Today, people are living longer and remaining in the workforce longer than ever before. By 2024, over one-fourth of the U.S. workforce will be 55 years of age or older. Unfortunately, of the many different kinds of biases in the workplace, ageism is one of the most prevalent.
Common misconceptions about older workers, such as that they are less adaptive, innovative, or tech-savvy, can be harmful to an employee’s well-being and career. According to age discrimination experts, here are five telltale signs of ageism to look out for in your office:
1. Older workers get layoffs and buyouts
If your employers only layoff or buyout older employees while younger workers continue to join the company, it’s a red flag. Many employers will tell an older worker that they are being let go because they aren’t a good “culture fit” for the company. However, this is usually code for wanting employees who are younger and less expensive workers.
2. You don’t get any challenging projects
Another common sign of workplace ageism is employers passing over older workers for challenging assignments. If the only projects management gives you are regularly unpleasant or tedious, it could signal that they are trying to replace you or get you to quit.
3. You hear coded comments
An employer who describes younger workers as “energetic” or “new blood” and describes older employees along the lines of being “stuck in their ways,” it might suggest that they have ageist beliefs. Alternatively, if your boss asks when you’re planning on retiring, even if it’s friendly, it could indicate something that’s been on their mind.
4. You stop getting raises or promotions
It’s not always easy to prove that ageism is taking place when it comes to raises and promotions, as you may not be getting them due to your performance. However, if you observe younger employees getting raises and promotions and know you’ve been performing as well or better, this is likely a sign of age discrimination.
Age discrimination in the workplace isn’t always overt. If you experience ageism in your office, document the incidents and talk to your HR representative as soon as possible to safeguard your role.