The Truth about Age Discrimination in the Workplace

The Truth about Age Discrimination in the Workplace

In the age of the 21st century, the unveiling of the #MeToo movement and other forms of discrimination at work started a trending conversation. A type of discrimination that is rarely published in mainstream media is age discrimination, also known as ageism.


Who is impacted by age discrimination? The truth is professionals above the age of 35 can be rejected in some workplaces for career advancement. Age discrimination is when stereotypes of  younger or older people hinder their ability to take part in opportunities at work.  


An example is a senior that is capable of a promotion is asked by their employer to apply for an early retirement. Some people believe the older the individual, the slower it can be for them to grasp new information; as a result, there is a belief that it can slow down productivity. In contrast, age discrimination can also impact Generation Z employees that are treated unfairly by colleagues because of their lack of work experience and youth.


Age Discrimination in the Workforce


According to an AARP article, “Two out of three workers between ages 45 and 74 say they have seen or experienced age discrimination at work, and job seekers over age 35 cite it as a top obstacle to getting hired.” There are professionals over the age of 40 that remove work experience from a resume to avoid appearing ‘overqualified’ for a job. It is an unfortunate fact that some employers avoid hiring Baby Boomers for certain jobs because a high salary can be an unwanted expense.


The Fear Associated with Age Discrimination


Members of the older generations at work often feel afraid of being replaced by a younger employee. When the news that an organization will be laying off workers, the older generation often feels their job will be next. On the other side of the situation, young adults with no children or a spouse often experience job cuts when management is selecting who to fire next.


It is unfortunate that some people decide not to speak up about the matter when it appears to be a part of the workplace culture. The mindset that it is me versus the organization prevents people from addressing the issue. The sad part is this fear can motivate older workers to retire early. As a result, an organization might be missing out on the opportunity to have a team of qualified staff.


It Can be Subtle


It is beyond stereotypes at work. It can be a company’s selection of photos on job advertisements with only young adults. Some people are hesitant to apply for a company that appears to have an abundance of younger employees. Imagine how it would be working at a place where most older employees are in executive positions. The competition can appear stiff with little opportunity for advancement. In addition, an individual that is bypassed for a promotion because they are ‘too experienced’ can be a subtle sign.


What You Can Do to Avoid Age Discrimination


  • Communicate with Your Network   At all stages of life, it is the people that help us rise to the top that we need to stay in contact. For example, previous managers, colleagues or professionals at your company can potentially help you find an employer that is diversity inclusive. Networking can be as informal as meeting for coffee, lunch or dinner. The last thing you want to do is wait until there is an issue at work to start connecting with your network.
  • Turn a Hobby into a Business  Starting a business is an alternative to discrimination at work for people with an entrepreneurial spirit. It can be a part-time freelance opportunity you do at night or on the weekend from home. The good part about the ‘side gig’ economy is it can turn into a full-time business if the need for your product or service is in high demand.
  • Speak with Your Manager  If you believe there is a case that age discrimination exists at your company, speak with a direct manager about the situation first. A manager that is prepared to help will immediately address the situation to ensure the problem ends.


I recommend studying age discrimination laws in your location if the problem continues. All professionals deserve a chance for a promotion, raise or career advancement despite their age. We hope this article helps you in your career journey.


Makeda Waterman

Makeda Waterman is an online journalist with writing clips on CNBC Make It., Yahoo Finance News, Huffington Post, and, among others. She is passionate about helping people enhance their career.

We use cookies to better understand how you use our site and to provide ads and other offers that may be most relevant to you. By closing this message box or continuing to use our site, you agree to our use of cookies. To find out more, please see our Privacy Policy.