Age Discrimination in the Workplace: Cultural Paradigms Associated with Age in Afghanistan, Jamaica, Turkey, and the United States

Article excerpt

Age discrimination in the workplace impacts people of all nationalities, sizes, races, colors, religions, and ethnicities. Such discrimination, which can be highly unethical, is causing many managers anxiety, and is forcing many of them to court. It is no secret that age-related lawsuits are proliferating, and in the last five years age-related claims have been on the rise due to layoffs, which seem to be proportionally impacting older workers. Juries often side with aggrieved employees, even if the evidence is flimsy. Because of such trends, national and international companies and their managers are realizing the need to protect themselves by periodically reviewing their workforce diversity, while analyzing the data for latent signs and patterns of "unintentional" discrimination (Mujtaba & Rhodes, 2006). The focus of this article is discrimination based on age. The objective is to create awareness and reduce the negative impact of stereotypes associated with "older workers." Furthermore, based on a qualitative study of 206 culturally diverse respondents (Mujtaba and Cavico, 2006), a cultural perspective of aging is discussed from the societal norms and traditions of people in Afghanistan, Jamaica, Turkey, and the United States.

Cultural Paradigms on Aging and Older Individuals

An "older worker," according to the laws in the United States, is a worker that is 40 years of age or older. Unfortunately, there have been many firms that have shown patterns of discrimination against "older workers" in the United States work environment. When such discrimination becomes an "unseen" part of the culture, it can hinder the organization's morale, productivity and may possibly cause many legal problems for the firm. Organizational leaders and managers therefore must be concerned about age discrimination since an increasingly larger percentage of the workforce will come from the older population as the American baby boomers continue to age. According to the United States Census Bureau and the Administration on Aging, the number of Americans who are 65 years of age or older has increased by a factor of 12 since the early 1900s. The presence of more "older workers" being active in the workforce presents many challenges and opportunities for organizations. The challenges are stereotypes and age discrimination that are widespread in the American workforce. Organizations accordingly must effectively transcend such challenges and proactively take advantage of the experienced workforce as they attempt to be globally competitive. There are many "proactive" firms, such as Publix, based in Lakeland, Florida, which employed over 130,000 employees as of 2006, that need to be congratulated for their efforts to reduce/eliminate age discrimination in the workplace.

Aging is viewed differently in different cultures depending on the stereotypes associated with aging. Such mindsets and paradigms can be seen in how societies respond to people of different ages, their customers, their norms, and opportunities provided to them. For example, the countries of Afghanistan and Turkey are not experiencing challenges in regard to age discrimination in the same manner as seen in the United States and Jamaica. As such, a perspective of age discrimination from the various cultural perspectives is explored. When it comes to age, most Afghans tend to be guided by their Afghan heritage and, thus, respect elders at home and in the workforce because older workers are seen as mentors and coaches with much wisdom due to their extra years on earth. The culture of Afghanistan, with a population of about 28 million individuals, is similar to customs and mores of Turkish people with regard to the aging population of workers.

Turkey is a Middle Eastern country with a population of 70 million people that have similar tendencies as the Afghans with regard to how they view older workers. About half of the population is in the range of 20-40 years of age. …