Stereotypes stymie older workers

Perceived long-held stereotypes such as frailty, inflexibility and a fear of technology are pushing older workers towards premature retirement, new research shows.

The National Seniors’ report, Stereotype Threat and Mature Age Workers, reveals that older employees who experience “stereotype threat” - a belief that they’re the target of demeaning stereotypes - lose enthusiasm for the job to the point of quitting.

The study of 1428 employees aged 50 to 75 was conducted by Queensland University for the National Seniors Productive Ageing Centre.

The majority experienced medium (44%) levels of stereotype threat. A minority (14%) experienced high levels of stereotype threat and 42% experienced low stereotype threat.

The experience was linked with negative workplace attitudes and behaviours including: lower job satisfaction; lower emotional commitment to the organisation; lower job involvement; higher retirement intentions; and greater intentions to quit. The paper calls for more positive older role models, stronger anti-discrimination policies, increased training opportunities and greater recognition of mature age staff.

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