Examining Age Discrimination in the Workplace

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I pondered on writing this blog for several years even before I turned 40 because I heard several colleagues state, “they may be too old” or “I hope they won’t consider me too old to hire.” I never believed any of that because I personally knew the people and frankly, they can run circles around most anyone. 

It came to light for me when a fellow Executive who happened to be hiring for a Director position made a comment that brought this topic into focus. When I asked how the search was going, he said that lots of “older” people had applied and he feared they may be looking for a retirement job. A WHAT?!! I asked what defined “old” to him and he stumbled and couldn’t even respond to my question. Is it 40, 50, 60? What’s too old? Seriously, a retirement job? My industry, like many others, attracts experienced, smart people. Do I care about a number? Of course not! I care about how much value they can add to my team. Experience and intelligence should be sought after and craved instead of internally heckled with unfounded bias and stereotype.  

Clearly age discrimination starts before anyone is associated with a number. The fact is, anyone above 40 is a target for age discrimination. And on the opposite end of the spectrum, age discrimination can happen to the younger generation, newly entering the workforce.

Here are the real questions to ask yourself as you move through your careers:

  1. When you see an applicant, do you see age or talent?
  2. When you interview anyone over 40, do you wonder what their stamina and tolerance is for the job?
  3. When you interview anyone under 25, do you wonder if their lack of experience on paper means they won’t be as impactful as older applicants?
  4. Do your interview questions align and do they treat all applicants equal?
  5. Do you have a fear of hiring staff  “older than you” or “younger than you”? 
  6. Have you ever considered that someone seasoned can “have your back” and does not have ulterior motive because they really don’t want your job?  

Come on….fess up and stand up! We all become better leaders when we diversify our teams and embrace all generations. 

What legacy do you want to leave? An insecure path because you are scared of hiring knowledge people that can make you look good? Likely not! Or are you ready to hire smarter, more experienced people than yourself to build a world class team? 

The reality is employees across all age groups can bring immense value to the table. Older applicants often possess the life experience, leadership abilities, and interpersonal skills to thrive in a team environment. And younger applicants often bring enthusiasm, a willingness to learn, and innovative approaches (i.e. tech-savviness). Let’s stop looking at age with preconceived notions and start looking at what value applicants can add to our teams.

Your decisions matter! Expanding talent and diversifying teams beyond your comfort zone is what true growth stems from and how companies change and evolve YoY.   

Age is simply a number and not a gauge of talent in the workforce.  

Be the change!
Take the risk!
Reap the rewards!

Clareece West
Chief Commercial Officer - Linical

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