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Our current global health crisis has brought to light another global issue: Ageism. According to the World Health Organization, ageism is a global concern. Happening in countries all over the world, this discrimination is both prevalent and harmful.

The term “Ageism” was coined in 1969 by Robert Butler, to better define the discrimination that happens when elderly people are stereotyped. Since the 1960s, Ageism has been associated with the discrimination of this age group, often occurring within the workplace; however, the negative effects of ageism go beyond the workplace. The dangers of ageism discrimination are plentiful: whether older people are unable to find adequate employment, receive proper healthcare, or avoid being victims depend on how people view and care for the elderly. 


A Global Issue

From its onset this coronavirus has been found to disproportionately impact adults older than 60 years. As early as February 17, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention shared statistics on the confirmed cases and death rates of their population. Individuals 60+ years of age accounted for only 31% of confirmed cases but 81% of deaths. Yet, the global response to protect their elderly populations was not quick and effective enough to reduce the spread. Few countries enforced precautions addressing elderly, with the U.S. only issuing a state of emergency on March 13th, which called for nation-wide social distancing. This came three months after the outbreak in China, and over 7 weeks after the first confirmed case in the U.S. Additionally, though the government was aware that the virus had a meaningful and disproportionate impact to elder populations no specific action was taken to close down or isolate senior living facilities, or provide them preferential accommodations for essential daily activities (e.g. grocery shopping pharmacy visits, etc.) 

Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, stated that from past pandemic research, children are the drivers of infection within societies. Which brought to light a thought: what if COVID-19 affected children at a higher rate than other age demographics? Would we have acted faster? Would we have closed schools, closed non-essential services earlier and cared for this demographic at risk more effectively?

The global response to the coronavirus has demonstrated inherit ageism at best, and at worst conscious bias towards our elderly population. 


The New Normal 

As a 41-year-old employee and entrepreneur, COVID-19 has driven me to self-reflect on Ageism in the workplace. The coronavirus has already started to create a new normal for our 55+ years of age workforce. Take for example my close friend, a 59-year-old elementary school teacher who has never worked remotely, now facing the need for online instruction. They are facing a steep learning curve in order to effectively engage elementary kids through a virtual platform. This new normal of virtual instruction reinforces the fear that younger educators will have a disproportionate advantage in the workforce. As stated above, our society holds inherit ageism, and now with a new reality that demands quick adaptation to new technology, processes, and strategies, our senior citizen workforce may be entering a bias workforce. As highlighted, I believe senior citizens will face two main things in the workforce as we adapt to a new business as usual:

1.    Layoffs: As organizations continue to lose revenue with no end in sight, we can only anticipate downsizing. Mitchell Plastics of Charlestown, Ind., is one of many companies who has recently announced temporary layoffs, totaling 360 employees due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

2.    Technology: As organizations, institutions, and entrepreneurs begin to focus on being virtual ready, employees will have to up-skill on technology without minimal training and short timelines.


Together these two realities, will foster one of the most freighting aspects of layoffs for older employees: applying for an opportunity against someone who is 10+ years younger in an environment of increased ageism. Insurance provider Hiscox conducted a recent study on ageism and found 21% of people over the age of 40 experienced age discrimination in the workplace and has impacted the career trajectory of 80% of people over the age of 40. During this same study, 60% of all workers said they never received formal age-based discrimination training in recent years.


We have witnessed this with other discrimination in the workplace: racism, homophobia, and gender bias. The first step is acknowledging that we all have biases. This step is normally the hardest. It requires us to turn our focus away from others and look internally. What is found can be hard to accept. The second step is having the courage to self-correct those internal biases. Finally, we need to be an ally and interrupt bias when we see it.


As a colleague, manager, or member of society, we can all reverse discrimination and prejudice against the elderly. We need to consider ageism during the recruitment process, project assignment, and recognition practices. Updating processes to ensure ageism discrimination is eliminated should become a core part of all our new normal as we recover from COVID-19.


Written by: Dr. Terrence Underwood and Xochitl Ledesma


Updated: Apr 4

When you hear “anger management” you probably have a specific idea of the kind of person that would need it in your mind. Maybe it is a co-worker that you have had in the past or a friend who seems to get hot-headed over the smallest issues. When we talk about anger management in the workplace specifically, we tend to look anywhere but inward. As Linda Wasmer Andrews highlights in the article When It’s Time for Anger Management, most people attend anger management workshops with someone else in mind and are rarely seeking help for themselves.

