how can 20somethings know if something is worth complaining about or leaving a job over?

A reader writes:

If one is unhappy at their work, whether it’s due to their actual responsibilities or problems with their bosses, coworkers, clients, etc., how would one then determine whether it’s a legitimate grievance that grants the right to action, such as speaking to one’s manager, looking for another job, or even resigning without having found another job, or whether it’s a normal part of the working condition that will improve or one just needs to get used to.?

I understand that this is a very general question that does not have the same answer to every situation, but is there a general rule that one can go by? And does money, experience, length of stay, etc. have any impact on the answer to the first question? For example, does it matter if one if unhappy at a job that pays $25K, $50K, or $150K, or whether they have been at their place for 5 months, 1 year, or 5 years?

Those from “older generations” say that individuals my age and generation (late 20s, Generation Y) are just lazy, irresponsible, and think we have the right to a perfect job right out of college. I understand their point and maybe we (the Generation Y) need to lower our expectations, but I have also known people who stayed at jobs that were making them utterly miserable for years. It’s similar to divorce: not too long ago, people stayed in a really bad marriage for the sake of the children or because of societal pressures; however, now, people get divorced at the first sign of diminished passions. So how does one find that balance between not giving up too easily and also not falling into dutiful martyrdom?

You’re right that there’s not  one across-the-board rule, because it depends on the specifics of the situation — but in general, a few principles are worth considering:

First, the more in-demand you are, the more able you are to speak up when you’re unhappy and to walk away for something better. If you’re not an especially marketable candidate, you don’t have as much ground to stand on when insisting on something better (or options to turn to if you don’t get what you want). That’s why people often find it a bit silly when less experienced people leave jobs over complaints that are common or relatively minor in the scheme of things — although it’s of course still reasonable when the issues are bigger. (I’d put harassment, real cruelty, chronically broken promises, and being expected to do something illegal, immoral, or unsafe in the “bigger issues” category.)

But complicating things is that fact that when you’re less experienced, you can’t always judge the relative seriousness of an issue very well. The more experience you have in the work world, the better perspective you’re able to have when it comes to figuring out if the thing troubling you is:
* common and not really a big deal
* truly outrageous
* something you can or can’t realistically avoid wherever you go
* something worth taking a stand over
It’s often hard to judge those things well when you don’t have tons of experience.

You asked how to tell if something warrants a wide list of actions, including speaking to your manager, looking for another job, or resigning without having another job. In general, the latter is something most people need to avoid, both because it can take a really long time to find another job (a year or more for many candidates in this market) and because you’re generally less attractive to new employers once you’re unemployed, which will make what might have already been a long job search even longer and harder. There are some things that warrant quitting without another job lined up, but they’re pretty rare.

But as for speaking to your manager, a good manager will want to know if you’re unhappy about something, particularly if you’re contemplating leaving your job over it. Of course, as with anything, your specific complaint (and the way you approach it) can reflect on your judgment. If you go to your manager because you’re frustrated spending three hours a day in useless meetings, that’s reasonable. If you go to her because you’re annoyed you don’t get senior-level projects when you’ve only been on the job for a year, that’s going to make you look naive. So you also want to factor in how reasonable an objective observer would find your concern, and — importantly — how equipped you are to make that call. If you’re pretty inexperienced, it’s important to recognize that that probably impacts your ability to assess this stuff.

All of this points to proceeding with caution when you’re relatively new to the work world — and testing your assessment of a situation with people you respect who have more experience to draw on. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t entitled to push back on something or leave a job if you’re unhappy — that’s your prerogative at any time. But it’s wise to make sure that you understand the potential consequences of that action and how it’s likely to be perceived by people around you — and that’s the piece that I think is sometimes missing when people are less experienced, and what has led to some of the stereotypes that you describe.

{ 195 comments… read them below }

  1. Lily in NYC*

    I guess it would be rude to print this out and give it to the new admin we hired? She feels over-qualified for her job and complains constantly about how she works harder than anyone else (if she only knew), deserves a promotion, etc… – she’s only been here a few months and everything she complains about is a direct result of this being her first job ever and just not understanding the way the corporate world works.

    1. BCW*

      In fairness, being new to the work world doesn’t mean she isn’t overqualified for the job. The other things are definite issues, but I mean, if you have a degree in electrical engineering, and you are answering phones in a beauty shop, then I’d agree with the over qualified assessment. Now, I’m not saying the job is beneath her, but her qualifications do lend her to more intellectually stimulating work.

      1. David*

        One’s scholarship in electrical engineering in no way makes them overqualifed to work reception. In this example, the person is qualified as an electrical engineer, not necessarily pleasantly answering phones, greeting visitors or managing schedules.

