Discrimination against older workers is illegal. And blo.dy immoral.
Ageism is embedded and persistent in our culture because it’s built on 4 Myths. Myths that would be funny if they didn’t cause so much suffering. Unfortunately even many over 45s have come to accept them as gospel, damaging their self belief and confidence.
What are the Myths Employers Believe?
Employer Myth 1 – Older workers are less healthy so they take more sick days
No, we are actually healthier and more reliable than younger workers. Just 25% of the over 50 took sick days in the past year, versus 50% of the 20 to 29 (Australian and UK research). The Mature take their jobs more seriously as they need to hold onto them for longer, especially with the raised retirement age and COVID-19.
Younger people are more likely to fake illness because of minor ailments – and often due to late nights and hangovers. Less of a problem with us oldies! Many also feel that sick days are an entitlement, sort of like extra holidays.
Then, according to a French study, under 35s have the highest stress, the most depression and are the worst sleepers. But, whatever their reasons for taking more sick days, what matters is that the Mature shows up at work way more often.
Employer Myth 2 – We are Technophobes and resist Change
Ageism seal stamp
Let’s acknowledge two obvious facts…
Technology is now a core component of most jobs
Some Tech is second nature to Millennials, think Smartphones and Facebook
But neither fact means older workers cannot be equally skilled! In reality, the Mature are the fastest growing users of IT. Who gave us the technophobic’ label? Millennials because we don’t know how to ‘share on Facebook’ or whatever. Most of us don’t blo.dy want to!
Like everybody unfamiliar with new software, we are trainable (see Myth 4). Shame that we are given less training than the young – presumably because employers believe the Myth and see it as a waste of time. Or that we’ll be retiring soon, complete rubbish (see Myth 3).
Older workers are adaptive to change – we have experienced so much change in our lives that it has made us resilient and able to cope with it. Experience counts a lot when learning new tech – it’s the “this looks like that, and we solved that by doing…” approach to learning.
One more thing: The young are great users of smartphones and Social Networks, but rarely know much more than that. I’ve mentored hundreds over the last 15 years and know how shallow their tech knowledge is, particularly around the all important office productivity tools.
Employer Myth 3 – Our Wages are higher
Let’s start with the bleeding obvious: Workers must be paid based on their ability to do a specific job. Their experience and qualifications must be considered when setting pay, and their age is irrelevant.
They claim they are often paid more than the young in the same position is rubbish. It’s completely unsupported when experience and qualifications are taken into account. Experience + skills = productivity – age has no impact.
But here’s the real killer when it comes to relative productivity…
The over 55s are five times less likely to change jobs than the young. As you know, staff turnover costs between 4 and 18 months of their salary. When their stability is factored into productivity calculations, then the Mature are a bargain!
Employer Myth 4 – Mature workers are less Intelligent, Innovative and Creative
Again, just wrong. A study of all OECD nations concluded that verbal skills, communication and intelligence remain unchanged as a person ages. Why does this Myth persist? Probably because our short term memory often declines with age – so it takes a few seconds longer to recall some facts. This makes us appear less intelligent as we are not as snappy in meetings. Does it damage our productivity? Infinitesimally or not at all.
According to the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, all the biases we hold against the Mature are unconscious and unintentional.
However, deliberate or not, these biases damage millions of Australians – only HR and Management can stop it. Now, what are the damaging Myths Candidates believe? See our next post.
OK, do you live in Australia and have the wisdom of many years?