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I've been working for my current company for more than 2 years. I am one of the youngest employees (27yo) and I have had 0 problems because of that. I have always been considered "the kid" but in a very respectful fashion, like "you are very very good for your age" both personally and professionally.

A few months ago I moved to a different office with a different manager. Everything is great excluded said manager. I don't get along with her very well and sometimes I find it really hard to get my job done with her.

In the very last period I have been getting to know her a little bit better and when discussing personal things (for instance during lunch) in a group she is frequently very dismissing of my opinion by saying things like "you are too young to know" or "please shut up, adults are talking" maybe with a smile. She has been already "scolded" by other colleagues for this arrogant attitude but this seems to have very little effect on her behavior.

Now I don't want to become her best friend, so I try to spend with her as little of my free time as possible to avoid any kind of problem but this dynamic seems to be more and more present also during our professional time together.

Things at the moment are not too bad so I'm not thinking about leaving my job or even complaining to HR but I am getting tired of the situation and I would like to prevent the situation from deteriorating further.

The question: What suggestions can you give me to prevent the situation from deteriorating any further?

closed as unclear what you're asking by Lawrence Aiello, panoptical, mcknz, Dawny33, Kate Gregory Nov 4 '15 at 16:57

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    Do you have a specific question here? – ptfreak Nov 4 '15 at 15:18
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    What suggestions can you give me to prevent the situation from deteriorating any further? – heapOverflow Nov 4 '15 at 15:21
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    You should edit that into your original post. But also know that general open-ended questions don't get as good of answers as questions that are more narrowly focused and state a specific goal. – ptfreak Nov 4 '15 at 15:31
  • Are the opinions that are being dismissed just the personal things during lunch? Or also work opinions/suggestions/recommendations? If the first, what is the big deal? – Mike Nov 4 '15 at 15:38
  • @Mike: it started just on personal things and, as you imply, it's no big deal. But keep in mind that this denotes a lack of respect, that I would appreciate very much from my direct manager. Now it's trickling into our professional relationship and this is something I don't want to tollerate. – heapOverflow Nov 4 '15 at 15:47
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There are some good answers here but I feel they've missed something, so I'm adding my 2 cents.

It sounds to me like this person may not have a problem with your age exactly, rather your age in relation to your skill level in comparison to hers. She could even feel her job is in danger.

If this person is older and more experienced and feels that you have come in, with less experience and are perhaps putting a higher quality/quantity of work than her, she may be feeling inadequate and as a result, getting defensive and using humor as a defense. If that's the case, the solution to the other answers here (being passive aggressive, trying to overpower her and prove her comments stupid, speaking to management...) could actually aggravate the situation.

Solution?

I would suggest playing the long game. Ask for her advice and opinions here and there, even when you don't really need it. The openness, vulnerability and respect of her opinion might inspire her to drop her defensiveness a bit.
If that doesn't work over the period of a couple of weeks then it's likely it's either her way to make friends by using cutting humor, in which case, you should let her know it hurts in a friendly way, or she really does have no respect for you because of her age and you need to speak to her or escalate it to management if she is not interested in resolution.

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In my experience, if you can back up your point with facts and clear logic, then you quickly turn the tables. Being in public (e.g. a meeting situation) will teach your manager not to challenge you, as they now look both rude and stupid.

Example that happened to me. When I presented an idea, a colleague of mine used to try to dismiss it with the phrase "I've never heard of idea X", implying that if she hadn't heard of it, then it was not worthwhile knowing. This is the outline of my response:

  • Idea X is well established. It was introduced by Fred Bloggs in 1965
  • Idea X is well suited to our problem. We want to maximise profit. It does just that
  • Idea X was used by Big Company Y to make an extra large amount of profit last year

So, the general advice is to:

