Ageism in the Workplace

Ageism in the Workplace: Addressing the Elephant in the Room

Do you know what ageism in the workplace is?

As more baby boomers reach retirement age, it’s important to take a closer look at ageism in the workplace. Ageism refers to discrimination against individuals based on their age and is a form of prejudice that seniors face in the workforce. Aging is often viewed negatively, with stereotypes that portray seniors as being slow, unproductive, and lacking in technology skills.

These ideas are far from the truth and can cause significant harm to seniors in the workplace. In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the ways ageism impacts the workplace and how companies can take action to combat it.

Ageism is Age Discrimination

Studies have shown that ageism is a real problem in the workforce. According to a 2018 AARP study, nearly two in three workers report age-related discrimination, and 92 percent believe that it is common. Ageism can take many forms, including being passed over for promotions, being let go from a job, or being denied employment altogether. Ageism can also lead to a toxic work environment, where older workers feel unwelcome. It can also lead to a decrease in self-esteem, loss of confidence, and even depression for seniors in the workforce.

One of the biggest misconceptions about seniors in the workplace is that they aren’t tech-savvy. While it’s true that technology has changed rapidly in recent years, it’s unfair to assume that older workers can’t keep up. Many seniors are adapting to this new reality and are staying up-to-date with the latest technology. In fact, according to a study by the Pew Research Center, seniors today are more digitally connected than ever before. Companies should provide training and opportunities for seniors to learn and keep up with advancements in technology.

Another way companies can combat ageism is by offering flexible work arrangements. For many seniors, retirement isn’t an option, whether it’s for financial reasons or because they want to continue working. Companies should offer flexible work arrangements, such as part-time schedules, remote work, or job-sharing. Providing these options can help older workers remain in the workforce longer and can be beneficial for companies as well, as older workers often have years of experience and knowledge to share.

It’s also essential for companies to create a culture that values and respects workers of all ages. This can be done by promoting inter-generational collaboration, investing in diversity and inclusion training, and recognizing the contributions of older workers. Companies should also avoid using language that reinforces negative stereotypes about seniors and recognize the unique skills and perspectives that they bring to the table.

Workers of all age groups

Examples of Ageism in the Workplace and How to Overcome Them

Ageism is particularly common in workplaces, and it can manifest in a variety of ways, including the allocation of work, recruitment, and promotion decisions. The impact of ageism can be far-reaching, leading to fewer job opportunities, limited career progression, reduced wages, and even low morale. Next, we will highlight examples of ageism in the workplace and offer tips on how to combat these unfair practices.

Job Advertisements for Younger Employees:

One of the earliest instances of ageism in the workplace is job adverts. Some employers use phrase such as ‘preferably looking for someone young’’’. Such phrases not only violate anti-discrimination laws but also discourage workers of a specific age group from applying. In addition, some employers may covertly specify age or have gender-coded language which discourage people from applying for certain roles.

Promotion & Career Opportunities:

Age bias in the workplace often manifests in career advancement opportunities. Despite their abilities, older workers may find it difficult to get a promotion or even be considered for bigger opportunities.

Younger workers may also experience the same bias, often being labeled as inexperienced, when in fact, they are qualified for a particular role. This form of ageism presumes that job performance is entirely based on age, and not on merits.

Allocation of Work:

Younger workers taking over work that older individuals can do is another example of ageism in the workplace. Workers are assigned tasks based on assumptions about their age and capabilities. For instance, if an organization has a new office technology system, there is a preference to assign responsibility to a younger employee, instead of an older employee with years of experience who may need minor training.

In such cases, prejudices about age and the presumed flexibility of younger workers are held as the stronger indicators for success, ignoring expertise, knowledge, and carpentry.

Less Training and Development Opportunity for Older Workers

Organizations that do not invest in training and development programs for older employees are engaging in bias against individuals because of their age. Ageism in the workplace is also exhibited when skill-based development and training opportunities are offered primarily to younger employees.

Such discrimination becomes more pronounced as employees get older, and the tendency to stereotype and discriminate against older workers rises significantly.

Harassment and Bullying:

Harassment borne because of age is often referred to as bullying when it occurs in the workplace. Older workers may be victimized, ridiculed, or teased by younger employees because of their age. Similarly, younger employees can also be bullied by older managers or colleagues who are threatened by their skills and abilities.

