Ageism in the workplace, also known as age bias, is when people discriminate against their colleagues and other professionals because of their age. 

Ageism takes various forms—it can happen to both younger and older people in the workplace.

Ageism is founded on a belief in age-related stereotypes, such as older professionals being less productive and unable to adapt to new technologies, or younger professionals being less motivated. 

The belief in these kinds of stereotypes has a damaging effect on companies and their culture.

What are some examples of ageism in the workplace?

Ageism can appear in different forms, both subtle and obvious. Some age bias examples include:

  • Excluding professionals from training opportunities, raises, and promotions because of their age
  • Only firing older professionals
  • Refusing to hire qualified candidates for a job opening because of their age 
  • Using language in job postings that discourages people from certain age groups from applying 
  • Making offensive jokes and remarks about someone’s age
  • Treating professionals who speak up against ageism badly (known as victimization)
  • Assuming an older person doesn’t have the skills to handle a task because it involves new technology
  • Overlooking team members for challenging projects because they’re “too young” or “too old” 
  • Leaving professionals out of important meetings and decisions or excluding them from work gatherings because of their age
  • Encouraging a professional to retire
  • Criticizing an older, or younger, professional more than other team members when they make similar mistakes

Why should avoiding ageism be part of your HR strategy?

Discrimination of any kind in the workplace can only harm the success and reputation of a company. 

Ageism is no exception. 

A workplace that promotes DEI&B and is free from ageism not only gains the favor of its people but also increases retention rates—reducing turnover costs. 

Research shows that a diverse and inclusive workplace yields greater revenue growth too. 

By creating a strategy to avoid ageism, you’ll ensure that your workplace is more productive, engaged, and innovative with better decision-making. 

That’s because you’ll have a great balance between generations; this gives you a broad range of perspectives and skills that sets your company up for long-term success.

How can you prevent ageism in the workplace?

To prevent ageism in the workplace, you can:

  • Look at your DEI&B metrics to thoroughly assess your company’s situation. You can use a DE&I dashboard to examine HR data and identify which areas arebeing influenced by age bias, if any.
  • Examine company policies and practices to make sure that they’re inclusive.
  • Establish policies against ageism which clearly outline how team members should deal with its various forms at work.
  • Provide training for hiring managers and supervisors to prevent age bias in hiring. 
  • Avoid age-related language in job postings.
  • Ensure that promotions, raises, and training opportunities are equally available to all qualified professionals.
  • Make everyone feel included at work gatherings and in team-building sessions.
  • Create flexible work arrangements for older professionals. 
  • Break down stereotypes by encouraging intergenerational mentoring. This will allow older and younger team members to learn from each other and create strong working relationships.

How does ageism influence company culture?

Age bias in the workplace has a negative influence on company culture

Professionals won’t feel that their company cares for them, so there’ll be less job satisfaction, productivity, and engagement.

Ageism creates an atmosphere of resentment with low morale and less company loyalty too. People won’t want to stay for long in an environment that isn’t supportive and inclusive, meaning turnover rates will increase.

This can create a negative feedback loop, since the constant loss of younger or older professionals will hinder productivity and increase age-related stereotypes.

Ageism creates a stagnant work environment that is resistant to change. It limits diverse thinking and stops a company from embracing new challenges and opportunities. That means less innovation and creativity, which are essential for the long-term success of a company.