Kathy and Tony discuss Workplace Cultures, Ageism, and how it affect middle aged people entering the workplace. Kathy discusses the importance of keeping up to date with technology, and shows you how to demonstrate your worth in the workplace. Seek Feedback, keep learning, and show that you’re willing to do things differently.


Talia: Internships, grad positions, training. These are all things we normally associate with entering the workplace for the first time.

However, a growing number of middle-aged workers are finding it a struggle to reinvent themselves in the workplace.

I’m joined by Kathy again. Hi Kathy from FireUp and we have Tony who.. you’re an expert in conflict management. Both of you have a huge amount of experience in workplace cultures.

We hear this term ageism, what do you mean by that?

Kathy: With ageism, we’re talking about the generalizations that people make about capabilities at particular ages. And you know, it can happen whether someone assumes someone being younger is a certain way and often, titles like… as Gen Y, Gen X – they’re not terribly useful.

And particularly what we noticed now is ageism around people who are middle-aged and have a lot of wisdom and a lot to contribute to the workplace, but are perhaps being judged as being a bit past their prime or a bit, you know, a bit past where their best was.

Talia: Right. So Tony, what are some of the conflicts you see because of age in the workplace?

Tony: Well, I think that there’s a big thing around this notion within Western society of youth, and youth being such a driving pedestal factor that we seek to strive for; and that people associate youth with dynamism – active – and want to engage with that, and therefore they don’t want to engage with the older. And that’s something that spills over into our workplace’s thoughts and processes and relationships.

Then there’s also things like it’s perceived that older people are scared of change and stuck in their ways. And we’ve got this notion of you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But of course we all know that if you are able to teach an old dog new tricks, you end up with a creature that’s got lots of wisdom and is actually very adaptive. So it’s a really, really, strong positive thing.

And of course today’s organizations – they’re looking for the easiest solution and they often feel that it’s easy to put a young person into a role and train them that way and they somehow have this stereotype that more mature workers have baggage that needs to be handled, when we know that that’s not true anymore than it is with younger workers.

You know we find a lot of… I guess investigations and mediations… and facilitated discussions have to be brought up where it’s often said: a manager of a baby boomer might be trying to understand the… what they perceive is the lack of engagement and constant texting and Facebooking of a younger worker and thus have the younger workers thinking that this business just wants to follow process, process, process.

And so we support people to have those conversations. That’s a big, big, area of conflict in the workplace.

Talia: Well, there’s no denying that there is an age gap and that there are generational gaps. But how can we help people to be able to resolve those conflicts and you know, create a great workplace across the generations?

Kathy: One of the things that is really important is having a flexible mindset. And as Tony was saying, if we want to stay relevant, we all have to keep learning, and one of the really important things for older workers is to make sure that they are keeping up to date with technology.

And it’s really significant that, you know, if you don’t keep learning and you can teach an old dog new tricks and that’s the really important thing… is to demonstrate your worth in the workplace by continually showing that you’re keeping up to date with things and that you’re learning yourself.

Talia: So Kathy what are the major things we need to consider?

Kathy: The really important things are for people to seek feedback, keep learning and show that you’re willing to do things differently. That’s the really important thing.

Talia: Some fantastic advice. I love that age doesn’t have to limit us.

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