  1. Review in what ways your manager tries to challenge you
  2. Research a good response
  3. Rehearse the response so that you can deliver it confidently and professionally
  • I like this approach and the way of backing up the suggestion or opinion with facts. Really nice. Sadly, in a lot of situations, people doubt themselves when confronted by a louder, more outgoing, more "confident" personality. – Mike Nov 4 '15 at 15:50
  • If you can't provide specific support, consider that you might be wrong. Even if you can, consider that it might be hard to adopt based on where you are now or other practical constraints, or someone may have tried it and found issues. It's always safer and more informative to ask "hey, have we considered..."; you still get credit for the idea, but you hear what the objections are and can discuss them before committing yourself to them. A question will always be considered less arrogant than an assertion. – keshlam Nov 4 '15 at 15:50
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    .... there's nothing like publicly embarrassing your manager if your goal is to get them to disrespect you further.... – enderland Nov 4 '15 at 16:30
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    +1 ^ what @enderland said. If these are the actions of someone who feels inadequate by your presence (see my answer), you're going to open a whole new can of worms by retorting. – Ross Drew Nov 4 '15 at 16:39
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Bring this up during your 1:1.

Don't have 1:1's? That makes me concerned for your company/manager (more reading).

This should be something you can work out as professionals. You raise these concerns about how she is being disrespectful and dismissive. She addresses how you may be reading too much into them, or improves. If she does not, then you go to her boss.

If they don't do anything, you go to HR. Depending on your locale, such discrimination may be illegal, so going to HR might be a fairly huge step. Please do not be scared of this. Managers who are this inept aren't just harming you, they're a cancer for the entire company.

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Nine-tenths of the effort to dealing with this situation has to do with how you respond to these jabs. Your manager is intimidated by you, and these little knocks to your esteem are designed to keep you in your place.

If I were you, I'd practice with a trusted friend on some rehearsed responses toward your manager. If you practice, then it will be less emotionally taxing for you when you're dealing with the real thing.

When you hear the "you're too young to know", respond with, "Hey, thanks for reminding me of that!" and keep on talking as if the manager never made the statement.

When you hear "please shut up, adults are talking," respond with "adults are courteous to one another, and know how to wait their turn to speak." ... and again, keep right on talking.

In either case: maintain an even tone of voice, and give that manager a quick glance, dead in the eyes, when you say what you say. The goal is to let it be known that you're not intimidated or thrown off emotionally by the ugly statements. It'll be different for you at first, but you'll improve with practice. You may have to, afterward, go outside and take a deep breath. But you can do it!

  • That's more or less what I did, but as you can guess when this behavior keeps coming it's definitely a problem. I cannot spend my days fighting my manager. – heapOverflow Nov 5 '15 at 13:35
  • Keep going. It might take a while – Xavier J Nov 5 '15 at 15:49
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By no means a complete answer, but listen carefully to what is said. If people are talking about all the things they were up to in the late 60's when they were teenagers, or discussing problems with their grandchildren, then comments saying you are too young may be quite Ok. On the other hand, if people are discussing current politics, then "shut up, adults are talking" is unacceptable. There may be people who because of life experience can judge certain things better than you can; if they do and explain things then it's often a good idea to listen - but plain dismissing everything you have to say is bad.

All that said, the majority of 27 year olds are adults.

  • I agree with you, but would argue that telling anyone to shut up is unacceptable. There's a difference between moving a discussion along and squashing communication. The context here matters a lot for the you're too young comments, less so for shut up. – ColleenV Nov 4 '15 at 16:27
  • You don't know the tone that was said in though @ColleenV , it might have been a personal setting (lunch) and the person might have meant it as a genuine joke. – Ross Drew Nov 4 '15 at 16:41
  • @RossDrew The problem is that it is an manager saying it to a direct report. That context overshadows any tone of voice, even if it was a bad joke. There's nothing wrong with good natured ribbing, but shut up is really aggressive and should be avoided at work. – ColleenV Nov 4 '15 at 17:00
  • @ColleenV I've had many managers jokingly tell me shut up. It's never been meant in a mean spirited way and it's never been taken as such. Taking instant offence and deciding what etiquette other people should adhere to is a surefire way to cause friction. – Ross Drew Nov 4 '15 at 17:03
  • @RossDrew You're right that it really matters what kind of relationship you have, and in the context of this question I don't think there's any way it could be said that wouldn't be a problem. – ColleenV Nov 4 '15 at 17:35

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