Age bias is one of those sneaky things. However enlightened you think you may be, it has a way of coloring your perceptions. Especially at work.
If you’re in your twenties, how often have you pointed to a forty-something’s age a reason for their views or behaviors? They took a nap? Only drank one beer last night? Didn’t know about OAuth? Must be because they’re old.
The same thing happens in reverse. Older employees blame youth when a twenty-something is brash, error-prone, or makes hasty decisions. These young ones have lots to learn, they think.
There may be some truth to it, but generalizing is an easy trap to fall into. It also tends to dismiss people’s strengths because of perceived age-related weaknesses. I’ve seen this happen in all kinds of companies but startups are notorious for skewing young. It’s understandable because most founders are young and associate with others their age. They often want a young, energetic image for their company, kinda like a rock band. But they could be missing out on valuable experience that can guide them toward success.
Age is just a number to those who take good care of their mind, body, and spirit. Life hasn’t beaten them down or made them cynical as they’ve aged. Similarly, good younger workers don’t use their age as an excuse for mistakes or underperforming.
Hire for skills, energy, and experience where you need it. Filter out any age-related perceptions and get to the core of the person. Mindset and enthusiasm trump age every time.