Micro-Aggression & Age

There’s a theory that the quality of life of an individual can be compromised by subtle statements and images that are insensitive or insulting with respect to an unchangeable aspects of that individual’s identity.

Most often, this theory of micro-aggression is applied to African Americans, Hispanics an other minority groups. For example, a native-born American who is Hispanic could rightly be irked if asked whether he or she is “legal.”

But I submit that one the most frequent targets of micro-aggression –  and perhaps the most invisible – are older individuals (of all racial groups and thoughtcloudethnic identities).

Here are some examples of micro-aggression directed toward older workers:

  • Aren’t you a bit overqualified?
  • How do you feel about working for a manager who is 20 years younger?
  • Someone with your experience wouldn’t be interested in this job.
  • You applied for promotion?
  • Sorry. We’re looking for someone energetic and enthusiastic.
  • This is a job for a digital native.
  • You don’t seem that old.
  • You may have gotten the right answer but no one does it that way any more.
  • I didn’t think you played softball.
  • Have you ever heard of Twitter?
  • It’s brave of you not to dye your hair!
  • It never occurred to me that you’d want to join us for drinks after work.
  • It’s time to give someone else a chance.
  • She’s got more energy than someone half her age!
  • Young people are just smarter. (Quote by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg)
  • Why are you still working?
  • Why haven’t you retired?
  • When are you going to retire?
  • Have you thought about retirement?
  • My dad/mom is your age and s/he’s retired. Loves it!

In a 2002 study of unconscious or implicit bias, Yale researchers found that age bias “remains, in our experience… among the largest negative implicit attitudes we have observed… consistently larger than the anti-black attitude among white Americans.”

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