side of You:
You are an expert in your field, and had gained wisdom all these years, but now this is a time to share your knowledge and wisdom to your people. Start contributing on a piece of trade journal or an industrial publication, and market yourself as a speaker for conferences and local industrial panels. You can start your own blog on LinkedIn or your own website, and can also join in many discussion groups and share your views and knowledge on these groups. You can also go in for seeking a leadership position as a voluntary coordinator or a board member within your community. It would prove you as a respected member of your society or a community.
Maintain the record of your Social network:
As this is important at any of your career stages, it is chiefly important as you grow old. Create a spreadsheet or a calendar where you can maintain the record of all your contacts. You can keep yourself updated of all the correspondences that are going on with the people in your network. Remember to maintain contact with them after every four to six months. Ongoing communication can create a good impression and you will get the help you require when you need it the most. The coffee meetings or brief phone calls to catch with the network of friends surely will help, it will make the relationship valuable and sustained for the long time to come.
Do not allow yourself to be stereotyped
Do not allow your managers and co-workers label you as weak or outdated, and never give yourself to the wallows of the youngsters. Also, never discuss any of your physical pain or anything about your medical problems with anyone in the office, never allow anybody to take you for guaranteed and do not allow yourself to fall into a trap of these sarcastic words, but try to wade through it and retain your standing by proving yourself you are more worthy and valuable than the rest of them. Always remember that stereotype would not go away but you can maintain your confidence and wipe these stereotypical labels from your life.
Your experience is an effective tool, make use of it.
The experience that you have gained all these years can become a most effective tool to prove your caliber. During the hiring process, generally, employees look for the less experienced person as they have to pay out less salary but tell them what you can and what you should do to increase your business, and how you can further add value to their prolific ventures. Tell them how you can be a profitable asset for the company. While it could be expensive for them to hire you, but you have to spell your own definition about yourself to convince them that it could be more expensive to hire inexperienced people. You need to emphasize that the knowledge you have gained in your field would allow you to apply profitable ideas in your areas of operations. Your experience will help juniors and youngsters to gain comprehensively from you. It is difficult for any new entrant to substantiate his viewpoint without experience but it is you who can do it. Focus if you have updated your skills and project yourself as a thoughtful orator in your area of operations, you will be respected and considered as an asset for the company.
Don’t Hesitate To Get Feedback
Generally, companies feel giving feedback as wastage of time and your company might be an exception. And what is worse, when the time comes to give the performance review, your manager would ignore you, but do not keep silent. You can also pass through performance evaluations every year till you are in the job. Ask for the feedback from the people you trust, see if there are areas where you can improve, and find out where you are lacking.
Avoid reacting emotionally
No matter how much strong you are, you may still be ended up as a victim. Never show the emotional side of you. Assess the situation coolly with objectivity and find out solutions to the underlying problems. If the company has redesigned the structure or reformulated the processes of working, your manager might assume you will not be able to accommodate. If so, work on strategies and correct the manager’s misconceptions and as for as possible tolerate his micro insults. There are many cases when people are not able to come out of their stigma, the answer to it is explained by Dwight Golann, its because of the “psychology of abnormal reactions to loss”. Freud came to the conclusion that while many of the mourners gradually process through the loss, but some do not? This later group remains stuck and find themselves incapable of dealing with their feelings of deprivation. Psychiatrists have defined patients who maintain themselves in denial over by loss as “the substitution of….a fantasy or an action, or something of that sort….The defensive use of action in order to do away with something painful or unpleasant.” Dwight Golann. Old people subjected themselves to deprivation and dejection, and ever thought of coming out of this situation seems to them impossible.
Collect All the evidence that are against you
Most critically, you should collect all the evidence that you feel is going against you. If you have evidence of any insulting comment keep a record of it, or if you find any favoritism happening, don’t remain silent and speak about it. Collect all the data which shows one or the other kind of stereotyping and take the support of the co-workers and friends, who can stand by you. It is very important to speak about it rather than keeping silent.
Apply for Transfer
Working in a big company has an advantage as you can apply for a transfer to other station or other departments where your skills are appreciated. You need to plan out the way to approach the management. You need to frame a convincing story line describing your reason for the transfer. However, your success in getting a transfer may depend on the status you hold in a company and its culture. But seek for transfer only if you feel the situation is not in your control. Else it is always suggested to fight till the end in the same department and in the same portfolio. After all, you have given many years to the company and it is your right to show your value towards the company.
And what can employees do to Prevent Age Discrimination
Employment Act protects the persons of age 50 and above against any discrimination in the workplace. This also includes discrimination in hiring, recruitment policies, pay, benefits, discipline, promotions and mandatory retirements. But it is to the managers particularly HR management team to see that no age discrimination is taking place.
Any good HR policy should incorporate the following steps:
Draft the guidelines:
Draft the guidelines to reflect the company’s policy and formulate the actions for legal enforcement on age discrimination. It is best to have the policies reviewed by a good attorney or the one who has legal knowledge regarding the same.
Distribute to communicate the age discrimination policy
Some companies may use employee handbooks to provide employees information about company policies and procedures. Supervisors and managers can use the handbook to enforce these policies. Age discrimination policies address the treatment of individuals on the basis of their ability to do their jobs rather than make assumptions about their age. A strict discipline program needs to be implemented as employees, managers and staff need to know the ramifications. Supervisors and managers should be trained on how to be sensitive towards the age discrimination.
Remove all kinds of age discrimination statements and actions:
Avoid passing any kind of statement or perform any action that is discriminatory in nature. Check there is no delegation of any work which is based on age, at the same time during the interview also makes the screening process consistent for all the applications.
Make the workplace age-friendly:
It is very important to make the workplace age-friendly, as the old workers are more prone to accidents and can suffer from physical injuries. Preventive measures need to be adopted to make the workspace conducive for the workers. And there should be flexible working hours for them.
Though the legislation prohibits any kind of age discrimination but it should be our consistent efforts that would make a difference. So let us not gamble with life but speak up against age discrimination.