Age based stereotypes about people’s abilities to undertake tasks can apply to people of all generations. Age discrimination has the potential to shape how people are treated and perceived by others, limit a person’s potential and can impact on their health and wellbeing. Addressing ageism upholds a person’s rights and enables their full contribution to work and job satisfaction.
Recent research confirms that workplaces will be increasingly generationally diverse. This has the potential to amplify generational-based differences in the workplace.
Avoiding bias and stereotyping is essential to ensure that a generationally diverse workplace function well. Every employee’s contribution is valued in order to ensure effective working relationships are formed between employees from different generations.
Legislative and policy framework
Under the , age-based discrimination in the workplace is prohibited. Age discrimination in the act is defined as: a person (the discriminator) discriminates against another person (the aggrieved person) on the ground of the age of the aggrieved person if:
- the discriminator imposes, or proposes to impose, a condition, requirement or practice and
- the condition, requirement or practice is not reasonable in the circumstances and
- the condition, requirement or practice has, or is likely to have, the effect of disadvantaging persons of the same age as the aggrieved person
What does discrimination look like?
Discrimination based on age can be subtle or overt and could include situations where a person, because of their age has been:
- refused employment
- not offered or denied a promotion, transfer or other employment-related benefits
- given less favourable terms or conditions of employment
- denied equal access to training opportunities
- selected for redundancy
- scaled back work hours against employee’s wishes
- questions about retirement or an expectation that the employee will retire
- allocated menial tasks
- age-based bullying or harassment
Everyone can help build a culture that values the benefits of our intergenerational workforce. Some suggestions include:
Ensure PDPs include professional development
All employees regardless of age are entitled to opportunities for professional development.
Remember not to make assumptions about your colleagues’ skills and capabilities based on their age. Stereotypes relating to productivity and change readiness can marginalise older workers. Likewise stereotypes about younger workers attitudes towards work or workers in the ‘family rearing’ age group can be just as damaging and untrue. In fact, workers across diverse ages have many more things in common than they have that are different from each other including value positive relationships at work, job security and having stimulating work.
Listen and ensure everyone’s voice is heard
Make an effort to ensure everyone has an opportunity to contribute to team discussions and their input is valued regardless of their age or level of seniority.
Aim for a diversity of ages
When forming project or collaboration teams, interview panels and working groups, aim to have a mix of ages represented to benefit from a diversity of views and experience.
Take advantage of the skills you have across the team
Try informal mentoring between colleagues of different ages. This gives colleagues of different ages the opportunity to share their knowledge where the other may be lacking and helps to break down stereotypes.
Try stepping into the shoes of another person, understand their feelings and perspectives and use that to understand and guide your actions.
Recognise that employees of different ages may have different motivations
Depending on someone’s life stage, their motivations at work may vary between factors like income, career progression, opportunities for diverse experiences, job flexibility, values, and job satisfaction. Ensure everyone is treated equally regardless of their life stage.
Learn more about generational diversity
Reviewed 14 January 2021