As Chet Taranowski, employee assistance program coordinator for Aon Services, states in the article, “People who have anger problems don’t necessarily recognize it themselves.”

In discussing anger management as it relates to diversity and inclusion in the workplace, we must first establish the fact that anger management is something that can be useful for any employee. Anger management can be a valuable tool in assisting a team of employees of varied cultural backgrounds to face workplace conflicts in a more respectful way. After all, a diverse workplace will be filled with employees that come from varied cultural backgrounds where displays of anger may be represented differently. This can be a cause for some concern when there are stark differences between how one employee handles displaying anger as opposed to another.

It’s a simple fact: when we talk about diversity and inclusion training in the workplace, we also have to discuss anger management. At the end of the day, an ideal workplace environment is one where all employees can feel comfortable expressing their concerns and handling conflicts in a reasonable, respectful way. While this should be simple, in theory, it is often a little more complicated than that. Today we will be discussing anger management as it relates to diversity and inclusion practices in the workplace.

The Need for Anger Management Training

To truly understand the need for anger management training as part of a diversity and inclusion program, we must first look to the past. One of the most notable periods where anger management training became a much-needed component of diversity and inclusion programs was post 9/11.

At this time, members of the Sikh community suffered a reported increase of workplace discrimination and violence against workers. In the San Francisco Bay Area alone, there was a reported 12 percent increase in workplace discrimination against Sikh employees. Although not all workplace-related, there were also a reported 300 cases of violence and discrimination against Sikh Americans throughout the United States during this period.

Although tragic, this increase in reports of workplace violence and discrimination against members of the Muslim community highlighted a desperate need for diversity and inclusion training in the United States workplace. Anger tends to be a direct result of fear and the post-9/11 workplace was (and continues to be) a hotbed for this kind of injustice. In an effort to accept the cultural differences that make a diverse workplace great, anger management, among many other forms of diversity and inclusion practices, must be implemented and held as a top priority.

The need for anger management training as part of a diversity and inclusion program can be further observed by the way workplace anger can manifest. Unfortunately, it isn’t at all uncommon for employees and supervisors to display frustration differently depending on the employee the frustration is against. Often times, workers and supervisors alike will perceive a member of their team as less efficient and this is all too common in relation to certain racial or cultural biases and stereotypes.

In order to counteract this unfairness, an anger management program must be centered around recognizing such biases in every employee. Effective anger management training programs will seek to inspire employees to look inward and find what may trigger their anger against other employees. This is the first step in understanding how to deal with anger and frustration in a professional and respectful manner, further strengthening a diverse workplace environment.

Objectives of an Effective Anger Management Program

So, what does an effective anger management training look like in implementation with a diversity and inclusion program? There are a few major components of recognizing and dealing with workplace anger and conflict that an anger management training program should address. Let’s explore those more in-depth.

Recognizing Triggers

The first step in practicing effective anger management is to first recognize what triggers an anger response. According to the Anger Management Training Institute, up to 42 percent of employee time is spent either engaging in or trying to resolve workplace conflicts. This is a huge chunk of time taken away from employees practicing job tasks and responsibilities during any given workday. Much of this valuable time could be taken back if employees only recognized what triggered an angry response in them before reacting.

As it relates to diversity and inclusion, some of the most common triggers for an anger response can include frustration stemming from misunderstanding, lack of productive communication, and certain unrealized biases held by employees. An effective anger management training program will seek to highlight these triggers and help employees understand the importance of recognizing them before reacting in an unprofessional way.

Stress Management

Stress is present in any workplace and, unfortunately, high amounts of stress can be a trigger for anger in the workplace. While much of workplace stress can be self-imposed, a perceived lack of effort from other employees and/or workplace misunderstandings can add to it. When stress is heightened, anger is almost sure to ensue. An effective anger management training program will also highlight the importance of managing stress.

Practicing Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a concept popularized by psychologist Daniel Goleman and is based around practicing emotional control. Emotional intelligence is defined by Goleman as “the capacity of recognizing our own emotions and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships”. As discussed, much of the conflict that arises in workplace environments is caused by a lack of recognizing a need for anger management practices within ourselves.

Empathy and social awareness are two of the biggest components that Goleman cites as skills that can be learned to heighten our overall emotional intelligence. Considering the fact that one of the primary goals of a diversity and inclusion program is to encourage empathy and awareness of social differences across varied races and cultures, practicing emotional intelligence is a key component of an effective anger management training program.

