How to Fight Back Against Ageism in the Workplace
A hidden discrimination that should be faced and changed
The sneaky bias of ageism pervades many aspects of our society, including at work. Writer Charlie Fletcher suggests concrete ways to fight ageism in the workplace.
As the baby boomer generation continues to get older, studies have shown that workers age 55 and over will make up 25% of the workforce by 2024. Unfortunately, research trends also show that older employees aren’t always given the support and resources they need to improve their career development for years to come.
That includes everything from training and equipment to individual attention.
This is called ageism, and it’s far too common in the American workplace. It can lead to feelings of isolation and make you feel underappreciated at your job.
If you’ve experienced ageism already, or you’re worried that it might impact you as you continue to get older in your career, there are things you can do to fight back against it. Let’s cover a few ideas you can use to stand your ground in your career, no matter your age.
Talk to Your Employers
Despite the fact that the older population will soon make up one-quarter of the workplace, you might find yourself working for a boss or manager younger than you. The good news? Studies have shown that workers 55 and older are the most comfortable having a younger boss. You can fight back against the stereotypes of generation gaps by talking to your employers about your concerns.
If you’ve experienced ageism or discrimination in the workplace, give examples. Some of the most common ones include:
- Age-related insults
- The company only hiring younger employees
- Getting turned down for a promotion for no reason
- Getting encouraged to retire
It can help to keep a log of these instances so you can share specific examples with your employers and explain why each behavior is inappropriate. Having notes available will also make it easier to stay focused on the issue at hand and reach a solution faster.
You might even consider talking to your employer about working remotely. It can get you out of a “toxic” environment if you’re struggling with co-workers, and can even offer more flexibility if you’re willing to educate yourself on remote options and collaborate with others online.
File a Complaint
While speaking with your employers is the best place to start, it, unfortunately, isn’t always effective. If nothing changes within your workplace, it’s absolutely your prerogative to leave the job.
However, that isn’t an option for everyone. If you’re not yet ready to retire and you need the income, you might want to consider filing a formal complaint against your company.
The anti-ageism movement has begun. More people are starting to recognize that not only are there many advantages to older people in the workplace, but that treating an employee differently because of age is just as unethical as treating someone differently because of race or religion.
Not sure how to get started with a complaint? Contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or visit their website to get more details about filing a charge.
Whether you eventually decide to leave your job or you’re waiting for your complaint to go through, the best thing you can do if you experience age discrimination in the workplace is to take care of yourself. Even if you’re getting micromanaged every day and you’re dealing with personal criticisms about your age, fighting back against stress in the workplace is crucial.
Managing stress at work can include setting boundaries, having one-on-one meetings with your managers, and taking breaks frequently. Know your position and what’s expected of you, and don’t feel pressured to go beyond that just because you’re “scared” of being fired or let go because of your age.
Everyone has their own way to practice self-care outside of the workplace. However, if you’re not sure how to get started, consider some of the following ideas:
- Cook a healthy meal
- Read a book
- Practice mindfulness or meditation
Find what works for you and devote at least a few minutes each day to reducing your stress. You won’t have to be in this position forever, and you might be surprised that more people are willing to fight back against ageism than you think. Don’t be afraid to speak up and stand your ground for a career you’re dedicated to.
Charlie Fletcher is a freelance writer from the lovely “city of trees” – Boise, Idaho. Her love of writing pairs with her passion for social activism and search for the truth. You can find more of her writing on her Contently.