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What not to say to your coworkers

Categories: Career, Hacking Life, Uncategorized

2 comments

When I started working at my main job, I was fresh out of college, younger than some of the interns, and perpetually worried about being taken seriously. So I made sure to dress a little more formally than I had to, kept my long hair up in a severe-looking bun, and was extra-careful about my work. But still, if I had a dollar for every time an older coworker asked me to copy, collate, or fetch something for them that first year, my 401(k) would be a whole lot bigger than it is now.

I remember a coworker who, back in the mid-1990s, told me that I reminded him of all the women who wouldn’t date him when he was in college and treated me accordingly. Others asked me how I’d managed to get hired so young (no, nepotism was not involved, though hard work and luck and good advice were). I’d cringe a bit whenever someone asked me how old I was, not because it was an inappropriate question (though it is) but because I hated the way anything I did after that would be judged and downgraded.

Excelle has a list of 12 things you should never say to your younger and older coworkers, and while I found myself nodding along in sympathy as I clicked through their advice, I think there are a few tidbits I’d like to add.

1. Don’t judge a coworker by his or her peers. Were you flighty and irresponsible when you were 22? Fine, but that doesn’t mean the new hire is. And just because your mom doesn’t understand email, don’t assume that an employee your mom’s age won’t either.

2. Treat everyone as you’d like to be treated. It seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? Don’t be condescending, don’t be dismissive, and don’t forget that if you step on anyone on your way up the ladder they can kick you in the head on your way back down.

3. Help people. The new kid isn’t necessarily after your job. And the office veteran isn’t ncessarily looking forward to retirement. Find ways to make yourself valuable to your company instead of withholding your help or support. Even while you’re working together, your coworkers are part of your career network; it’s better to cultivate than it is to alienate the people you work with.

Do you have any stories to share from when you were a young, new employee? How do you wish you had been treated?



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2 comments so far...

  • My favorite question from my boss in my first job will always be: “do you have enough work to keep you busy over the holiday weekend?”

    Can’t think of any age-related comments to share, that were said to me. But one thing I’ve said a number of times around older coworkers didn’t always go over well. I always had creaky, arthritic joints and a sore back, beginning at age 11. I would jokingly say I was “old,” even when I was the youngest person in the office. I am still very good friends with a former co-worker who is my dad’s age. She still calls me out every time I refer to myself as “getting old.” (Even though it’s kinda true now!)

    Oh, I just remembered one time when my boss, frustrated because I wouldn’t take his advice, told me “If you were my daughter, I’d spank you.” He vehemently denied that comment later. Overall, he was very respectful toward me, so that one comment didn’t really bother me.

    SKL  |  September 3rd, 2010 at 10:38 pm

  • I always get, “Well how old are you?!” Or my favorite, “What were you 13 when you had your first child?!” I am very proud to say I look young for my age. But it gets annoying after awhile and I get like the jealous vibes, at a couple of places I’ve worked because people think I’m young and smart and maybe affecting my career because co-workers think I know too much for my supposedly “young age!” What can I do to be taken more seriously? What would you suggest I say or do. At a former job, I finally said my real age and it did not go well with the female co-workers even though I always tried to help them and go above and beyond in the office.

    anonymous  |  September 24th, 2011 at 7:20 am

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