Mentoring and the older worker in contemporary organisations: The Australian case
Inequality and Organizational Practice
School of Business and Law / Markets and Services Research Centre (MASRC)
Older Australians and other older workers around the western world are being encouraged to re-enter the workforce and work later into their lives. As the workforce ages, organisations will need to develop strategies to encourage commitment and engagement of their older workers. Mentoring is a proven learning and development intervention that can be utilised to achieve this strategic objective. Mentoring is an interpersonal relationship between a more experienced individual (the mentor) and a less experienced one (the mentee). Older workers may need mentoring to enhance their learning and development. Mentoring practice, however, is synonymous with older workers mentoring younger ones. Thus, older workers as mentees may be viewed as a dysfunctional relationship. In addition, age discrimination pervasive in today’s contemporary organisations presents hidden inequalities that face older workers requiring mentoring. Focusing on Australia but with a wider international application, this chapter explores obstacles to older workers participating in mentoring relationships. Challenges presented by age discrimination which results in negative stereotypes, including societal norms, implications of matching mentoring pairs and generational differences are explored. The chapter concludes with theoretical and practical implications and recommendations. As the workforce continues to age, mentoring the older worker is a timely issue that needs urgent attention and intervention.