Sense & Sensitivity

DEAR HARRIETTE: I started a new job where I am the youngest person in my department. This causes some people to mistreat me and try and walk all over me. I don't understand why older people in the workplace aren't receptive and open to being around younger co-workers. I respect that they were there first and have worked there longer, but I feel that I should be respected just as much. How can I get them to treat me better? -- Age Discrimination

DEAR AGE DISCRIMINATION: Sadly, this type of behavior is common in the workplace. Many co-workers assume that young people are uninformed and less capable of doing a particular job than they are. Disparaging comments and jabs can hamper your ability to do your job.

To get your co-workers to treat you better, first be excellent at your responsibilities so that your work is above reproach. Focus on doing a good job, and ignore the barbs whenever you can. When comments are taken too far, use humor to lighten the mood. For example, if someone says you are too young to understand something, you could jokingly ask when a person is too old to understand something else. You can directly say to someone who is saying inappropriate things to you that you would appreciate it if they would stop. Point out that it’s hard to do your job when you are constantly being harassed. Finally, go to human resources and report the individuals who are chastising you. Be specific with your complaints, using examples that reflect the exact language that was used and who the witnesses were.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

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