A positive intergenerational workplace climate is related to better self-perceived ageing
A workplace climate that accommodates all age groups seem to have a positive impact on both younger and older employees' views on ageing and on employees' work engagement, according to new research.
We often hear about people being discriminated against because of gender or ethnicity. But in fact, age is the most common cause of discrimination in Europe, which is one of the reasons for the increasing focus on so-called 'ageism' in society, i.e. our prejudices, stereotypes and discrimination based on age.
"Ageism is particularly prevalent in the workplace, where we find many age stereotypes and often a negative view of older employees' abilities," says psychologist Anette Tybjerg-Jeppesen.
As a PhD fellow at the University of Copenhagen, she has studied the association between the intergenerational workplace climate and the employees' views on their own ageing process, their commitment to work and their desire to stay in the workplace.
"We can see a significant correlation between a positive intergenerational workplace climate and employees' views on their own ageing. In addition, we can see that good relationships across age groups are linked to employees' job satisfaction," she says.
The study also showed that it is not only older employees who benefit from positive cross-age relationships, but employees in all age groups.
"This is an important finding because we can now point to workplace interventions that do not contribute to further stigmatization of older employees, but actually meet a need of all employees," says Anette Tybjerg-Jeppesen.
Ageism is expensive
When older employees have negative views of their own age, it often leads them to setting limits for themselves in their daily work.
"Studies have been carried out in which older employees have been exposed to negative, age-stereotypical statements, and then subsequently are asked to solve cognitive tasks. In these studies the employees perform worse than if they had not been exposed to the negative statements about older people's abilities," says Anette Tybjerg-Jeppesen.
A more positive intergenerational workplace climate not only benefits the self-image of older people. Anette Tybjerg-Jeppesen and colleagues have also found that it is linked to employees' engagement and motivation to stay in their jobs. And these are very important factors for workplaces.
"When an employee chooses to resign, it often has several harmful consequences for the workplace, especially when it is a highly qualified employee who quits," Anette Tybjerg-Jeppesen emphasizes and elaborates:
"Recruiting and training new employees is costly, and the loss of qualified employees can jeopardize the performance of tasks."
Ageism is costly in many contexts - also for the healthcare system, Anette Tybjerg-Jeppesen says:
"In the US alone, the health care costs of ageism due to negative self-perceived ageing, negative age stereotypes and age discrimination, is estimated to be 63 billion US dollars yearly. This contributes to 17.04 million cases of disease," she explains.
Filling a gap in our knowledge
The study is based on an online survey that includes answers from a representative sample of 1,571 individuals aged 18-74 years, living and working in Denmark.
"Our study fills a gap in existing research on ageism. Typically, research has looked at either younger or older employees in relation to age discrimination, and the surveys have had few respondents. This is also the first study to examine the relationship between the intergenerational workplace climate and self-perceived ageing, also known as self-directed ageism," Anette Tybjerg-Jeppesen explains.
The new study paves the way for further research on the link between cross-age relationships in the workplace and views on ageing.
"We would like to continue to study the importance of views on age across generations. If we gain more insight into this, it will be much easier to introduce measures to minimize ageism in the labour market and in society in general," Anette Tybjerg-Jeppesen says.
The study is published in Journal of Applied Gerontology. You can read it here.
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