        I just want to point this out because years ago I worked with a woman who had a Masters in Renaissance Art. Her job was to perform data entry. The extent of her education in a particular field barely qualified her to either accurately or efficiently transfer data from paperwork to an online form, much less make her overqualified.

        1. Chinook*

          I agree – being educated to a certain point does not mean you are qualified to do anything unless the education is relevant to the job. Sure, I have a B.Ed and was technically “more qualified” than a lot of RNs I was assisting at another job who had never completed university, but I that didn’t mean I would be qualified to be an RN because their 2 years of education were more relevant than my 4 years of education and 15 years watching ER episodes.

          1. Manda*

            I think a lot of people use the term “overqualified” when “overeducated” would be a more appropriate choice of words. I have a math degree, so as in BCW’s example, I would like to be doing intellectually stimulating work. Realistically, I can’t be too picky and I’m likely to end up doing something more along the lines of answering phones (at least for now). Since I have little experience, I am in no way overqualified to do things like data entry, answering phones, filing papers, and stuffing envelopes. I have more education than that type of job requires but I also don’t feel like it’s beneath me. You gotta start somewhere. I think being overeducated isn’t so much a case of being overqualified as it is poor fit. If you have a degree that lends itself to a certain type of work, you probably won’t be happy in a job where you aren’t making use of the skills and knowledge you got from it.

      2. Lily in NYC*

        I have tried, believe me. I’m the one who trained her. I’ve been at this place for 9 years and know what it takes to get promoted off the admin track. She did the complete opposite of what I suggested and now the new boss of our division doesn’t like her. She also threw me under the bus and blamed me for a huge mistake she made. She has no clue that I know she blamed me but that was the last day I helped her with anything. She needs to learn the hard way.

      3. Lily in NYC*

        She’s not overqualified. We work in a very competitive atmosphere and most of the admins have graduate degrees. All of the admins in my division do because of the nature of our work. She’s doing an average job, but she has a huge sense of entitlement. I sound like I hate her, but she’s a good kid. Just needs to learn the way of the world.

        1. RedStateBlues*

          I’m not sure I would associate someone who “threw my under the bus” with being a “good kid”, but that’s just me ;)

          Seriously, though, she may never change. We’ve been waiting for 2 years for a girl with similar characteristics (not the grad degree, but the lack of experience, first real job out of college, the superiority complex, etc) to “grow up” and if anything she has gotten worse.

          1. Nuria*

            Sorry if I’m stating the obvious here: Have you -or whoever’s responsible for her in the workplace- talked to her about these issues? I know (now) that I was guilty of youth arrogance and workplace dynamics unexperience in my first two jobs (6 years in total!) but it wasn’t until my awesome boss at my third job pointed out -kindly yet firmly- these kind of mistakes to me that I realised what an idiot I’d been. It also left me with a bitter realisation that no one in my previous jobs had actually bothered to do any real management with me.

    2. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

      You could be passive-aggresive and leave it anonymously on her desk after she leaves for the day. :P

      1. Jazzy Red*

        Or you could attempt to mentor her (although you might have already tried this; you didn’t say one way or the other).

        Honestly, I’ve been in the working world a long, long time, and most problems like this with younger people is simply that no one has befriended them and explained the way the business world is. I was taken under the wing of a couple of wonderful secretaries when I first started working, which is a good thing because school did not prepare me for the real world.

        1. Chinook*

          I was thinking the same thing when reading AAM’s repsonse – the best way to learn if yoru concern is legit is to run it by someone who knows better but can’t fix it (so it is obvious you want advice and not for them to solve it for you). I think this is the #1 reason to have mentors – they have been, there done that and can help you with an bumps in the road. And, sometimes that help may consist of “yup, it sucks, but that bump is going to have to be travelled for another 5 years before you hit a smooth patch.”

        2. Manda*

          This is important, even outside the “business world.” I remember my first week working in retail. Someone took me aside and went over a bunch of things because she knew there was a lot to take in and she wanted to help me out. She repeated some things I was already told, just to help them sink in, and she mentioned some other stuff I hadn’t been told yet. I always remembered that and I made sure to treat new staff the same way later on.

    3. Anonymous for this*

      Even better is when someone feels that something is beneath them, and then they are backed up by their manager.

      There is a director at my company who is constantly saying, “I can’t ask an employee with a juris doctorate to do that! It’s not an effective use of their salary!” Well, if you think the responsibilities of that job are so far beneath someone with that level of education, then why did you hire someone you felt to be so hugely overqualified?

      This is frustrating because it gives this person permission to dismiss anything perceived as menial or tedious. One of my colleagues tried to have a discussion with this employee regarding some legal compliance requirements, and was told, “I don’t know why some low-level peon should have the right to tell me how to do my job.” Nice.

      1. Tina*

        It’s plain rude to speak to a colleague like that, even if you do believe they’re a “low-level peon”.

