Doing age in the workplace: Exploring age categorisation in performance appraisal

Federica Previtali, Simona Spedale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Ageism in the manager–employee relationship is one of the main obstacles towards an age-inclusive workplace. Ageism in the labour market is rooted in the use of age as an organising principle of employment relations. This article contributes to the study of ageism in the workplace by investigating how stages of life, as normalised age categories, are mobilised through discursive practices in performance appraisals. Based on the analysis of video recordings of actual performance appraisal interviews at an Italian labour union, three discursive ways of ‘doing age’ – or of how age, as a constructed social category, is performed and enacted – were identified: quantification (e.g. number of years in the organisation), ‘ageing within the organisation’ and age-group membership identification (e.g. ‘young’ vs. ‘old’). The analysis suggests that stages of life categories and age attributes are ‘done’ in social interactions and employed by both employees and managers as shared culture to sustain ongoing organisational activities, thereby reproducing discriminatory age norms and stereotypes. The study demonstrates how the ordering power of the stages of life categories is situated in organisational culture and challenges the implementation of equal and inclusive workplace policies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100981
Early online date28 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Age stereotypes
  • Ageism
  • Discursive gerontology
  • Job performance
  • Membership categorization analysis
  • Older workers
  • Social interaction

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Health Policy


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