10 Leadership Actions Leaders Must Take to Address Workplace Ageism

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The workforce of an organization is the backbone of any company. Usually, the workforce comprises a mix of young and old individuals. Workplace ageism and discrimination have become the most impactful factors in every organization. Leaders need to acknowledge this workplace problem and take adequate steps to prevent bias.

While there are some legislative measures like ADEA, POWADA, POJA, the leaders of every organization must prevent age bias at the molecular level. With the intervention of RPO staffing and consultation companies, most companies have formulated strategies to combat the problem of workplace ageism. However, there are a few steps that leaders must proactively enact to ensure the elimination of the ageism problem in the workforce.

Leaders must lead. Leaders must set an example to other employees to ensure that age shift does not become an issue at your workplace. Let’s look into some leadership actions that can help your organization with workplace equity.

1. Conducting DEI Awareness Programs

Unconscious bias has become an integral part of DEI programs. It is essential to make your employees recognize an unconscious bias that may impact their workplace. To prevent workplace ageism problems, initiate discussions on age bias in DEI programs.

The first crucial step to combat this workplace issue is designing, executing, and implementing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives. It deals with the problem of ageism and discrimination of race, gender, ability, and sexual orientation. It helps employees break through stereotypes and bias to eliminate prejudice towards a specific group(s).

2. Aligning Policies with Principles of Work Equity

Leaders’ actions must impact the workforce as a whole. It is only possible if you lay down the policy principles you teach. An organization has numerous policies, internally as well as externally. These policies must be audited and reviewed to check if it reaches out to the current scenario.

Incorporating prevention of age bias in the company’s anti-discrimination and harassment policy sends out a message to the employee and the world. Diversity in the workplace is an important factor to attract and recruit top talents in the market. Therefore, if your company desires to adapt workplace diversity in the true sense, it is essential to exhibit an employment equality statement.

3. Avoiding Labeling Employees  

Leaders must not use general labeling for employees. For instance, using terms like Millennials, Gen X, or Gen Z may seem harmless but carries the baggage of generational stereotypes. These can be unfair labels that people should not use at the workplace.

It is also essential to ensure such labels do not appear on company policies. In the case of division based on age, experts recommend categorizing age groups within a bracket of ten years. 

4. Ensuring Proper Age Division

Every workforce has employees aged forty to fifty years and over fifty years. Leaders must ensure the division of employees is not generalized, lumping employees above fifty years in the forty-plus category. 

When employees are around forty years, they have many years to work. While employees above fifty years are near to their retirement. Therefore, whenever a company needs to address a specific age group, it is essential to maintain specificity. A bracket of ten years is enough to categorize employees adequately. Leaders must remember not to mix age groups even for older employees to ensure workplace equity.

5. Including Images that Exhibits Diversity

The audience perceives your company first from the images from promotional material, and they may or may not carry on reading the content. Therefore, images play a significant role in determining whether your company encourages workplace diversity or not.

Most leaders include people from different races and gender in the images. But most people might not think about the age spectrum when it comes to exhibiting diversity. Leaders must proactively take steps to ensure the company images exhibit employees from all employed age groups.

6. Surveying and Mentoring Employees

It is essential to understand whether the employees are on the same page as a leader. The best way to figure that out is by conducting an anonymous survey. Leaders must know if the employees adapt to the cultural change or are stuck with stereotypes. 

Disrupting a bias is impossible without teamwork. Proving employees a safe space to share their opinion and mentoring them to weed out bias is essential to combat the workplace ageism problem.

7. Sponsoring ERG to Promote Age Equity

Employee Resource Group (ERG) is an ideal space for employees to open their opinions. It provides employees to discuss bias, myths, and stereotypes. 

As a leader, when you partner or sponsor ERG, it gives you room to investigate and weed out age-related problems in the workplace. Leaders can gain insights into employees’ perspectives about promotions, workload, and more. Usually, such issues are often related to discrimination of employees as per their age group.

8. Setting up Example Through Behavior

Leading by example is the best way to exhibit how employees are expected to behave. Leaders must ensure to encourage age-equity through their behavior. As workplace diversity is an essential factor for the organization’s sustainability, leaders must understand the urgency of adopting a diverse age-equitable workforce.

Significant decisions such as promotions or lay-off taken by leaders must not exhibit age discrimination. Don’t dump an overwhelming workload on young employees, and don’t keep challenging assignments away from older employees. 

9. Fostering Multigenerational Teams

Embracing multigenerational work teams is the best way to avoid workplace ageism problems. This solution gives all employees, regardless of their age, the opportunity to contribute to its success.

Multigenerational teams further help create a diverse work culture that welcomes every employee to work and grow. Moreover, it plays a significant role in recognizing the strengths of every age group collaborating for a specific goal.

10. Offering Relevant Training

The workplace ageism problem accelerates when employees over forty do not upgrade their skills. An organization that provides opportunities for upskilling becomes a lucrative workspace for the top talent. Therefore, leaders must encourage and promote relevant training to employees.

Employees forty years and older need to acquire skills relevant in the workplace. Leaders can provide these employees with training that helps them develop a new skill set or upgrade their existing skills.

The Bottom Line

The workplace ageism problem has come to prominence as most organizations embrace diversity in the workforce. Just like any other organizational issue, workplace ageism problems can be sorted by leaders if proper actions are taken ahead of time. 


Raghu Nandhan is from Pragna Solutions.


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By Raghu Nandhan