HR Challenge: Both Ageism and Youngism are Forms of Discrimination at the Workplace!

What are Ageism and Youngism and Why They Matter to America Inc?

Of late, there has been much discussion about how the Ageing Boomers are retiring, or on the verge of retirement, while younger Gen Zers are entering the post pandemic workforce, while the Millennials are settling into managerial positions.

These workforce trends are indicative of a “generational change” happening across America Inc, which is both momentous and once in a blue moon shift.

However, the flip side of this “upheaval” at workplaces across the United States are newer forms of discrimination against both older and younger workers and professionals.

The terms used to describe this are Ageism and Youngism. The former relates to discrimination against older workers whereas the latter refers to discrimination against younger workers.

Both are manifestations of harassment and violation of individual rights and so, the HR or Human Resource challenge is to combat them, if not prevent such discrimination, lest the workplace turns toxic.

Indeed, Ageism and Youngism are directed more at Boomers and women professionals respectively, thereby accentuating existing faultlines in discriminatory behavior against these categories of professionals.

How do Ageism and Youngism manifest themselves in the workplace? Some Covert Forms of Discrimination

Let us take some real world examples. Often, older workers are derided as “waiting for a retirement package” or as individuals who are whiling away their time before they retire.

They are often excluded from participating in Water Cooler discussions and informal office lunches and the like.

The clear implication here is that “their time’s up” and so, they are of no value to their coworkers and the organization in general.

Indeed, Ageism is so rampant in America Inc, especially with Millions of Boomers retiring that concerned business leaders are urging against such discrimination.

Youngism, on the other hand, manifests through patriarchal notions of the “right age” for responsibilities and often, younger workers are excluded from “serious” discussions because they are “too young”.

In our working experience, we have been told multiple times not to ask questions about coworkers or organizational issues, just because we are still “greenhorns” or novices.

Instances of Ageism and Youngism That Are More Overt and Damaging to America Inc

While these are instances of rather benign discrimination, there are other serious forms if Ageism and Youngism which we will discuss in the next section.

For instance, Ageism can manifest during Appraisals, when older workers are denied pay hikes or bonuses because they are “unfit” for the job or the role.

They can also remain stagnant in their current positions as senior managers and executives feel that they are not “valuable” anymore.

Such covert and overt discrimination warrants action on part of the HR as well senior execs, who must then step in to rectify the situation.

On the other hand, Youngism also is discriminatory as similar forms of discrimination can upset the younger workers and demoralize them.

Indeed, as more and more Gen Zers enter the workforce, HR and Senior execs have their task cut out to prevent Youngism from destroying an entire generation of workers.

More so, when women professionals bear the brunt of Ageism and Youngism more than their male counterparts.

Recently, the Harvard Business Review featured an article about women in senior leadership for whom there is never a “right age” or in other words, they are either too old or too young for being considered for responsibilities.

This is the HR Challenge that America Inc must confront, if corporates are to handle the post pandemic workforce challenges more effectively.

Overt Ageism and Youngism that Can Erode Organizational Efficiency and Lower Productivity

The reason why both Ageism and Youngism can lead to productivity and efficiency drops is because both older and younger workers have “more to offer” than what is thought.

For instance, older Boomers often have a “wealth of experience” whereas younger workers often are a “storehouse of knowledge” which can be utilized for the benefit of the organization.

Indeed, by pairing these age cohorts, experience and knowledge can be transferred in a two way “symbiotic” exchange.

This is where the HR professionals have to step in and facilitate greater interaction and participation in organizational activities by both Boomers and Gen Zers.

For that matter, even Gen Xers and Millennials can learn a lot from the aforementioned age cohorts, thereby ensuring a workplace free of toxicity.

As it is, America Inc is “struggling” to normalize after the Pandemic and it surely cannot afford another headache in the form of Ageism and Youngism in its ranks.

Already, business leaders are voicing concern over “labor shortages” and the last thing they need is Boomers retiring prematurely or Gen Zers exiting a la The Great Resignation once again.

Ageism and Youngism are Unavoidable! High Time America Inc Learned to Manage Them

Inter generational conflict is unavoidable in the workplaces and more so, when there is an once in a lifetime shift, like the one that America Inc is going through.

Significantly, this shift is happening when the New Normal of the Digital Age is yet to manifest fully.

So, this is like a Double Whammy of sorts for American businesses as they grapple with multiple challenges, compounded by Quiet Quitting, The Great Resignation, and Revenge Quitting.

To conclude, it is obvious that Ageism and Youngism are unavoidable. So, the key HR challenge here is to “manage and contain” them before they cause real harm to workers.

In a way, Return to Office mandates can work in favor of American corporates as they can help “bonding” between Boomers and Gen Zers.

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Human Resource Management