Ageism in the workplace can have severe consequences like negative impact on work culture and lower employee retention rates, depriving organizations of valuable human resources. Employees need to actively call out and challenge age discrimination, starting from the most minor instances to the most flagrant. Employers, on the other hand, should make a conscious effort to create a culture that is free from age bias to ensure an inclusive workplace environment.

Most adults have experienced age discrimination

The Three Types of Ageism

Most hiring managers and HR professionals would tell you that there is no ageism in their company, but reality isn’t this straightforward. It’s possible for age discrimination to go completely unnoticed. The World Health Organization (WHO) divides ageism into several layers: how we think (stereotypes), how we feel (prejudices), and how we act toward others or even ourselves (discrimination) because of age.

Although ageism is commonly known, many people aren’t aware that ageism manifests in three different forms. These three types of ageism create unequal opportunities and impede equal treatment for older adults. Lastly, we will describe each type of ageism and discuss how to recognize it.

Personal Ageism

Personal ageism is when someone views aging in a negative light due to media outlets’ portrayal of older adults, developing negative stereotypes, or experiences with older people who were not kind or generous. Personal ageism is evident when a younger person ignores an elderly person or even refuses to sit beside them.

Ageism also happens when an adult discriminates against older people simply because they’ve grown old, saying they are no longer useful to society. This type of ageism isn’t solely based on facts but instead on the person’s perception of aging. It can be challenging to recognize and could come in the form of jokes and humorous insults. Preventing it would require self-awareness and an effort to understand old age.

Institutional Ageism

Institutional ageism means that an entire establishment or organization discriminates based on age. This type of ageism limits the choices and opportunities of older people from housing, business, educational institutions, healthcare services, and employment. For example, some workplaces might avoid hiring older applicants and instead prefer younger ones.

Other establishments might make products that cater to younger people rather than the needs of seniors. The root of institutionalized ageism is the widespread belief that older people are no longer productive and are just a financial burden on society. Understanding and educating society that the elderly are still capable, valuable members of society can help prevent Institutional Ageism.

Interpersonal Ageism

Interpersonal Ageism occurs when an individual intentionally or unintentionally insults, discriminates, or stereotypes a senior individual. The type of ageism can apply to how older people are portrayed in movies, TV shows, or literature. Furthermore, when a healthcare professional assumes that they can’t understand what an older person is going through and depletes them of their feelings, that gives rise to Intergenerational Ageism.

A physician, nurse, or healthcare provider’s attitude can impact an older person’s willingness to seek care when they need it. To counteract intergenerational ageism, there should be efforts to include seniors in decision-making processes to show their experiences are valued, and measures should be put in place to provide better healthcare to older adults.

Age discrimination continues to exist, and the three types of ageism do not only limit the opportunities of older adults but also affect the way people perceive old age. Recognizing the types of ageism is essential to ensure that the elderly are treated equally and receive the care and respect they deserve. As younger generations become the elderly in society and take on leadership roles, they should remember that nobody knows how they will age, and it is best to treat the elderly with kindness, compassion, and understanding.

Stereotyping and discrimination will only continue to perpetuate the stigma of old age. Age is a natural part of life, and we must equip ourselves with fairness and inclusivity in everything we do.

Inclusion illustration


In conclusion, ageism in the workplace is a real issue that needs to be addressed. Companies must take action to create a more inclusive workplace that values and respects workers of all ages. Luckily, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) is in place, but its not always followed. By providing training, implementing flexible work arrangements, and promoting a culture of diversity and inclusion, companies can help combat ageism and create a more equitable workplace. It’s time to address the elephant in the room and ensure that older workers are valued, respected, and included in the workforce.

Global Solutions

To conclude, creating a workplace free of discrimination is essential in order to promote a healthy and productive environment for all employees. Global Solutions has set forth these policies and ensure that ageism, among other forms of prejudice, does not become an accepted norm in the workplace. This highlights their commitment to creating an atmosphere of inclusion and fairness regardless of age or any other factor.

Ultimately, it is crucial that more organizations take steps to create no age based discrimination and safe environments and to create equal opportunities for employees from all walks of life. If we want our global workplaces to become truly equitable and diverse, then we must actively address ageism before it becomes ingrained in our societies’ attitudes. Let us all work together toward building a brighter future for us all by embracing each other’s differences and celebrating our unique strengths!