Workplace ageism need not throw you off your game! Learn how to use self-awareness to be
resilient, powerful and retain your happiness on the job.
Okay, it’s true. I’m a huge football fan. Many people already know this about me, but in case you didn’t, let’s just say that I’m more than happy that the NFL has found a way to start the season as safely as possible. So, I thought I might use this fortuitous timing to talk about the playing field, as it were, when it comes to the world of work and the players on our teams.
On any given team, you have a basic structure of everything from rookies to established pros— and every rookie wants to someday be a pro. That’s no surprise; it’s what they aspire to. How do they get there? Well, many times the rookies will say they learned the most from watching and then emulating the pros. In the game of football this model works rather well. There’s a certain level of respect and regard, in other words, for the players who have been on the field longer and know more about how games are won.
This model does not always translate as well, however, when it comes to our teams at work.
Imagine, if you will, that rookies and other players with less time on the field approached the pros, as if they had nothing to learn from them—and as though they were able to produce as many wins without the pros. This would not only be considered poor sportsmanship, it would likely lead to far less wins.
Now in football, we couldn’t imagine any pro being happy with this situation, or putting up with it for very long. In the office, however, this does happen, making the manner in which we respond to these situations vitally important.
Experts say that older vs. younger stereotyping has no business in business; that it is counterproductive, and that the most successful workplaces create environments where individuals of all ages thrive.
As wise women in the workplace, it is up to us to ensure that happens, because when we’re thriving. the team thrives. Unlike the popular adage in football, a strong defense is NOT the best offense in this case. In fact, for established women in the workplace, taking a defensive posture when encountering ageist narratives does not serve us well individually, or as a member of the team.
The best thing we can do in these moments when we feel the pang of ageism is to be self-aware. Make a mental checklist of your thoughts and feelings when you experience this situation so it doesn’t throw you off your game.
What am I reading into this action? Am I allowing my own insecurities to undermine me?
From a team perspective, what actions can I take that would be most productive?
Can I use the wisdom of experience and empathy to diffuse the situation?
Awareness of the workplace scenarios that are bound to occur because of these inherent generational gaps, allows us to be resilient, powerful and retain happiness in our workplace roles.
Wouldn’t it be better to call an ‘audible’ here - or be flexible enough to change the play? That really enables us to approach these situations from an empowered point of view. In other words, perhaps we just need to remind ourselves that we’re the pros and it’s game day for all of us.
Find more insights on Ageism in the Workplace in this week’s feature.