I’m turning 30 in two months. And aside from getting nostalgic about the video games that I used to play when I was younger, I’ve done a lot of thinking lately about what this means for me at this point in my career. That thinking has led me back to a lot of memories of older colleagues I’ve worked with in the past who went out of their way to remind me that I was younger than they were.
And what they were implying was twofold. Not only were they trying to tell me I was less experienced than they were, but they were also trying to drive home the idea that I was also less qualified. I’ve resolved never to be that person, no matter my age. And to make sure you’re never that person either, I’ve laid out a few symptoms in hopes you can catch yourself before it’s too late.
1. You Make Fun of Their Lingo (Even Though You Also Use it Regularly)
OK, I get it. There are plenty of popular smartphone apps I don’t understand and even more, acronyms that make me feel like I’m 100 years old. It’s entirely reasonable if you just aren’t up to speed with what your younger co-workers like to do and how they prefer communicating.
That doesn’t give you license to make fun of them for it, though. What makes you an even bigger jerk is purposely mispronouncing these things, just to get under their skin. While it might be funny the first time you refer to Snapchat as “SnortChip,” it gets pretty tired if you keep up the charade, especially if your colleagues have taken the time to fill you in on what’s going on.
You know that feeling of frustration you get when your parents ask you (for the 100th time) how to attach a file to an email and then blame their lack of knowledge on being “old”—that’s how you might be making your colleagues feel when you make these comments.
2. You Interrogate Them When They Don’t Get One of Your References
I love a good joke just as much as anyone when I’m at work. But sometimes, they just don’t land like you initially thought they would. When your joke or story flops because the references you make are a little bit dated, that can be a huge blow to your ego.
And while you’re totally allowed to be sad (and feel a little bit closer to death), that doesn’t mean you can spend endless amounts of time and energy interrogating your colleagues about how they possibly didn’t get what you were saying. Gosh, don’t they know how much better my nostalgic childhood shows are than their nostalgic shows?
Even if you’re just trying to communicate that you’re sad that nobody else got the reference, odds are high you’re instead coming off as condescending because of the way you’re expressing your point. Let’s all accept that our childhood shows, toys, and music will always hold a special place in our individual hearts—and no one else’s.
3. You Always Talk About How Things Were Harder in Your Day
Here’s another one I’m totally empathetic about. It’s easy to look at your current office space, your equipment, and even the snacks in your kitchen and think about what you didn’t have when you were starting your career. My first work computer weighed about 50 pounds, had monitors that hurt my eyes if I stared at them for longer than 20 minutes at a time, and emails I needed to get out ASAP that would occasionally decide, “Nope, I don’t feel like being sent to your client.” And I’ll admit, it’s fun to reminisce about those times, especially with my former colleagues.
But what I’ve learned is that talking to younger co-workers about “how good they have it with their organic milk and their ergonomic chair,” is a quick way to make people look at you and think, “What’s wrong with that guy? Does he believe he was born in the 1920s?” It’s perfectly fine (and recommended) to offer nuggets of wisdom when your younger colleagues ask for them. However, if you’re just pointing this out in some kind of misguided attempt to make your co-workers feel grateful, it’s probably time to rethink your lunchtime fodder.
I can empathize with anyone who’s feeling like they’re the elder statesman or woman of their team. It’s not always easy looking around and feeling like you’re way behind the times and will simply never catch up.
However, don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re the one doing this to yourself. Unless you work with the meanest people on the face of the earth, the odds are that you’re the reason you feel so old. And because of that, it’s important to deal with your insecurities in the right way. The right way being either accepting the fact that you’re no longer in your twenties or (and!) acknowledging what you don’t know and working to fill in any vital gaps.
Photo of co-workers talking courtesy of Hero Images/Getty Images.
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy.More from this Author