By Ian Ferguson
Age Discrimination…Does it exist in the Bahamian corporate community? Do we treat people differently in the workplace based on how old or young they are? Ageism has existed in every industry for many years, and in all communities of workers. Research has found no relationship between age and job performance. So why, then, are we so focused on how old or young persons are in relation to whether they are able to perform tasks?
We have taken note of the various generations in the workforce, including millennia, Generation Y, Generation X, Baby Boomers and the Traditionalists, and all will agree that there appears to be some contention between each of them. Their approach to work, life and leadership all have stark differences, resulting sometimes in lines of communication being crossed.
Separate from how these generations communicate in the work environment, there are even more sinister forces at work that undervalue and undermine the capabilities of both the young and the old. Let’s explore a few of them:
- Older, experienced employees are sometimes considered more of an expense (higher salary, pension, benefits costs, etc.) than a younger applicant would be.
- Older persons are viewed as territorial. This behaviour in the contemporary work environment is viewed as one that stagnates progress.
- Older persons typically have poor or failing health. Medical issues impact attendance and productivity.
- Older persons are typically afraid of new technologies.
- Older persons are often rigid and stuck in their ways.
- Older persons are slower to learn new concepts and slow to change.
- Because of their years of highly developed opinions, there is often an unwillingness to hear new ideas.
- It is a poor investment because they won’t be staying with the company for long enough to get a return on investment with their training.
- Older persons are physically slow moving. Low energy. Unable to sustain long hours if required.
- Older persons are risk averse.
- Younger employees are often viewed as impatient, disloyal and flippant in their business dealings
- Young people are often said to be averse to standards, always looking for shortcuts and taking the easy road.
The blatant ageism we experience in corporate Bahamas causes a level of dissention that is harmful to progress. It produces a lack of productivity, it leads to contention and teamwork challenges. We are all encouraged to embrace differences in the workforce whether it is age, gender, race, nationality or ideology. We are stronger and wiser when we are united.
NB: Ian R. Ferguson was educated locally, regionally and internationally, having earned a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Miami. During the course of his nearly 20 years in education, talent management and human resources, he has served both the public and private sector in senior management roles. He currently serves as manager of the Chamber Institute, and as a local consultant in the field, having assisted hundreds of local and regional businesses in improving business and service excellence through their human capital.