        And if you don’t plan to ask the JD that you hired for the job to actually do the job, who do you plan to have do the work?

        1. Anonymous for this*

          Oh I know. I was infuriated on my friend’s behalf, but she handled herself very professionally. I doubt I would have been able to do the same.

      2. Anonymous*

        I get paid the same whether I am writing PL-SQL or stuffing envelopes. Bring on the envelopes!

        1. Jamie*

          At a glance I thought you wrote PSQL and I was about to beg you to be my new BFF. I know other people in the world run it, but none of my IT friends and sometimes I feel so very alone.

    4. My 2 Cents*

      Even if you don’t do it directly to her, listen to her complaints and when she complains about how something is done, ask yourself “Why do we do things that way?” If you have a legitimate answer (and be honest with yourself, don’t just do the “I am in charge so it’s perfect” approach) then move on. If you can’t think of a really good reason or default to “that’s the way we’ve always done things” then maybe realize that the complaint is valid.

      You brought on someone new and that gives you an awesome opportunity to see things through a new set of eyes, take advantage of that! There will be plenty of things that are done for a reason that the new person can’t yet understand (and please explain that to them so they know why!!!), but there will also be some things that should be done differently and that new person just made your operations better and more efficient. You’re going to have a more efficient operation, your new employee is going to feel like they are contributing and being taken seriously, and everyone wins!

      1. Anonymous*

        Yes, yes, yes. I’ve been in the opposite position a number of times ( assigned to a new location as the manager) and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked ” why do we .. ” and gotten “because we always have” as the answer. Often it made sense when the practice started , but like the ham story*,the practice continued without anyone knowing the reason or that the reason is no longer relevant.

        * A man sees his wife preparing to cook a ham and asked her why she cut off the end. She responds that she doesn’t know why , but her mother always did it and she will ask why. Mom says she doesn’t know why, but Grandma always cut off the end. They ask Grandma why, and her response is “Because my pan was too small”

      2. Colette*

        Sometimes “because that’s the way we’ve always done things” is a perfectly valid reason, especially if there’s no compelling reason to change. If it’s something you do for an hour once a month, it may not be worth investing time and money reducing that to 50 minutes a month.

        Yes, it’s good to be open to other options, but often someone who is new doesn’t have enough knowledge of what the business reasons were for the current process to be able to understand whether it should be changed. I agree it’s valid to ask why. I also agree it’s valid to say “Have you considered doing it differently?” However, it’s a mistake to think that someone new always has better ways of doing things, and it’s important for someone new coming in to understand that not everything can or should be changed.

        1. Colette*

          Replying to myself to add that often someone new to a role or new to the workforce probably doesn’t understand the actual financial and monetary cost of making what seem to be obvious changes.

          1. doreen*

            That’s true, but sometimes the people who have been doing something a particular forever have never thought about those costs and answering a question from someone new could provoke that thinking. When I got transferred to a new office I asked why we sent literally everything out UPS. The answer eventually turned out to be because we don’t have a mailroom or postage machine at that location- although we did have a courier who picked up the interoffice mail and brought it to an office with a mailroom. For whatever reason (perhaps because it wasn’t their money) no one, not even the person who paid the UPS bill of a minimum $5 for each envelope ever questioned why all the mail was sent UPS rather than sent to the mailroom via the courier to be run through the meter and sent US mail. When brought the issue those above me in the hierarchy, and mentioned that the UPS bills were running about $1000 a week for envelopes that could be sent first class for under $100 , they were shocked and the system was changed immediately.

      3. Lily in NYC*

        I’m not sure if this response is to me, I always have a hard time here figuring that out. But her complaints are not about how we do things. She complains when asked to do her job. She complains when someone is out and she has to cover for the person (this was in her job description). She complains when we stay 10 minutes after 5pm (she gets overtime). She complains because I have more vacation than she does (I’ve been here 9 years; she’s been here 5 months). She badmouths all of the bosses to me (which is just not done here). She complains because I have one boss and she has 4 (I am the assistant to the head of the division and she doesn’t understand that as you move up in the admin world, you work for fewer people because the work gets more complicated). Maybe I should change the word complaint to whine. Because that’s really what she’s doing. We hired two new admins at the same time and the other one does her job very well without bitching about everything. She has a persecution complex but I’m done trying to help her because it falls on deaf ears, and I’m not cool with her trying to blame a mistake she made on me. I don’t owe her a thing after trying for 5 months.

        1. Colette*

          The one thing I can suggest here is not rewarding her complaining. When she complains, either just ignore it (like you didn’t hear it) or address it (“If you don’t like that, you should talk to Sue.”, “I’m not sure why you’re telling me that.”, “Why would you say that?”). In other words, don’t argue, don’t justify, just shut her down.

