Reverse Ageism In The Workplace
There’s a form of ageism that’s not often talked about, but is continuously detrimental in the workplace, and that’s reverse ageism. What happens with reverse ageism is that younger generations are employed by companies that often want them onboard as an inexpensive workforce, but dismiss their innovative ideas because they are “too young to know what’s best” for the company. Just as ageism with older adults can cause health and mental trauma, the same can occur in younger employees.
Reverse ageism can be combatted with education and discussion. Education is important to reveal that it is a type of ageism that has a majorly negative impact on multiple individuals, and discussion is imperative in order to come up with ways to combat it.
Why Reverse Ageism Matters
While we continue the fight to end ageism for those currently combatting it, we must also plan for the unplanned. Ageism doesn’t just affect older individuals, it can change all of our lives in an instant, and quickly become a story we are a part of.
If we don’t plan for an early retirement, brought on by ageism stereotypes that will surround us when we enter our 50s, we may be out of work and out of money – a combination we don’t currently think about because we are under the impression that we have plenty of time left in our careers.
Right now, today, individuals are being let go from companies way before their 401k and Medicare benefits kick in – imagine what that will look like in 20 years when we reach that age. We could be in trouble.
We need to prepare. We need to fight ageism, and we need to have a backup plan. We need to save more, start our own businesses, and make smart investments in ourselves. We need to recognize that there is a very good chance that we won’t be able to work until “retirement age,” unless we win the fight.
And we won’t win the fight sitting still. We need to become ageism advocates, lobby in congress, hold conventions, start conversations, and create education and awareness.
We need to do this for our future, or else it won’t be at all like we thought it would be.
Creating A Collaborative Environment
Many younger employees feel a daily struggle to prove themselves – to their co-workers, their manager or their company. They spend hours agonizing over how they can be taken seriously, how they can get their ideas across, and how they can make an impact at work. However, if there were structures in place where they could equally share their ideas and opinions, it would help as the younger generation does have a different understanding of technology and emerging platforms – just as older generations have unique ideas based on the benefit of more years of experience in the workforce.
It’s necessary to create a collaborative environment – instead of older generations fearing younger generations because of job displacement (caused by ageism within their workplace), and younger generations feeling silenced because employers don’t believe that they have the years of experience to make big decisions (caused by reverse ageism stereotypes).
It’s important to be aware that every person, as an individual, comes from a unique background, has a unique way of looking at the world, and owns a unique way of working and innovating. Every single person, as a human being, has opinions that can change a project for the better, and change the way a company does business. If you look at every employee within a company on a human level, disregarding their age, you can make the most of a workforce – creating a plethora of exciting ideas, instead of stifling the voices of stereotyped groups.
Reverse ageism can be difficult to compete with since it is the least discussed form of ageism. However, that doesn’t make it any less difficult for the individuals affected by it.
Ways to Combat Reverse Ageism At Work By Talking to HR
It’s important to document all forms of ageism at work, even reverse ageism. In addition to documentation, an HR manager might also be able to supply advice for dealing with any ageism you are experiencing in the office.
It’s also possible that your company has ageism practices in place for when situations arise that need attention. There may be a protocol that should be followed in each situation, and an HR manager will know what that protocol is. By talking to HR, you will be able to understand how your specific company reacts to ageism.
If you find that your HR manager doesn’t have a protocol in place for ageism experiences happening in-office, you may be able to suggest that you work together to create one. Perhaps you can put a task force in place that will work with HR to develop a plan for when ageism strikes in the office. An HR manager should be receptive to this type of conversation. If they aren’t, be sure to take the conversation higher up in the organization, or speak to a mentor who can help you determine another best-course solution.
Find A Mentor
Finding a mentor will help you talk through the situations you are experiencing. It’s often a good idea to have multiple mentors of different ages, as each of your mentors will be able to supply unique advice based on their individual experiences. If you have a mentor from each age group (20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s), you will be able to get a full range of perspectives on how to deal with any ageism scenario that comes up throughout the course of your career.
Studies have also shown that by creating a multi-generational dialogue, you will be able to lessen ageism in your own experiences, and therefore transfer that non-ageist acceptance onto others that you deal with daily in your work life.
When you find a mentor group, be sure to spread the word to others that you work with. This may help them decide to find a group of mentors as well, and that will continue to lessen ageism within your workplace.
Talk to Your Boss
Your manager may have additional information about the work environment, and why you are experiencing ageism. They may be able to sit down with you and develop a course of action that will help eliminate the reverse ageism situations that you are experiencing.
Speak One-On-One With the Individuals Who Are Stereotyping You
Some individuals have a hard time thinking past their immediate stereotypes of the people that they meet. Perhaps the person who is hassling you with reverse ageism just can’t kick their initial thoughts about you or your generation. Get to know them. Ask to take them to lunches or spend time with them in one-on-one meetings. This will give them the opportunity to develop new thoughts about you – hopefully more positive ones.
Create Educational Experiences in the Office
Create opportunities for multiple generations of workers to come together and share-out their knowledge. The result will be two-fold – first you and your co-workers will get to showcase your individual knowledge, and also everyone in the office will have a chance to expand their learning.
This is a way for you to reveal that you are knowledgable in any topic that you may have experienced agism stereotypes for – perhaps you were told you couldn’t be a manager quite yet because you weren’t old enough, but if you run a workshop about how to best manages workers and it’s well-received, you may be able to eliminate that stereotype.
5 Facts About Reverse Ageism
1. Ageism laws are in place for workers over the age of 40. No current ageism laws are in place to counteract reverse ageism of employees under 40 years old.
2. Studies and polls of younger employees show that many are feeling the impact of reverse ageism, and believe that they are missing out on career advancement opportunities because of age stereotypes.
3. Reverse ageism is prevalent in presentation situations, as older employees are more often given the floor to speak. Often times nobody in the presentation room thinks twice about this since we are programmed to believe that that is just the way it should be in the office.
4. One of the pieces of advice that is most often given to employees who believe they are being stereotyped based on “younger” biases is to “dress older.”
5. Individuals experiencing reverse ageism are told to be more “ambitious” and “fight harder,” but when they do they are often penalized by their managers.