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The Stigma of Age in the Workplace

The photo editing application, FaceApp, reminds me that I will be old one day and I will look pretty good actually. But it also reminds me that as a society we are suffering from a major work place stigma around age. It works both ways, “too old” or “too young” is a problem. I shed some light on this issue below using two of my personal stories.

When I was 19, I began working at Celedor International under an Executive Producer who taught me how to sell TV programme formats such as Who Wants to be a Millionaire across multiple territories. He was a role model to many within the industry. I could see that, in a job like his, age and experience was revered. He was able to close more deals than his younger counterparts and I always felt that I was “too young” to make a dent or influence any important decisions.

My father used to be a senior Banking Executive who had a large work force helping him with his work. However, after his retirement from the banking industry, he finds it difficult to deal with the new technology such as smart phones and softwares to the point of being frightened by them. He is what some might call “too old” to fit into the changing world successfully, which is something he has experienced in the recent jobs he pursued.

On a positive note, I am pleased to see more older folk play a second or third innings by starting their businesses using the venture capital funding route. I think this is a great example showing how older workforce are using their experience and life skills to raise capital for their startups and are having a younger workforce help them execute the idea by using present day technology and tools.

One way to tackle the stigma of age across all the major industries could be to implement a knowledge transfer process where firms can record the top tips, advice and tricks of the trade from the senior and experienced workforce and pass this on to the newer workforce. In this way, you could avoid mistakes from being repeated and it will create a sense of accomplishment for both the old and the young. The younger workforce will have more ammo to play with whereas the older generation will be able to find new stimulus in training and passing on that valuable information.

At my Creative Agency – Ekstasy, we have tried to change the stigma of age by involving our young talent in senior decision making early on and encouraging them to be more brave, voice their ideas and take pride in their work. In this way, they may find their place in the industry 5 or even 10 years earlier than they would have otherwise, as well as make a difference in what is usually a very aged model of advertising and marketing.