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Bias Against Older Workers Decreases Engagement—In Younger Workers! —

28 June 2012—Jacquelyn B. James, PhD, Sharon McKechnie, PhD, and Elyssa Besen surveyed over 4,000 retail employees aged 18 to 94 about whether older workers are as likely to be promoted as younger workers; whether older workers are able to adapt to new technology; and so on.

They categorized any bias they found as (1) perceived by interviewees as fair; or (2) perceived by interviewees as unfair. In a discussion of their research on the website Aging&Work: AGEnda, they explained,

Our hypothesis did not prepare us for the finding that the perception of [unfair] discrimination was actually more strongly related to lower employee engagement among younger workers than older workers.

The good news is that fighting ageism can do more than keep an organization out of court—it can also increase an organization’s workforce’s engagement and motivation, and therefore its bottom line.

James et al. conclude with,

Recent research in management science yields the following recommendations:

  • develop the ability to recognize stereotyping when it happens
  • avoid basing any decisions—especially those related to layoffs—on age
  • provide diversity training with age in the mix
  • use older workers to their competitive advantage

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