Millennials in the workforce

24/01/2020
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millennials working

A workplace culture that discriminates against age often comes at a very high price. However, managers who engage in the practice are not necessarily consciously aware of their biases. Ageism against younger employees has today, become just as common as ageism against older staff.

A diverse workforce should comprise of four generations

In a diverse workplace, you can find employees from each generation, typically from Baby Boomers right through to Generations’ X, Y and Z.

The value of this mix is that it brings a vast range of experience into play. Where millennials and generation Z are incredibly tech-savvy, the two previous generations bring life experience and emotional intelligence to the table. The combination of innovation and emotional intelligence can be potent.

Does ageism exist for workers under 30?

Often we think of Baby Boomers and generation X as carrying the burden of age discrimination, but millennials are also today caught up in this form of discrimination. Many employers and hiring managers have put labels on this group, ranging from ‘lazy’ to ‘entitled’, and everything in-between. If we consider that the millennial generation spans two decades, common sense should tell us that we can’t paint them all with the same brush.

The result is that some millennials despise their generation and do their very best to demonstrate contrary behaviours. What’s been overlooked is that older generations have cast aspersions on younger generations for centuries. Some research found parallels between how people view millennials today, to how younger people had been seen since over 2000 years ago.

What makes us discriminate against people of different ages?

Since age discrimination has been around for over two millennia, we can accept that discrimination is a mindset that we develop. Social bias and conditioning begin from the day we are born. We develop our attitudes, behaviours, opinions and biases on a subconscious level, these continue to evolve over time, defining us as individuals.

This is how we develop unconscious bias. Biases that are so deeply rooted that we are unaware that they exist. Unconscious bias is not easily resolved because someone can’t change something that they are not aware of.

As we grow up and engage with others, we find reinforcement of these prejudices for two reasons i.e. we tend to seek out our own type; most people won’t speak out if they don’t agree for fear of rejection. Unconscious bias in the workplace often dictates how we perceive our co-workers and how we treat them.

Employers can address the issue through training. iHR Australia offers a number of different training programs which focus on managing anti-discrimination, bullying and harassment in the workplace. In these programs expert iHR Australia facilitators encourage group dialogue where different views can be openly discussed. Participants are encouraged to share and respect different points of view, while they analyse their legitimacy in today’s modern workplace. In addition, iHR Australia has developed its Workplace Reality TheatreTM initiative which utilises professional actors to re-enact real-life workplace examples of harassment, bullying and discrimination for participants to assess and respond to in an effective way.