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  • Writer's pictureRalph Kellogg

Beyond Birthdays – Tactics to Combat Ageism in the Workplace

As a 50-something GenX'r, I can tell you that I do not feel old.

Yes, I have gray hair (it makes me look distinguished), use glasses to read (they make me look smart), and am not all that fond of driving at night (I’m in bed by 9 pm) …but if you asked me if I felt old, I would reply, "NO!"

As someone who works in the Human Capital and People Leadership space, I recognize things I have not been exposed to, learned, or fully embraced – maybe I am a bit of a curmudgeon, but I am not old.

People younger than me have taken slight jabs regarding my age. I have received remarks about my ability to keep up with pop culture; I am a self-professed Swifty, using most technology without an issue, and my desire to continuously learn. Generally, I take the comments in stride or reply with a quick remark about being wiser and having better car insurance (an ode to the movie Fried Green Tomatoes).

But ageism is nothing to joke about, and it can certainly wreak havoc on one's self-esteem. This is especially true when recognize that you are active, vital, and have so much to contribute.

Here are some ideas and tips I use to combat ageism – not every suggestion is full proof, but the ideas can help create a road map should you encounter ageism in the workplace.

1. Stay Current and Relevant:

  • Continuously update your skills and knowledge to stay relevant in your field.

  • Embrace new technologies and trends to demonstrate adaptability.

2. Highlight Achievements:

  • Showcase your accomplishments and contributions at work.

  • Use concrete examples to demonstrate your skills and value to the organization.

3. Network and Mentor:

  • Build relationships across different age groups within the organization and your community.

  • Offer mentorship to younger colleagues or seek mentorship from more experienced individuals.

4. Emphasize Collaboration:

  • Don't be that person who says, "This is how we've always done it." You don't know everything, but guess what? Neither do your colleagues, so collaborate and work together to find a solution.

  • Demonstrate your ability to work effectively with colleagues of all ages.

5. Promote Inclusivity:

  • Encourage a workplace culture that values diversity and inclusion.

  • Advocate for inclusive hiring practices and policies.

6. Challenge Stereotypes:

  • Address age-related stereotypes by showcasing your unique skills and experiences.

  • Educate colleagues about the value of diverse perspectives and contributions.

7. Seek Feedback:

  • Request feedback on your performance regularly to identify areas for improvement.

  • Use feedback to make positive changes and show a commitment to professional growth.

8. Continuous Learning:

  • Demonstrate a willingness to learn and adapt by participating in training programs.

  • Pursue professional development opportunities to enhance your skills.

9. Build a Strong Personal Brand:

  • Develop a positive and professional personal brand that transcends age stereotypes.

10. Be Assertive and Proactive:

  • Advocate for yourself and express your desire for challenging assignments.

  • Take the initiative to lead projects or propose innovative ideas.

11. Know Your Rights:

  • Be aware of and understand your rights regarding age discrimination in the workplace.

  • Consult your organization's policies and procedures for addressing bias.

12. Promote Age Diversity:

  • Advocate for age diversity in the workplace and participate in diversity and inclusion initiatives.

13. Educate Others:

  • Share information about the benefits of a multigenerational workforce with colleagues and leadership.

14. Stay Positive and Resilient:

  • Maintain a positive attitude and resilience in the face of challenges.

  • Focus on your strengths and contributions.

The "old" adage that age is just a number is true, and having tactics in place to remind people of that fact gives you the chance to craft your narrative.

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