Ageism

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Is Ageism the Last Socially Acceptable Ism? A New Book Argues Yes

By Nicole Cardos
WTTW
April 25, 2019

As many as 25,000 complaints claiming age discrimination have been filed each year since 2008, according to the U.S. EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION.

That’s one of the reasons why PATTI TEMPLE ROCKS, a senior partner and head of client engagement at marketing agency ICF Next, calls ageism the last socially acceptable “ism” in our culture.

“We should talk about it. It’s the one ‘ism that will ultimately affect us all,” she said. “We’re all going to get old, were all going to age.”

Temple Rocks makes the case for increased awareness about ageism and age discrimination in her new book, I’M NOT DONE: IT’S TIME TO TALK ABOUT AGEISM IN THE WORKPLACE

The book details stories of employees in their 40s, 50s and 60s who’ve experienced ageism in the workplace, and tips for business leaders who wish to address it.

Temple Rocks joins us in discussion. 

Below, an excerpt from “I’m Not Done”

Chapter 4: The Dollars & Sense of Ageism in the Workplace

The other type of age discrimination claim turns on wrongful termination. Wrongful termination isn’t always a clearly identifiable firing or layoff. More commonly, its the “make them so miserable they will quit” approach, which I’ve discussed previously. This can take many forms, such as excluding an older worker from some meetings all of a sudden, giving younger workers plum assignments, better sales territories, or better technology, and making an older worker feel forced to accept a role that isn’t a good fit. If there is a pattern of such behavior, it can be interpreted as age discrimination.

Employers take this approach because they don’t want to fire the older worker and hope that either the older worker will solve the problem for them by quitting. Sometimes they use the “miserable job” as a place to put a worker they deem disposable. More often than not, this is an older employee. One gentleman I spoke with had this happen to him; in the back of his mind, he knew the company wanted him to leave for financial reasons, but he needed the job. As such, when he was asked to take the “miserable job,” he said yes. After many months, he asked for a change, and he was told by HR, “Well, you lasted a lot longer than we thought you would!” That was followed by HR telling him there was no other suitable role, so they would accept his resignation.

This type of ageism is often preceded by psychological damage and general diminishment of the person. Back to my ever-so-wise attorney friend Sue Ellen, who observed:

All of sudden, once-valued employees feel less valued they are forced into a role that no longer utilizes their strengths, they aren’t invited to key meetings, they are literally and figuratively being muted if not silenced, and it can become a self-defeating cycle because the natural reaction when this happens is to doubt yourself when in reality nothing has changed about your abilities as much as the organization’s natural inclination to gravitate towards the next shiny thing. And once that starts to happen to someone it can really wear them down, so this idea of leaving either voluntarily or not - starts to sound like a plausible idea.

This is essentially what is meant by the infamous phrase “put out to pasture,” and it happens much more often to older workers. They are just not involved in the way that they used to be involved, so it becomes this self-defeating cycle of yuck. Because if you’re not in the thick of things, your opinions are not going to be as well-informed. Then when you do get the chance to participate or give an opinion, it might not be as savvy or as spot-on as it used to be because you have started to doubt yourself and your ability to deliver value.

As humans, we are at our happiest when we feel involved, valued, and needed. When you no longer feel that in your workplace, particularly as an older worker who has been invested in a career for 30 or 40 years, it feels almost like a loss of identity. It’s almost like the stories you hear of one spouse dying followed quickly by the other. And after interviewing dozens of people, I can confirm that it hurts. A lot. Their hurt was palpable in each and every one of my interviews.

It’s a real ego blow to be treated this way. It’s hurtful. These are people who have spent most of their careers being highly valued, and then they all of a sudden get to a place where they start to wonder, when did I become invisible?

I think that’s partly why I opted to move on when I experienced this myself. I got some really good advice from a senior-level recruiter who I’ve known for a long time: he said, “The minute it [staying in the job] starts to erode your self-confidence, you have to get out of there.”

“I’m blessed with a fair degree of self-confidence, and it’s a lot easier for me than I think it is for a lot of people. I was also in a position where I could quitthat’s not true for everyone.”

Age discrimination also takes a heavier toll than other forms of discrimination on the health of victims. Boomers who want to keep working often need the income and health insurance that comes with full-time employment. Taking that away from them places a greater burden on public resources. In a statistic that shocked and horrified me, according to the AARP, those who lose their jobs past age 58 are at the greatest health risk, and on average, lose three years of life expectancy if they dont find another job.

