Ageism, the prejudice or discrimination against individuals based on their age, is often associated with older adults. However, this bias is not limited to one end of the age spectrum because even people in their 30s, typically considered to be in the prime of their lives, also encounter various forms of age-related bias and discrimination.
Professionals in their 30s often experience ageism at the workplace through stereotypes and biases. They may be perceived as lacking experience, commitment, or leadership skills compared to their older colleagues. Some employers and coworkers may question their suitability for positions of authority or decision-making roles based solely on their age.
Anil Mohanty, senior HR leader, shares, “People in their 30s can sometimes experience a unique form of ageism in the workplace.”
This bias can hinder career progression, limit opportunities for advancement and create an unwarranted atmosphere of scepticism around the capabilities of individuals in their 30s in the professional arena.
“Workplaces today often consist of a mix of generations, which can lead to conflicts and biases when different age groups collaborate on projects. These multifaceted challenges highlight the importance of recognising and addressing ageism against individuals in their 30s”
Jaikrishna B, group head – HR, Amara Raja Group
According to Jaikrishna B, group head – HR, Amara Raja Group, the one common perception is that the employees in their 30s lack the experience and wisdom needed for critical roles, especially when senior leadership is dominated by older individuals.
Stereotypes and expectations
People in their 30s often grapple with societal expectations regarding milestones such as marriage, home ownership and career success. Age-related stereotypes may pressure them to conform to these expectations, leading to undue stress and anxiety. The idea that one should have achieved certain life goals by a particular age can be debilitating and unrealistic.
“For instance, a manager in the 30s overseeing older executives may invite resistance, leading to a lack of support owing to the lack of mutual appreciation and respect. Moreover, societal expectations often pressure people in their 30s to achieve specific milestones, such as job stability, career success, or a thriving marriage. The assumption of digital proficiency in this age group can also be problematic, potentially overshadowing their actual capabilities in the digital realm,” opines Jaikrishna.
He also adds, “Workplaces today often consist of a mix of generations, which can lead to conflicts and biases when different age groups collaborate on projects. These multifaceted challenges highlight the importance of recognising and addressing ageism against individuals in their 30s.”
Mental health consequences
Encountering ageism during one’s 30s can have profoundly adverse consequences on mental health and overall well-being. The pervasive societal pressure to conform to certain age-related expectations and to actively combat stereotypes can create a challenging and emotionally-taxing environment.
Individuals in their 30s often find themselves navigating a delicate balance between societal expectations and their own aspirations. The constant pressure to adhere to traditional timelines for career achievements, personal milestones and family planning can be overwhelming. This pressure, coupled with the ever-present stereotypes that suggest they are less competent or less accomplished due to their age, creates a persistent source of stress and anxiety.
“The absence of work-life balance, long working hours, and seemingly high demands contribute to the feeling of being taken for granted”
Anil Mohanty, senior HR leader
The fear of judgement or exclusion based on age can weigh heavily on one’s mental state. It can lead to a constant sense of vulnerability and insecurity, eroding self-confidence and self-esteem. The emotional toll of feeling undervalued or underestimated can be particularly damaging, potentially culminating in feelings of depression and isolation.
In addition to that when they take on managerial roles and extra responsibilities to stay relevant, it can create a perception of being overworked and undervalued among these employees.
“The absence of work-life balance, long working hours, and seemingly high demands contribute to the feeling of being taken for granted,” points out Mohanty.
To combat ageism against individuals in their 30s and promote a more inclusive society, first and foremost, it is crucial to promote age diversity within workplaces and organisations, emphasising the value that individuals of all ages bring to the table.
Creating an inclusive environment that appreciates the contributions of people from diverse age groups can help break down age-related bias.
Engaging in open conversations that challenge preconceived notions about age can foster a more realistic and inclusive perspective. By encouraging a shift away from age-based assumptions, we can create a fairer and more equitable society.
Promoting media literacy empowers individuals to critically analyse and question age-related portrayals in the media. This awareness can help dismantle harmful stereotypes perpetuated by various forms of media.
“Creating an inclusive environment that values individuals of all age groups is essential. One key aspect is ensuring that younger voices have a seat at the table, particularly in management and executive committees”
Praveen Purohit, deputy CHRO, Vedanta Resources
Praveen Purohit, deputy CHRO, Vedanta Resources, suggests, “Creating an inclusive environment that values individuals of all age groups is essential. One key aspect is ensuring that younger voices have a seat at the table, particularly in management and executive committees. Empowering them with significant responsibilities and holding them accountable for outcomes can be an effective way to address this issue.”
He goes on to explain, “This inclusion becomes even more vital in today’s business landscape, characterised by digital technology and artificial intelligence. Younger employees typically possess a deeper understanding and appreciation of these technologies, making their insights invaluable. Failing to incorporate their perspectives into decision-making processes could result in missed opportunities.”
That ageism affects only the older lot is clearly a wrong notion. Individuals in their 30s can also fall victim to various forms of ageism. It can adversely affect their professional lives, personal relationships and even mental well-being. To combat ageism against people in their 30s, it is essential to challenge stereotypes, promote age diversity, and foster a society that values individuals of all ages for their unique contributions and experiences. Ageism knows no age, and it is a collective responsibility to create a more inclusive and equitable world for people at every stage of life.