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Can Looking Young Hurt Your Career?

Can Looking Young Hurt Your Career?

Alison Green l Ask A Manager

1. Your coworkers just haven’t particularly bonded with you. If the issue is that they haven’t embraced you socially … well, not everyone clicks and not everyone has to. You may never “fit in” with them in that way, and that’s not uncommon. What matters is that you all work together reasonably well regardless. In this scenario, I think you’re a little too hung up on age, and probably attributing too much to that, and your boss was probably just trying to smooth it over, maybe a little inartfully.


2. Your coworkers are actually being rude, obstructionist, or otherwise inappropriate with you. If this is the case, your boss should let them know that they’re expected to work constructively with all employees, period. And if this is the case, excusing their behavior because they’re older than you and wouldn’t hang out with you outside of work is weird and irrelevant.

But again, I can’t tell which of these scenarios is actually happening here. But I do know that you’re not really helping matters yourself. Going home crying because your coworkers haven’t embraced you is giving them way too much power over your quality of life. The reality is, most people have to deal with coworkers who they don’t really click with. Do your job and don’t take their attitudes personally. If they’re rude to you, that indicates that something is wrong with them, not you.

The part about this that troubles me the most, though, is your boss outsourcing design work because he assumed that you weren’t experienced enough to know what he’d want. Now, it’s possible that he knows he’s going to get better work from a more seasoned designer, and he never intended to assign the work to your position since it’s filled by someone more entry-level. But is this supposed to be part of your job? Is it work you were led to believe you’d be doing when you were hired? Is it work you should be doing?

These questions really, really matter, and again it’s information that I don’t have. If the answer to these questions is yes, then you need to talk to your boss about this. Tell him it concerns you that he doesn’t feel you’re ready to handle this component of your job and ask him what he’d need to see from you in order to feel comfortable giving you a chance at that work. Maybe his concerns aren’t about your age at all — maybe by talking about this you’ll find that they’re based on something more legitimate. Or maybe not. But you do need to talk about it and get a better grasp on what’s going on here.

Last, regarding age discrimination, in most states age discrimination laws only apply to people 40 and up. But I think that’s a red herring anyway — this isn’t about age. It’s about what you can and can’t expect from your relationships with your coworkers, and it’s about building a better relationship with your boss where you’re better aligned on mutual expectations.

DISCUSSION: Higher Degree, or Experience?