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Spot the stereotypes in this piece supposedly supporting workers over 50

by on January 24, 2014

This piece entitled “How Workers Over 50 Bring Value to the Workplace” is just one example of the many that seem to set out to support or help the case of the older worker- but we have to wonder whether these stereotypes (of both the ‘older’ and ‘younger’ worker) do more harm than good?

The piece opens with statement “While younger workers bring their own benefits, fresh faces, ambition, energy, and new skills to the workplace” and so implies that these attributes are age dependent, that the ‘older worker’ cannot possess these and so must offer an alternative.  How exactly does suggesting that these are definitely lacking in a job seeker over 50 help their case!

What is the alternative we hear you ask?

“They may need to be trained on new features, upgrades, and techniques, but by the time most workers reach the 50-year-old age bracket, they’ve seen decades of change and know what it takes to adapt”  This suggests that age implies a specific need for training, rather than the training being appropriate to build and develop skills.  The amount of change experienced will of course depend on the specific life and work experience on the individual – while there is a time element it is not a ‘right’ of older workers nor a definite absence in the under 50s.

Older workers are often established experts in their fields. Although millennials are able to bring new, innovative ideas to the workplace, without a proven track record, it is difficult for a younger person to jump directly into a position as an expert.”  This contrast between innovation and experience is probably the most harmful stereotype to both older and younger workers – let the CV do the talking here and don’t make assumptions according to age.

“Employees over 50 usually know how to get along with and communicate with different types of people”  Where is the evidence to suggest that communication skills are age dependent?  Again this will depend on the individual and indeed may be related to personality type far more than chronological age.

The piece asks for readers to join the debate, so we offer this as a starter for ten.


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