Heather Huhman | , ,| By
As more Millennials enter the workforce and more Baby Boomers try to hold on to their jobs, age discrimination continues to be a problem.
Generation bias occurs at both ends of the spectrum. Both employees in their 20s and employees in their 50s (and older) are discriminated against because of their age for a variety of reasons.
I’ll never forget the moment in my career when I was a victim of age discrimination because I was too young. I was working at a public relations agency and was going above and beyond for one of my clients. However, as soon as the client discovered my young age, I was removed immediately from the account — and my boss didn’t think twice about the decision.
Generation bias stems from age discrimination and is a serious problem. By now, most generations have received a variety of stereotypes because of misconceptions about their behaviors, work ethic, and habits. Some employers may view their Millennial employees as lazy or selfish. On the flip side, many employers view this young generation as a huge asset because of their innovation and tech-savviness.
Baby Boomers also carry some stereotypes in today’s workplace. Since Millennials are entering managerial roles at work, there’s often a clash between the two generations. Baby Boomers are sometimes viewed to be “old school” or stuck in their ways. However, Baby Boomers have just as much experience, skill, and talent to offer as the Millennial generation. In fact, many employers have a more positive perspective toward older employees, too.
4 Ways to Remove Generation Bias in the Workplace
To create an inclusive workplace, employers need to commit to removing generation bias. Millennials and Baby Boomers both have their strengths and weaknesses, yet these factors shouldn’t serve as a basis for discrimination in the workplace. If you’re an employer who hires both Millennials and Baby Boomers, here are some tips for removing generation bias in the workplace:
Remove your expectations.
Think of every stereotype you’ve heard about each generation. Now forget about them.
These stereotypes are toxic in the workplace and they prevent employers from creating an inclusive culture.
The expectations society has created for different generations prevents employers from managing their employees fairly. For example, a manager may favor an older employee because they feel he or she is more mature and loyal. On the other hand, a manager could choose to hire a younger candidate over an older candidate because the younger individual has potential to stay with the employer longer.
If you’re working with Millennials and Baby Boomers, you must forget about what you’ve heard about their generations. Every employee, regardless of their age, is a unique individual and has something offer. You have to be willing to have an open mind and treat every employee with the same respect and attitude.
Focus on results.
It’s tempting to base an employee’s value on their solely on their length of time with your company or their ability to develop new skills. However, when you’re looking at Millennials and Baby Boomers, they both have a wide variety of skills on different ends of the spectrum — regardless of how fresh or old their skills are.
If you really want to gauge your employees’ value and success, focus on the results they bring to the table. Your best employees will help your company accomplish its goals and be a positive contribution to the workplace.
Measuring results through success can help you find out if an employee is struggling to create results. This gives you the opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with him or her to help overcome the challenge. Sometimes employees (regardless of their age) need specific training or an opportunity to develop new skills.
Remember, your employees have different interests.
This applies across the board to all of your employees. When managing different generations in the workplace, you’ll need to remember that your employees will often be at different stages in their careers.
For example, a younger employee will likely be concerned about launching their career, whereas an older employee will be focused on preparing for retirement. It’s important to keep your employees’ goals in mind when managing different generations because it will impact the opportunities you can provide for them.
Keep every employee engaged.
Now, this might take some extra work on your part, but it will definitely pay off in the long run. Employee engagement is a problem employers face every day. With 70 percent of U.S. workers not being engaged at work, it’s important to be aware of factors that could increase this disengagement.
Age discrimination often creates a barrier between employers and employee engagement. For example, companies who focus on Millennial development end up alienating older workers. This would cause older employees to become disengaged at work and even leave to find a new opportunity.
As an employer, it should be your goal to develop an employment engagement strategy that prevents age discrimination. Engage every employee by giving them the equal opportunity for growth, development, and recognition. This will help you create a positive work environment that’s inclusive of all generations.
Each generation is unique and has something to offer. Removing generation bias from the workplace means being able to look at your employees as individuals and not as specific generations. Age discrimination is real and it can have a negative impact in the workplace. The last thing you want is to lose a valuable employee because of a decision you made based upon age.
Do you think age discrimination is a problem in the workplace? How do you think employers can remove generation bias at work?