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"Beyond Age" Workshop Challenges Perceptions of Self and Co-workers

sloan center leverages deep research roots with foray into employee development

2 November 2009—You can’t hide your age. Neither can you hide how other people perceive it. But, as it turns out, that’s ok! Knowing how old you are, or appear to be, can be beneficial for you and your colleagues at work.

In an effort to initiate positive change in the workplace the Sloan Center on Aging & Work has embarked on a new employee development project, the Beyond Age Workshop series. The workshop, developed for employees as well as managers, uses data collected from the Center’s Age & Generations Study (2007) as a lens through which to reflect on one’s own preconceptions and stereotypes of age, as well as one’s employment experiences.

“It is important to recognize the depth of stereotypes that age diverse work teams can conjure up,” comments Kathy Lynch, Director of Employer Engagement at the Center and lead developer of the Beyond Age workshops. “People often look at one another and lump each other into age groups, making assumptions about what Boomers or Gen Xers want. Yes, some things about generations may be true, but chronological age isn’t everything.”

Beyond Age is designed to explore not only how one’s age impacts self-perception, but how career stage and life stage are perceived. The Center describes this as ‘The Prism of Age’, and the intent of these Workshops is to encourage participants to actively define their age in a more holistic way, with respect to all of the factors that contribute to understanding of self.

“Understanding how and why employees and their colleagues are breaking the age molds will give everyone the opportunity to adjust to these nuances,” adds Lynch.

For example, understanding how one defines  career stage impacts how a person perceives the quality of their employment experience. Depending on whether one is early, mid, or late career ultimately affects what an employee wants from work and where job satisfaction is found.  In addition, the awareness that there may be people chronologically different from you, but who share the same experiences, can be empowering and can give you a new appreciation of role expectations.

Making such connections has obvious implications for effective team functioning as well as for management.

The Sloan Center on Aging & Work designed the Beyond Age Workshops to engage employees in an entertaining and informative discussion about age diverse work teams. Exercises during the session surface positive past experiences, foster team building and encourage open dialogue.

More on the Beyond Age Workshop »