In today’s workplace, we are working with the largest number of generational cohorts all together at once in the history of working. Because we’re living longer and we like having money to do things like eat and have roofs over our heads, the average employee works way past the traditional (historical) retirement age of 65. In fact, by 2024, about 25% of the workforce is projected to be over the age of 55, which is double what it was in 1994.
We’re seeing age bias appear not only in traditional companies such as IBM, but also in startups, which tend to favor younger people over their older colleagues. Conversely, we’d be surprised if you haven’t heard anyone say “ugh, Millenials are the worst” when it comes to work ethic. Much like race and gender bias, age bias is not only quite real, but also one might argue more accepted. We rarely see people taken to task for saying that someone older might not understand new tech or for saying that younger generations complain too much. And when we take intersectionality into account and factor gender and race into to age conversation, perceptions of how people ‘are’ or ‘should be’ are magnified. Think of an older female CEO portrayed as bitchy or cruel (The Devil Wears Prada), for example.
So how do we fight our tendency to think that someone from a different generation is really very different from us? The same way we do when we think about someone who is different from us in any other way – we get to know them, have empathy, and refrain from relying on stereotypes and prejudices. Here are some practical ways you can support cross-generational team building, particularly if you are a manager of a team of people with diverse ages.
What if your team is primarily all from the same generation? Here are some tips to get you thinking about ways to bring in people from different generations:
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Watch SGO Co-Founder Felicia Jadczak and SGO Director of Business Development share their thoughts on age and gender discrimination in the workplace.
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