Gray Hair in the Workplace
They first appear like some insidious alien strand- gray hair- you instinctively pluck the evidence out that signals to the world you are getting old. Not elderly old but you are no longer part of the under 30-35 group, but now enter the middle ages, which seems to come WAY too soon. Physically, you are just as capable as any teen or 20-something, maybe even better shape, yet the perception when another looks at you is your "older", you are not young.
It is a mindset, for sure. Some cultures hold aging and older workers with great value and prestige for they have knowledge gained through the years. That culture is NOT in America for the most part. So, what many workers of this group do is to color the hair, dress younger, get facelifts or erase time wrinkles from the skin. All this effort and expense to appear younger than their years so that an employer might hire them or not force their retirement or to save money etc.
A person who is 40 or 50, is already a "sir" or "ma'am". The first time you hear it, it seems like a joke, "what, I am now a sir", christ, I'm not that old, you think. While true, you are older than more of the workers out there and if you are 60, you are much likelier to be the oldest in the office and have a boss you might be your son or daughter. Can you say the word, "awkward"?
Human nature what it is, in American culture the workplace is not a fuzzy warm place the older you get in many professions. Many companies are downsizing the average age of their workforce to save money. These companies see younger employees, those under 30, as cheaper in salary and in health expenses. So, many firms encourage the older workers to retire early or weed out their position citing the need is not there. For many firms, the average age of their employee is under 35 or less. Look at Target. Even HMOs follow the same pattern. The older folk there are volunteers.
Part of the problem is that America is still youth oriented. This all began in the 60's and it never changed. Many firms want that young face to present to the public, in fact, most do. How often have you seen an older person in this position? Unless you are a professional in a field that does respect age (such as, law, architecture, medical etc.) as an older worker you will face obvious and subtle age discrimination in all sorts of ways.
Getting older is never easy and hard to accept but ageism simply adds to the dilemma.