A work study conducted by AARP in 2017 found that age is the leading reason for negative treatment by an employer. Participants were asked: “Thinking about how you are personally treated in the workplace, would you say the following generally caused your employer to treat you better, worse or no differently: age, race/ ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, veteran status? Notably, age was the leading reason, and it was nearly double race and more than double gender. This underscores the negative psychological and physical effects experienced by older workers subject to age discrimination.

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Has the Law Evolved Enough To Combat Pervasive Age Discrimination?
While #MeToo has become a large focus in corporate America, the law surrounding age discrimination and the HURDLES TO LITIGATION are largely ignored.

By Kathryn Barcroft
Law Dot Com
September 11, 2019

Activist organizations have been hard at work studying the pervasiveness of age discrimination in corporate America and have noted the difficult legal standards to prove it, which leave many workers without options in the workplace after a certain age. While #MeToo has become a large focus in corporate America, the law surrounding age discrimination and the hurdles to litigation are largely ignored. The issue is of particular importance as employees are living longer and choose or need to work later in life, rather than having the means to retire with a sizeable pension. The realities of age discrimination are a real concern for all races and genders in the workforce as they plan their careers and are sometimes illegally forced to leave a company due to age discrimination.

Ageism is a worldwide problem that can affect the employment status of older workers. The issue has garnered the attention of the World Health Organization (WHO), an organization that has noted in relation to their upcoming study on ageism that “age discrimination is an incredibly prevalent and insidious problem.” Paula Spain, Ageism: A Prevalent and Insidious Health Threat, New York Times (April 26, 2019). Further, unlike other forms of discrimination - [it] is socially accepted and usually unchallenged, because of its largely implicit and subconscious nature. Alana Officer and VԢnia de la Fuente-Nuez, A global campaign to combat ageism, World Health Organization (March 9, 2018). A full report on WHO’s findings is anticipated in 2020.

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“Astonishing Statistic” In New Workhuman Employee Survey, What Is Driving Discrimination

By Sheila Callaham - Contributor Diversity & Inclusion
Forbes
September 4, 2019

Today the Workhuman Analytics & Research Institute released its 2019 INTERNATIONAL EMPLOYEE SURVEY REPORT on factors contributing to job satisfaction, flight risk and emotional engagement. The institute collaborates with leaders in the human resources industry and global research experts to publish original research on current trends that affect and influence the employee experience, culture management, and leadership. The eleventh deployment since its launch in 2011, feedback was comprised of 3,573 randomly selected fully employed individuals in the U.S., U.K, Canada and Ireland.

While many of the responses were consistent with trending, one new finding is profound. The survey reports that one in four workers (26%) have felt discriminated against over the course of their career. When asked the main reason for feelings of discrimination, more than half (52%) cited age. Other factors included gender identity (30%), race (29%), political views (20%) and sexual orientation (9%).

Ageism and age discrimination have grown over the last five years to take the top spot for discrimination in the workplace. “That is just an astonishing statistic,” said Eric Mosley, CEO and Cofounder of WORKHUMAN (formerly known as Globoforce), whose mission it is to help forward-thinking companies energize their cultures, unlock their employees passion and potential and unite their workforce around a shared purpose.

“We weren’t surprised that workers want meaningful work, compensation and perks and to feel appreciated for their contributions. We weren’t surprised about discrimination in the workplace, especially around gender inequity. But it is alarming to know that age is the number one reason why more than half of those reporting feel discriminated against.”
- Eric Mosley, CEO and Cofounder, Workhuman

Mosley believes that people are more willing to speak about ageism in the workplace now than ever before, which is exactly what is needed to instigate change. “Publicizing ageism is a good thing because getting these issues out into the open and giving them a little bit of oxygen, will hopefully move the ball forward in redressing”, said Mosley.

The report also cites toxic work culture (40%) as the top reason for employees feeling unsafe at work. Mosley suggests distrust, discrimination and negativity create an environment where people don’t trust each other, their managers or their leadership. “Research shows that with increased recognition, appreciation and gratitude, civility increases. And when civility increases, toxicity is reduced.”

Finally, gender inequities continue to pervade organizations with men being twice as likely to be in a senior management or executive role. Moreover, more than half of women in middle and front-line management positions say a manager has taken credit for their work. And one in three women surveyed has experienced some form of discrimination.

On the positive side, the report indicates the most important factor in people’s careers is finding meaningful work. On the downside, certain segments of the workforce feel discriminated against and don’t get the credit they deserve.

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