Mar 02, 2016 10:23 AM EST

Are You Discriminating Against Older Employees Without Realizing It?

By R S Ali

Whether or not we think about this, ageism at work is as big an issue as any other. While it is true that older employees have legal protection against age discrimination, small remarks and comments can hurt their feelings, and by extension, their work performance.

While there are acts like the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which puts a check on discrimination against employees or applicants over 40, language is still a powerful enough tool to hurt their confidence and affect workplace performance.

Here are a few phrases that are used, sometimes unconsciously, that you should check yourself for, says US News.

1. Anything with the word "overqualified" in it.

Anyone with any experience in this area knows that this is another way of calling someone 'too old'. It is amazing how generally acceptable vocabulary like this is; it is not like it will stand up in court. Older people deserve to be given a chance to succeed just an much as anyone else.

2. Assuming that older people are technology-illiterate

Making them take computer skills 101 or using condescending tones with them is judgmental and can be hurtful, and is definitely something you should avoid. Also to be avoided is blaming their age for when they don't turn out to be the right fit in the workplace.

3. Asking them if they are retiring/when they will retire.

Just because someone is closer to retirement than you are doesn't mean you can point it out to them every moment. Besides, who decides when they are near retirement anyway? Some people may love their career or may need the money and still be able to work, so stay away from this judgmental line of questioning.

Do keep in mind, though, that considering someone as 'older' is not necessarily a bad label. In fact, it is something that depends on the perspective it is used from - something everyone can judge for themselves. Intention is key here.

Younger workers may not realize that they are only harming themselves in the process of blindly and often unconsciously promoting ageism. It should be remembered that everyone has to grow old, and you get the society you build. 

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