Under 40? Here’s A Workplace Threat You Should Think About

What is one workplace threat that every employees under 40 should think about? The same threat facing every employee over 40.


Ageism results from bias, stereotypes and assumptions. It occurs whenever age is used to diminish the competency and capability of another.

Not only are people living longer, they want to work longer to build adequate retirement savings to support their longevity. The EEOC reports that 67% of workers aged 40-65 plan to continue to work after they turn 66.

Unfortunately, workplace longevity is not keeping pace with aging demographics. Blame ageism for that. Sixty percent of older employees report experiencing or observing age discrimination and almost 95% say it is common. In the tech industry, 70% have experienced or witnessed age discrimination.

When people think of ageism, they generally think of its impact on people over 50. In reality, age bias can negatively impact people of all ages. This is one of the most pressing reasons why ageism must be addressed collectively. Otherwise, older people will continue to feel the brunt of discrimination, and younger people will age into it again.

Signs of Workplace Ageism

For older workers, it’s all too obvious. They are overlooked for continued advancement, left out of training and development opportunities and made redundant at much higher rates than younger employees. Older workers are sometimes bullied and taunted, as demonstrated in this egregious lawsuit against Mattel.

But for younger workers, what may seem acceptable circumstances may be unfair and inequitable treatment. Are younger workers paid less for doing the same work as older employees? Are younger workers expected to be available for longer hours or on weekends without added pay? Are younger workers vying for a promotion told they need “x” years of experience even though they have demonstrated the required competencies for the job?

Any of these situations could be considered age bias and discriminatory.

The Impact of Ageism

Key findings from recent academic research show the negative impact of ageism on individuals and organizations. For example, in the U.S. one out of every seven dollars (15.4%) spent on the eight most-expensive health care conditions among people ages 60 and older is linked to ageism.

For younger employees, age bias results in low morale, mistrust and an increased flight risk. Fortunately, employees are becoming more demanding of employers than ever before.

For companies, age-related lawsuits are becoming more common as ageism awareness increases. Additionally, even though the Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects workers aged 40 and older, many cities and states have passed employment legislation protecting all ages from age-related discrimination.

Create An Age-Inclusive Workplace

Education, training and proactively engaging with people from different age groups are three of the most significant ways to shift from an ageist culture to an inclusive one.

Here are eight ways to begin.

  1. Educate employees about ageism. Expert training and facilitation on the many age myths, stereotypes and biases against younger and older workers increases access to talent. It also creates solidarity across the age spectrum, thus enhancing a workplace inclusion and belonging culture.
  2. Monitor workplace culture through anonymous surveys. Asking employees how age is perceived can indicate where things are going well and where there may be problems.
  3. Ensure safe feedback channels. Provide a safe place to discuss age-related concerns and partner with leaders to investigate and address concerns. For example, have you observed training opportunities offered to younger employees but not older ones? Are younger workers being dismissed for challenging development assignments or given an unfair share of tedious work?
  4. Review of internal and external policies, processes and messaging. Is age included in the company’s anti-discrimination and harassment policy? Does your diversity recruiting strategy include age as a dimension of diversity? Are age-diverse images on your website?
  5. Avoid using generational labels. Allowing references to Boomer, GenX, Millennial and GenZ to describe likes, dislikes and behaviors is stereotypical and disrupts inclusion and belonging. Refer to specific age ranges or default to 10-year brackets.
  6. Sponsor an Age Equity employee resource group. Providing a safe place to discuss age-related concerns. Partner with leaders in the organization who can investigate and address these concerns.
  7. Collaboration counts. One of the best ways to break down barriers is by proactively finding ways to bring people together across different dimensions of diversity. Integrating various ages in the team can also ramp up innovation as different perspectives, levels of experience, and ability to ideate and build on the ideas of others can have surprising and worthwhile outcomes.
  8. Accountability is key. Responsibility begins when leaders acknowledge how age bias can disrupt the workplace and take action to address it. Set goals with measurable outcomes across areas of people strategy–from recruitment, hiring and onboarding to development, promotions and retention.

Company leaders cannot change the way people think and feel. But they can set clear expectations and accountability. A high-performing, diverse and inclusive work culture is attainable with relentless training, education, facilitation and influence. That’s not only good for employees, but it’s also good for business.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/sheilacallaham/2022/12/01/under-40-heres-a-workplace-threat-you-should-think-about/