Tech & Work

Is ageism a thriving prejudice?

Employers are ultra sensitive to issues surrounding race or gender in the workplace, but the prevailing sentiment seems to be that being ageist is no big deal.

Employers are ultra sensitive to issues surrounding race or gender in the workplace, but the prevailing sentiment seems to be that being ageist is no big deal.  

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The U.S. has made great strides against sexism and racism, but ageism seems to have been left to thrive.

I've been asking TechRepublic members for career situations that they need help resolving, and I've gotten a great response. One fascinating story after another has come to my mailbox. Many of the stories are unique and present interesting challenges, and I will post each of them in the coming weeks every Friday.

However, I have started to see one issue emerge frequently than any others: ageism. I've heard from people who are being offered early retirement — which they took as a not-so-subtle way of saying, "We don't need you anymore, but here's a going-away present so you don't sue us." And I've heard from folks who can't get a new job after that because they're no longer "marketable."

Many feel they're being shown the door to make room for the young people who will bring with them new, cutting-edge skills, since hiring managers seem to believe that an old dog is indeed incapable of learning new tricks. That's ridiculous. It's also impractical because, in IT, a shop would have to hire in a new group of people every couple of years to keep pace if they really believe tech knowledge is finite. No one can afford that kind of turnover.

And, apparently, the discrimination doesn't end at the exit interview. The hunt for a new job is even tougher. More and more older job hunters are being counseled to stay away from chronological resumes because they could inadvertently reveal their age. And heaven forbid you should mention the year you graduated from school!

So, judging from my mail, ageism is alive and well. I'm just not certain why it seems to be manifesting itself at such an alarming rate. Is it because many companies have younger managers who wouldn't be entirely comfortable supervising someone who is much older? Is there really a cultural stigma associated with older workers that even the law can't circumvent?

Are you guys seeing more of this kind of attitude? I'd really like to hear from a hiring manager who is uncomfortable hiring an older worker, as well as people who've been through a bad work situation that they feel has been due to ageism.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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