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Navigating Ageism in the Workplace: Strategies for Young Professionals



As a young professional, you bring a unique set of skills and perspectives to the workplace. However, despite your contributions, you may face a common challenge: ageism. Ageism, or discrimination based on age, can affect anyone, and young adults can experience it, just like older workers.


Today we will explore strategies for navigating ageism and ensuring that your voice is heard.


Start or Join a Working Group for Young Professionals


One of the most effective ways to combat ageism is to create a safe space where you can discuss your experiences with people you trust. Consider starting or joining a working group for young professionals in your organization. This group can provide a platform for you to share your concerns, receive support, and work together to address ageism.


For example, a group of young professionals at a tech company noticed that they were often excluded from important meetings and projects. They decided to form a working group to address this issue and other age-related challenges. They met regularly to share their experiences, provide support, and work together to advocate for their rights. As a result, they were able to effect change in their organization and create a more inclusive work environment.


Talk to Your Manager


Your manager may not be aware of the ageism you are facing, and they may have the power to help you navigate the situation. Consider scheduling a meeting with your manager to discuss your concerns. Be specific about the experiences you have had and how they have affected your work.


For example, a young professional named Sarah noticed that her ideas were often dismissed in meetings. She decided to talk to her manager about the issue. Her manager was surprised to hear about the problem and offered to help Sarah address it. Together, they came up with a plan to encourage more diverse perspectives in meetings. As a result, Sarah felt more valued and included in the team.


Have an Open Discussion with the Culprit


It's important to remember that not everyone who engages in ageist behavior does so intentionally. Sometimes, people may be unaware of the impact their words or actions have on others. If you feel comfortable, consider having an open discussion with the coworker who is demonstrating discrimination against you. Be respectful and specific about how their behavior has affected you.


For example, a young professional named Alex was consistently excluded from social events by a coworker who thought he was "too young" to participate. Alex decided to talk to the coworker and explained how his actions made him feel. The coworker was surprised and apologetic, and he made an effort to include Alex in future events.


Never Forget Your Value Add


It's important to remember that you bring a special skillset to the office, which is why you were hired. Don't let ageism undermine your confidence or make you feel like you don't belong. Instead, focus on your strengths and the value you bring to your team.


For example, a young professional named Emily was tasked with leading a project. Despite her qualifications, a colleague questioned her ability to lead due to her age. Emily decided to focus on her strengths and the skills she brought to the project. She worked hard, and her efforts paid off. The project was a success, and her colleagues recognized her value.


Conclusion


Ageism is a common challenge that young professionals may face in the workplace. However, by creating a safe space to discuss your experiences, talking to your manager, having an open discussion with the culprit, and remembering your value add, you can navigate these challenges and ensure that your voice is heard. Remember, you bring a unique set of skills and perspectives to the workplace. Don't let ageism hold you back from reaching your full potential.

 

Jonathan H. Westover, PhD is Chief Academic & Learning Officer (HCI Academy); Chair/Professor, Organizational Leadership (UVU); OD Consultant (Human Capital Innovations). Read Jonathan Westover's executive profile here.



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