Millennials and Gen Z say they face ageism in the workplace

Jenn Steinhardt has had her credentials questions, been excluded from conferences she ought to’ve participated in, and handled bias in interactions with coworkers, all as a result of she’s a millennial.

The 32-year-old service coordinator for an audio-visual firm is amongst the 31% of working adults who’ve skilled ageism in the workplace, in accordance with a brand new Harris Ballot conducted exclusively for Quick Firm. Amongst youthful millennials and members of Gen Z, it’s 36%. A perceived lack of expertise could also be the driving motive behind this remedy, the ballot finds. Forty-four % of this group agree that individuals their age are seen as inexperienced, versus 28% of older millennials and Gen Xers as much as age 56.

Most demographers say millennials have been born between 1981 and 1996, and the Harris Ballot splits them in into youthful millennials (ages 25 to 32) and older ones (ages 33 to 40).


Foremost in Steinhardt’s thoughts is a dialog she had with a supervisor a couple of advertising piece. The Parsippany, New Jersey, resident’s background is in media artwork and design with a dollop of company communications expertise, so she was strolling him via how the consumer would learn the web page.

“He stated, ‘You’ve solely been right here for 2 years’—I’d been there for 4—’and I’ve been in this trade for over 30 years.’ I stated, ‘I apologize. We’ve got completely different views on this. How would you wish to proceed?’ I knew I wouldn’t win this battle,” Steinhardt remembers.

Two sides to the ageism coin

On the flip facet of being perceived as inexperienced is being regarded as out of contact. Amongst employed adults of all ages, 37% reported feeling that individuals their age are seen as out of contact at work, the Harris Ballot reveals. That grows to 39% for employees over age 41, who’re Gen Xers or child boomers, nevertheless it’s not simply older employees who really feel that means: 38% of Gen Z and youthful millennials do, in addition to 30% of older millennials.

The disconnect is as previous as time, argues Dan Schwabel, managing accomplice at Boston-based Workplace Intelligence, a workplace analysis and thought management agency. It stems from caricatures up and down the age ladder. Normally, the older cohorts contemplate the youthful ones lazy and the youthful ones surprise why the older ones can’t sustain, particularly with regards to expertise. This pigeonholing can taint the working atmosphere—and probably companies’ backside strains.

“It’s more durable to get issues performed when there’s a lack of awareness and disconnection and individuals have completely different preferences in phrases of communication and collaboration instruments,” he explains. “We may write this story each 10 years. Each era feels threatened by youthful individuals.”

Vanessa Council has skilled optimistic ageism—assigned good attributes on account of what era she’s part of.

“It’s principally round social media and being categorized as the resident ‘younger individual’ and I’m doing air quotes,” says the graphic designer from Wealthy Sq., North Carolina. “At work, I’m the predominant supply. I do know just a little bit, however I don’t contemplate myself an knowledgeable, I’m 29, so they determine I should know.”


Council is regularly requested about what the scorching traits are and what individuals her age love to do and watch. When she will be able to’t reply a query about what’s common or a brand new expertise, her colleagues are stunned.

“I’m bemused. I’m normally simply superb with it,” she explains. “I don’t assume it’s being performed in malicious means. It’s being performed in we’re-trying-to-play-to-everyone’s-strengths means.”

Often, age bias favors youthful staff over older ones. The previous have much less work expertise and can paid much less, firms typically assume. The time period “juniorization” is comparatively new, however the worry of it taking place has its roots in the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. The bias manifests itself in not solely layoffs of sure staff, but in addition what job candidates are invited for interviews or callbacks. For instance, a College of Kansas Medical Heart whistleblower was fired after he revealed he was advised to rent primarily younger individuals for the IT division. (Final yr, KUMC settled the retaliation lawsuit filed by U.S. Equal Employment Alternative Fee.)

It’s principally round social media, being categorized as the resident ‘younger individual.’ ”

Vanessa Council, 29, graphic designer

In distinction, additionally final yr, an Australia Submit licensee acquired into bother after together with this line in an internet job itemizing: “Sadly, the profitable applicant won’t be an over entitled millennial with an inflated sense of entitlement.”

“Generally, it appears intentional and typically, it’s since you’re not prime of thoughts. You’re disregarded. You’re not a precedence in their thoughts,” says Steinhardt, the 32-year-old who has handled ageism repeatedly. “For my psychological well being, I course of it the identical means, whether or not I’m coping with sexism, or being taken significantly in a technical position once I’ve come from advertising, or with ageism: I stay by ‘deal with individuals with respect,’ ‘don’t make assumptions about what they know or don’t know primarily based on age,’ and I attempt to state, every time I can, relying on the tradition of the firm I’m in, what I’m experiencing.”

Why stereotypes persist

The stereotypes don’t all the time translate into actuality, in accordance with Jessica McManus Warnell, an affiliate educating professor of administration and group at the College of Notre Dame. Typically what we hear about millennials is solely magnified by the very applied sciences that digital natives are accused of being obsessive about.

“‘Right here come the millennials. Be careful. They’re going to wish gluten-free pizza.’ They have been positioned as a menace,” she explains. “When it’s time to rent, these preconceived notions are on the desk. Each side have to do higher”

In 2016, millennials turned the largest era in the U.S. workforce—54 million versus 53 million Gen Xers—in accordance with the Pew Analysis Heart. As a substitute of boomers complaining about Gen X slackers or the Biggest Technology mocking the rebellious boomers, the new powerhouse cohort has to cope with jokes about avocado toast and take blame for “killing” every thing from breakfast cereal to homeownership.

Now, millennials—the oldest of whom are turning 40 this yr—have to start out getting used to being the not-so-young cohort as Gen Zers graduate from faculty and enter the labor drive themselves.

“Millennials must domesticate that very same sensitivity that they’re demanding from their senior colleagues,” Warnell says. “They should be conscious of sustaining that with their juniors.”