From age diversity to embedded ageing: exploring and addressing aged assumptions in organisational practices

Sophie Hales, Kathleen Riach

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The growing recognition that ageing is central to any management and policy agenda across the world has signalled moves both at a legislative level via discrimination law and through organisational initiatives to welcome workers of all ages. However, there are still questions over the efficacy of these developments in ensuring that individuals are afforded meaningful, secure employment that draws on their individual, specific and accumulated skills and competencies throughout their working lives. One reason for this has been the ongoing challenge of transforming attitudes surrounding how organisational stakeholders behave, think and relate to those viewed as being at a particular stage in their lives. A growing evidence base of studies that suggest unfavourable perceptions surrounding older workers still exists, and perceptions are often intimately intertwined to other social categories including gender (Moore 2009; Irni 2009) and socio-economic status or class (Zanoni 2011; Riach and Cutcher 2014). Similarly, at a structural level, there is a growing concern that as individuals grow older, they face increasing challenges in advancing in or re-entering the labour market (Hirsch et al. 2000; Chan and Huff Stevens 2001). At the same time, ‘younger’ workers may be viewed negatively and those at the beginning of their careers may also face difficulty in finding work that is developmental, meaningful and holds promising career opportunities for advancement (McDowell 2011). However, a key intermediary between these two levels of inequality is ‘Organisation’. This not only considers age-specific policies or practices but also considers ageing at work as simultaneously experienced and understood through a range of norms and assumptions about what constitutes ‘work’. In this sense, a contextual understanding of workplace ageing is needed which considers how insidious beliefs surrounding age, stage and ability may manifest within the bureaucratic and often mundane practices and policies that form part of the day-to-day structuring and cultural context of organisational life.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave Handbook of Age Diversity and Work
EditorsEmma Parry, Jean McCarthy
Place of PublicationLondon UK
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781137467812
ISBN (Print)9781137467799
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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