Discrimination pops up in the most unexpected of places

A marketing influencer and writer I admire and follow on LinkedIn yesterday wrote about technology issues in the insurance industry.

He described his work some four or five years ago, and how the insurance company he worked for was so behind-the-times. His point was that we all need to be open to new technologies and not be afraid of it. Don’t fear technology taking over our jobs. Good points.

But there, in the midst of his words, was something that stopped me in my tracks. A line that said that all the employees at this insurance company were “way older”, and the writer recalled how he didn’t fit.

It was really inappropriate. One commenter called it offensive. Another said it was akin to racism. My own firm but polite comment told the author it was inappropriate and made the points that I’m about to make below.

Feeling like a misfit in a corporate culture can result from many things: your attitude, a culture of fear, lack of social opportunities, bad onboarding practices, cliques, poor management, or just bad fit. Never age.

I’ve worked as a mentor with young and older employees. I’ve shown grads the ropes and taught people in their early 60s new technologies.

In my time as an employee, a consultant, and an individual, I’ve learned never to judge people by their age. If the individuals we meet are open, friendly, fun, and supportive, then they are worthy colleagues. We can learn from people like this. And they are open to learning from us.

Age discrimination wipes out whole generations of people – young and old – who may offer exuberance, energy, experience, wisdom, perspective, insight, and so much more.

Age discrimination against older people is particularly toxic for women, who are still judged by so many men and women on the basis of looks and fashion sense alone. How shallow.

All discrimination is ugly. It blinds us to the qualities and attributes each individual has. Think of the word prejudice. When we discriminate, we are pre-judging whole groups of people without even knowing them as individuals.

And we all have these beliefs at times in our lives. The key is to be self-aware and be open to new learnings – which clearly this marketer/writer is. Although he didn’t apologize for his offending remarks, he did remove his post. And that’s progress.

Sheelagh Caygill

Sheelagh Caygill is a journalist and content marketer. She has worked for newspapers, news organizations and in the corporate and non-profit sector in Canada and the U.K. She is a Director at Gocontentmarketing.com and is available for freelance assignments. Contact her via the contact form or Linkedin.

1 comment

  • Hi Sheelagh, what a great reminder of the power of words and assumptions. Being inclusive and respectful is a great concept but more difficult in action. Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

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