Age is the most widely experienced myth in the workplace. Although older employees are more loyal, reliable, and committed compared to their younger colleagues, research suggests stereotypes still exist.
Older workers might also be more likely to further stereotypes themselves based on what they think other people in the workplace think of them. Some common myths are that older workers are not motivated or interested in career development, fear change, are not trustworthy, have health problems that affect their work and have more workplace conflicts.
Dr. Bessie and I are rolling on the floor laughing! More to the truth is that we are overachievers: we finished our doctorates later in life, continue to make big contributions in our communities, work hard, and stretch our brains by writing scholarly articles. And remember, earning a doctorate is not for the faint of heart.
Myth v. Reality
Dr. Bessie and I wanted to better understand how these stereotypes play out in the real world. So we did some research and found that older worker’s knowledge and experiences have increased over time. Today’s older workforce is better educated than their previous counterparts.
Here are myths about older workers landing a good job:
Myth 1: I’m not going to find a good job.
REALITY: Better paying jobs, status, and working conditions are the trends for today’s baby boomers.
Myth 2: You can’t take time off, or you’ll never get back into the workforce
REALITY: Forty percent of today’s boomers take a two-year retirement break before returning to work.
Myth 3: I’m not going to make as big of a contribution as I did in the past.
REALITY: Wrong again – most studies show that there is ‟little to no relationship between age and job performance″ when it comes to productivity.
Myth 4: The only type of work available to older applicants is part time.
REALITY: The number of people age 65 or older working full time has more than tripled since 1995 (there are more opportunities for skilled older workers).
Myth 5: The chance to be an entrepreneur has passed me by.
REALITY: A 2008 report concluded that US baby boomers have more successful startups (70%) than people under 50 (28%).
Looking Beyond Age
Thus, older employees today are far from having a declining intellect. They are intelligent, educated people who have a massive amount of experience, combined with dependability and excellent people skills. These are stellar attributes for quality work performance.
We continually update our skills and use strategies to ensure that we remain top performers. Today, older employees aren’t just hanging on until retirement – they are making a difference in the world. They are an essential part of something bigger than themselves.
It’s time to put aside stereotypes and improve one’s knowledge about the positive contributions made by older workers in the workplace and beyond.
Dr. Patti Mason
Age is just a number. It’s totally irrelevant unless, of course, you happen to be a bottle of wine.