Practicing Assertive Communication

Ineffective communication is one of the biggest reasons for workplace conflict. Communication problems can cause workplace conflicts to arise and ultimately affect workplace performance and concentration. Anger management programs that highlight the importance of assertive communication practices will do well to strengthen the overall diversity and inclusion standards in any workplace environment.

Assertive communication includes using “I” statements rather than “you” statements as this is a much more productive way to communicate feelings to coworkers. “You” statements tend to come across overly confrontational and accusatory while “I” statements work to communicate your feelings in situations of conflict. Assertive communication is based around a sharing of feelings and listening to responses and conflicting views in order to reach a solution that benefits the greatest amount of people.

Acceptance

Sometimes the best way to resolve conflict within a workplace, whether over an issue of diversity and inclusion or otherwise, is to simply accept. Accepting a difference of opinion and recognizing cultural differences in others is the base of any diversity and inclusion program and this extends to anger management training. When conflicts arise due to a lack of understanding, this should be acknowledged. Sometimes conflicts can’t be fully resolved and accepting a difference in opinion is the best way to come to a solution. Setting aside differences and accepting where possible can work to maintain a level of productivity and receptiveness within the workplace.

Updated: Feb 24


People who live at the edge of society are often hit with bias, stigma, bigotry, and racism. In spite of a lot of improvement that has been achieved over the past few decades, people of different genders, races, ethnicities, disabilities, religions, and sexual orientations are still the targets of prejudices, discrimination, and day-to-day microaggressions.

A lot of strategies focus on the people or groups committing these microaggressions, but no one focuses on the impact to the people receiving them.

Members on the margins of their families, social circles, or society as a whole, feel constantly rejected and tend to be viewed as different and deviant. This causes an individual to withdraw and isolate from social interactions.

Different studies show that social rejection affects a person’s health, emotional state, and behavior. Research shows that rejected people tend to display aggressiveness, detachment, and emotional numbness.

However, you don’t have to isolate, bottle up your struggles, and suffer alone. Anger management applied through anger therapy can benefit you when faced with these challenges.

The Feelings Hiding Behind Anger

Whether constant comments about their appearance from strangers or constant questions about their mental health from the boss, microaggressions can wear a person down. Many people in marginalized populations have to deal with the feelings of hurt, anger, and resentment every day.

It is normal to experience these feelings if you have constantly been exposed to stigma, stereotypes, and prejudices. You may experience anger to cover vulnerability or to mask other emotions that are too disturbing. Anger often arouses as a response to emotions such as fear, hurt, or shame.

At the core, anger is a normal and useful emotion. Nevertheless, instead of visibly expressing anger, you may suppress your feelings, withdraw from others, become depressed or passive-aggressive. Suppressed anger can lead to anxiety, depression or other mental health problems, so these feelings and behaviors can damage your health, well-being, and your relationships.

Anger Management Strategies

Anger management is not about learning to suppress your anger, but rather to understand the feelings behind it and express anger without losing control. Anger management can help you learn how to communicate verbally when angry and take a time-out when getting upset. You can also learn positive anger management skills, become free of explosive episodes, or learn how to express anger without causing damage to objects or hurt to yourself and others.

Identify What Triggers Your Anger

Stressful events, situations, comments, and people can trigger angry feelings. However, your negative thought patterns such as overgeneralizing, jumping to conclusions, and mind-reading can provoke anger as well.

When you identify the outside factors and thought patterns that trigger your anger, you can learn strategies to view the situation differently or reframe how you think about things.

Find Constructive Ways to Express Anger

Learning how to express anger in a healthier way will help maintain good mental health and keep up positive relationships. It is okay to feel upset and show how you feel. However, if you feel that your anger is getting out of control, remove yourself from the situation until you calm down.

Learn Ways to Calm Down Quickly

Regular exercise, Mindfulness meditation, deep breathing, and other relaxation techniques are some of the strategies that can help you cool down and keep your anger under control.

Choose to Forgive

Finally, to move on and heal, you need to forgive. If you decide to ignore the hurt or suppress it, forgiveness can never happen, and you will remain stuck with your anger. Forgiveness doesn’t equal forgetting though. If you forgive someone, it doesn’t mean microaggressions and hurt they caused are undone. It means that you have let go of the anger and make peace with the pain in order to move on.

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