Common stereotypes about older workers include unwarranted assumptions that older workers are tired, grumpy, more costly, harder to train, less adaptable, less motivated, less flexible, more resistant to change, and less energetic than younger employees.
These stereotypes stem from depictions of older persons in society generally. Employers also may be reluctant to invest in training and other developmental opportunities for older workers based on the perception that they have less time remaining in their careers.
While extensive research has shown that these negative age-based stereotypes have little basis in fact, they influence many employment decisions. For instance, as a result of these stereotypes, older persons with the same or similar qualifications typically receive lower ratings in interviews and performance appraisals than younger counterparts (and thus are apt to have more trouble finding or keeping a job or securing a promotion). Older workers also typically are rated as having less potential for development than younger workers, and thus are given fewer training and development opportunities.
Age-based stereotypes disadvantage older workers in corporate downsizing situations in particular. Because the main goal of such downsizing is usually to cut costs, age-based stereotypes that older workers are more costly, harder to train, less flexible, or less competent may become much more prominent in the minds of the decision-makers. To make matters worse, once older workers are laid off, they often are again vulnerable to age-based stereotyping as they attempt to find new jobs. As we have previously written, older workers who have been laid off are less likely to obtain reemployment than younger workers, take longer to find new jobs than younger workers, and generally fail to obtain jobs paying the same wages as their previous positions.