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In almost all countries of the developed world, the labor market is under pressure. The reason: Demographic change has shrunk the number of people of working age.

Seriously? I don’t think so!

In Western society, age is and always has been associated with the loss of skills and abilities. For many companies, employees seem to be “too old” even before they retire. Too old for continuing training, personal development, and project work.

The term “gray sideline” is becoming established.

This gray sideline is an imaginary sideline. But it prevents people from being part of the team and contributing to the company’s success in a very real way because of their “high” age. Being on the sidelines has very real consequences for the excluded person. But it does for the company as well: Being on the sidelines is not conducive to performance.

How did the gray sidelines get established? The ugly truth: we did it ourselves.

Old people – a.k.a. baby boomers – are less trusted in the workplace too, and companies are letting them retire by the hundreds of thousands. In this context, it is worth noting that top managers, on the other hand, regularly move to supervisory or advisory boards at the end of their careers. Here, age does not matter, and players are not pushed to the sidelines but rather given a place in the coaching booth.

To increase the number of people of working age, we have to unlearn our definition of old. We must fight our implicit bias against age, or, to put it bluntly, we must end our own ageism.

In its 2022 study “Ageism – Age Images and Age Discrimination in Germany” the German Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency states: “Empirical evidence shows that the age stereotype of the less fi t and unproductive older worker also dominates in the work context and leads to older people receiving fewer job offers from employers and having fewer opportunities for further training and new areas of responsibility. Because of the internalization of this stereotype, discriminatory behavior by older workers is often not judged as such.”

Let’s face it: Stigmatizing age stereotypes are so persistent that they are perceived as “normal” even by those affected.

Do you want to grow old in such a work environment? No? It’s up to us to put an end to it and bring the boomers back into the game while working in the best interest of our own late careers.

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