Older Employees Leaving the Workforce Over Age Stereotypes

By: Marie Donlon

According to research from the University of Queensland School of Psychology, older workers may be leaving the workforce earlier than planned due to feeling stereotyped because of their ages.

The study, led by Dr. Courtney von Hippel, revealed the not-so-surprising finding that mature employees who feel labeled in the workplace are likely to have negative feelings about their work.

"Older employees who feel they are being stereotyped because of their age report lower job satisfaction and engagement, and poorer workplace wellbeing than their younger counterparts," she said.

"Negative age-related stereotypes exist for both younger and older workers: older employees are often characterised as technologically incompetent and resistant to change, while younger employees are often characterised as unreliable and inexperienced," Dr. von Hippel said.

"However, we found that feeling was not problematic for younger workers.

"Even though younger employees experienced age-based stereotyping as often as their older colleagues, only older employees showed negative job attitudes as a result of being typecast.

"It seems that younger people see being stereotyped as a challenge they need to overcome, while older employees spend more time dwelling on it."

Considering the aging global population, Dr. von Hippel recommends greater understanding on the impact such labeling has on older employees.

"Over the next few decades, the ageing population in industrialised nations will pose major challenges for maintaining the needed size of the workforce," Dr. von Hippel said.

"Government inducements to counteract the predicted labour shortage will be less effective if we neglect the impact of age-based stereotyping."

The research appears in the journal Psychology and Aging.