Ageist language can reduce employees' productivity

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Washington, Apr 13 : Use of wrong language - denigrating older workers, even if only subtly can have an outsized negative impact on employee productivity and corporate profits, says a leading researcher.

According to Bob McCann, an associate professor of management communication at the USC Marshall School of Business, ageist language is still to be found in many workplaces, and can have severe repercussions for both older workers and their employers.

"Our research has clearly shown links between ageist language and reported health outcomes as broad as reduced life satisfaction, lowered self-esteem, and even depression," said McCann.

The workplace is a particularly fertile and problematic area for ageist communication, given that people derive so much of their identity from work.

"It is quite plausible that retirement decisions may be hastened and work satisfaction affected by intergenerational talk at work," he said.

For the plaintiff, the defendant's ageist comments typically are perceived as clear evidence of the company's discriminatory intent toward older workers. Defendants, by contrast, generally view these same ageist comments as "stray remarks" proving little other than that ageism is prevalent in society at large.

Age-related comments such as "the old woman," "that old goat," "too long on the job," "old and tired," "a sleepy kind of guy with no pizzazz," "he had bags under his eyes," and he is "an old fart" are just some of the hundreds of ageist comments McCann unearthed in their analysis of age-discrimination lawsuits.

Such language has become so common in age-discrimination cases that some groups of ageist comments even have their own names.

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