Is ageism just poor communication?

You might expect because we live in a culture that is more accepting of people of all sexes, nationalities, sexuality and religions than ever before that technically speaking, age should be no different right? Wrong.

Stereotypical ageism is short-sighted and dangerous on many levels. At the very least, it can lead to a minefield of poor productivity, absenteeism or even litigation, simply because of a lack of understanding and communication.

We are increasingly aware of how changes in demographics can affect the workforce. People are now living longer than ever and need to continue to earn in order to finance their later years accordingly. For any business, this should come as good news, as longevity has its benefits – low turnover, reliability and dedicated employees! So much experience to hand is a huge asset for any company on many levels. An older employee may give clients/ customers the feeling of being more experienced and therefore better at handling problems.

At the other end of the scale, it can also be a difficult job to instill loyalty and to keep young people engaged and enthused. Many seem to commit to a role for a short period of time before moving on, without giving much thought to the implications and the company’s time spent devoted to their training. Or is that a stereotype too? It’s not just our older members of the workforce who face ageism.

So what do we know about young people of this generation? Evidently, they are serious and eager to do well. They show focus, ambition and willing to put in the graft, but there is a sense of urgency to achieve each stage at lightning speed in order to reach the top. When I think back to my 20’s, our outlook was very different and we certainly didn’t possess the same drive as young people have today. What we find now in today’s 20 year olds, is the enormous pressure that is put on their shoulders to do well and achieve in their education. On the other hand it’s true to say young adults today are undoubtedly more privileged compared to years gone by which may mean they are less tenacious, leaving them less resilient and more exposed?

Most importantly though it is a common misconception that each generation of 20, 30, 40 year olds and so on are the same and it gives out the wrong message and breeds poor communication. When we recognise this, we are more likely to understand the foundations of everyone’s profiles and appreciate them for who they are irrespective of age. Communication between colleagues will improve, giving the workforce as a whole more consistency and respect for one another. No matter how old we are.

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