Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: I’ve been at my job for 14 years. We started a new, huge project so there are some new hires and new structuring. We are divided into four groups of about 10, each with a team leader, and there is one person who leads the team leaders.
This person used to be my direct boss and we had a great working relationship.
I’ve been on my team for about three weeks and I’m having a hard time with my team leader, who is just out of business school and is the same age as my kids. She doesn’t do anything specifically insulting or difficult, I just have a really hard time taking a 25-year-old seriously at work.
I went to my old boss and asked to be switched to a different team, and he told me no. He also said there is no reason not to listen to my team leader.
I like my actual work and my co-workers, so I want to stay here, but it’s difficult for me. How do I take my team leader seriously so I can continue to work here?
Having a Really Hard Time
According to what you wrote, at least, there is in fact no reason not to listen to your team leader. So quit indulging these hard feelings before they cost you your job.
Imagine how you’d feel if she asked to have you transferred out because she doesn’t like working with someone her mother’s age.
Ageism is ageism. Your complaint is ageist.
If it'll help: Imagine if your 20-something-year-old children mentioned to you that older people they supervise at work were undermining them because they think 20-somethings are too young to be in charge. Would you sympathize, or would you say, “I get it – I don’t take you seriously either”?
Re: Young supervisor: It’s also worth reflecting on the fact that one’s supervisors are only going to keep getting younger (or seeming like it) as one ages. Resenting it is like battling against the tide.
I was trained for this myself by watching my doctors get younger and younger. (How do they do that?)
Re: Ageism: The older I get, the younger my colleagues are. I’ve worked with older bosses, younger bosses, and same-age bosses. I recommend this worker pay more attention to the work at hand and less to what the leader looks like. A younger person has energy and vision and fresh eyes that can open up discussion and solutions. An older person has experience and judgment and skills that, if not stingily withheld, can move the project forward successfully. This worker is at risk of being seen as an inflexible old fogey that everyone has to work around.
Right. And even if the younger person fails to bring “energy and vision and fresh eyes,” it is still the employees’ job to make the best of it – just as they must muddle through when an older person occupies a management position despite dubious experience, judgment and skills.
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