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What were you thinking?

 

A survey exploring the attitudes and experiences of ageism, as seen from the

perspective of young people, uncovered a surprising array of examples.

Age-related discrimination against young people in the workplace sometimes

involved inappropriate behaviour by older supervisors/managers and

colleagues. Bad management practices or policies could lead to younger

people being deliberately or inadvertently disadvantaged.

“In everyday situations, you’re patronised a bit, like ‘young girl’,

‘sweetheart’, ‘good girl’. Not just by managers but from people who’ve

been there longer than you.”

“They don’t like giving a salaried position out to younger people, they

prefer it if you’re over 21. Once you’re salaried you’re paid for holidays

and you’re basically looked after better.”

School leavers, especially those with few or no qualifications, appeared most

likely to experience age discrimination at work. New to the world of work, they

were often less confident. They were more likely to be given the least

rewarding, most menial jobs and sometimes found it hard to get training or more

worthwhile experience.

In general, younger people with A-levels were less likely to be subjected to age

discrimination than 16-year-old school leavers. This group had rather more

employment options available to them.

Graduates and non-graduates aged between 24 and 30 tended to be more

mature and confident; they were thus less vulnerable to being pushed around,

teased or exploited at work. Again, many of these older respondents, having

established themselves in work, were less likely to report instances of age

discrimination.

Age discrimination could occur in the recruitment specifications of job

advertisements. These could use well-recognized phrases such as ‘bright young

school leaver’ or ‘mature personality’ to indicate employers’ age

requirements.

“My boss on reception looks specifically for younger people because

they’re cheaper.”

“Quite a few employers who want a secretary or a PA might say ‘I want a

young thing’ and that effectively means a young, attractive girl.”

“I think the salary they were offering me was what they thought they could

get away with because of my age and because of my situation.”

Giving age as a reason for not employing someone was sometimes seen as

kinder than pointing out a candidate’s lack of suitability for the job on grounds of

personality and maturity.

“Giving age as a reason would be an obvious choice, wouldn’t it?

Nobody wants to think they didn’t get the job because they weren’t

good enough.”

Examples of obvious ageism included stipulating minimum ages in job

advertisements and using age as a criterion for limiting access to promotion and

occupational pension schemes. However, this was seen as acceptable if

justifiable or required by law.

Instances of less obvious ageism included using ‘coded’ phrases in job



advertisements and linking promotion to length of service rather than ability to do

the job. Concealed ageism could be deliberate, for example when older staff or

managers knowingly treat a younger employee differently; it could also be

inadvertent when older staff or managers were unaware that they were treating

younger workers differently.

These forms of ‘hidden’ discrimination were seen to be much harder to

overcome because they were a lot less obvious.

By far the most widespread form of age-related discrimination was ‘petty’

ageism. This often took the form of patronizing remarks, observations and jokes

made at younger people’s expense and often reflected a lack of

sensitivity to their feelings.

“You’re always going to be on the back foot. You get the mickey taken out

of you, lots of pranks. Some of the older blokes on the shop floor got me

wrapped up in cling film so I couldn't move.”

“When I was doing apprentice printing everybody was like 30 and older

and I was like 16, and everybody was kind of down on top of me

constantly, like ‘you’re not doing that, you’ll do this’.”

On a more positive note, younger workers observed that older colleagues were

sometimes useful sources of advice and guidance. There was also a feeling that

older colleagues were usually not as competitive as some of their younger

counterparts. These qualities meant that older people could provide an

invaluable mentoring role in the workplace.

“The people I work with, they go from 16 to late 50s which I enjoy. I like

working with the older ones rather than the younger ones because there’s

a lot of bitchiness I find in the younger, it’s very ‘catty’, I find.”

“The older ones give you more back. They know the problems if you’ve

worked through it, then you understand the job in its entirety. They can

appreciate what you’re going through.”

Evidence like this shows that measures to tackle age discrimination in the

workplace have the potential to be successful.


Date: 2015-02-16; view: 383


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