I don’t believe that babies come into this world with a list of discrimination mentalities built into their personalities. We are taught those by family, schools, peers, churches, and the news media. Much has been written about discrimination related to race, culture, sex, age, and even size.
However, with the recent high employment in much of the world I decided to do some research on age discrimination. This is what I found about why older people are discriminated against in the hiring process.
Some of the usual reasons, though not often stated, seem to be the idea that older applicants:
1. May be burned out;
2. Are resistant to new technologies;
3. May be absent more often due to illness;
4. May have trouble working with younger supervisors;
5. May be less flexible; and
6. Will not stay with the company as long as a younger applicant.
A 2009 study by the Sloan Center on Aging & Work, and a host of other studies, have shown those are not valid assumptions. Peter Cappelli and Bill Novelli did extensive research in the fields of economics, demography, and psychology and wrote the 2010 book, “Managing the Older Worker”. That book further debunked the above theories and stated that the older worker is more creative, more productive, and more efficient than younger workers and therefore less expensive in the long run. They also found that a worker over 50 years of age is more likely to be a long term employee than a younger or middle aged worker. They further state that “Every aspect of job performance gets better as we age”.
Frans Johansson in his book “The Madici Effect” argues that creativity comes from making connections among diverse thoughts and that the more knowledge you have, the more connections you can make, and the more creative you can be.
In 2011 researchers at the University of Mannheim, in Germany, found that workers in a BMW plant continued to become more productive as they aged. That in part was because they had the experience to quickly identify the cause of unexpected problems and were more adept at applying their available resources to fixing the problem.
So, the question we must each ask is are we discriminating due to age? Even though we have written policies against it, the HR department and hiring managers my be unwittingly violating that policy. Line up you staff mentally, and if you don’t see a diversity in age then it may be time to reevaluate your hiring practices.