        2. Rana*

          That doesn’t sound inexperienced to me; that sounds whiny. I can just as easily imagine her a 30-years’ veteran of the workforce, doing the same dang thing. (Have I worked with people like that? Yes, yes I have.)

          So I agree with Colette; the only way to deal with a whiner is to ignore them and not validate their complaints.

      4. Lily*

        Encouraging a new hire to make suggestions can turn into a giant waste of time when the new hire will not accept the explanation and keeps on wanting to make changes whose implications she does not even imagine while forcing me to justify our processes on the fly.

        I now tell new hires that I would really like them to make suggestions to improve our processes, that they should follow the process while writing all their suggestions down and that we will review the suggestions when the process is over to improve it for next time.

        1. ADE*

          I like this approach- I have found that “the way things are done” are often done for a reason, and that there are always costs associated with moving to a “new way of doing things,” so even if the new way is more efficient, it needs to be so good to overcome a significant drawback of changing “how it’s done.”

          (Certainly “the thing” varies, but even slow and inefficient processes are sometimes that way because it would be slower to fix the process!)

  2. some1*

    “It’s similar to divorce: not too long ago, people stayed in a really bad marriage for the sake of the children or because of societal pressures; however, now, people get divorced at the first sign of diminished passions.”

    FWIW, a blanket (and in my opinion judgemental) statement like this makes you look more naive than not being able to identify workplace dealbreakers.

    1. anon*

      I don’t see how this is judgmental? Not everyone gets divorced for bad reasons, but things like the great Britney Spears 55-hour marriage wouldn’t have happened 50 or 60 years ago.

      1. some1*

        We don’t know that, because we didn’t have a 24-hour news cycle then, and I think it was easier for celebs to keep certain private matters out of the press to a greater degree.

        1. College Career Counselor*

          Ernest Borgnine and Ethel Merman were married for 32 days in 1964. Just sayin’. ;-)

      2. some1*

        But to answer your question, I think it’s judgmental to say “now, people get divorced nowadays at the first sign of diminished passions” because people get divorced for all kinds of reasons, and it’s really not up to anyone but the couple to decide which reasons are good enough.

        To use your Britney Spears example, I think the mistake was the *marriage*, not the divorce.

      3. AJ*

        Oh yes they did. Just look up the marital histories of Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw, Barbara Hutton, Elzabeth Taylor, asbestos heir Tommy Manville—and there were plenty more.

    2. BCW*

      I didn’t find it judgmental, its true, to a point. The divorce rate now in a lot higher than it was in years past. Its easier now than before, and frowned upon far less. You calling her naive isn’t really helping the issue she was writing in to question, in fact its very much reinforcing it.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I thought it sounded naive too. I haven’t seen a bunch of people getting divorced “at the first sign of diminished passions.” Most people get divorced because they’re terribly unhappy with each other. Even if you want to argue that point, the statement does sound like it’s coming from a place without much life experience.

          1. jmkenrick*

            I agree – I read it as a sort of parroting some criticisms the divorce rate has received from older generations and comparing it to older generations being dismissive of leaving a job.

      2. Ally*

        The divorce rate is higher now than say 50 years ago. To say that now “people get divorced at the first sign of diminished passions” is very judgmental.

        1. Jamie*

          I don’t know that it was judgmental as much as just very broad-brushy. Older people think X about younger ones, people never got divorced now they do for anything…even wondering if there is a certain amount of unhappiness per pay grade.

          I’m not being snarky – I get it – I would much prefer to live in a world where there are rules for everything and I could consult graphs instead of lumbering around in this murky gray area which is most of life.

          I just read it as very naive, not judgmental.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I vote for broad-brushy. I think the news media plays up Hollywood divorces and we don’t know everything goes on in people’s homes. It gives the impression that collectively, we divorce willy-nilly. Of all the people, I know who got divorced everyone really knocked themselves out trying to make a go of it.

            I hope that we don’t lose OPs question just because of a weak analogy. Her question is still a good one regarding workplace issues. How DO we know when something is a deal breaker? How do we decide when to go to the boss and when to just suck-it-down?
            If we all knew the answers to this type of stuff then Alison would not have a blog.

            OP, one thing I enjoy about reading this blog is when someone writes in “x, y and z are going on at work. Now what do I do?” then Alison answers “GET OUT. RUN.” Her clarity and surefootedness are a breath of fresh air. It keeps me reading, for sure.

          1. JD*

            We have to remember that divorce is easier now because women have more choices. It used to be that you were the property of your husband and when those laws went away, women still didn’t have the economic autonomy that they have today. As late as the 1970s, women were treated as though they just needed to get little secretary jobs until they could find husbands and have kids and stay home. It’s only been in very recent history that divorce was even economically possible for most women.

            I wouldn’t say people get divorced at the first sign of diminished passions because having practiced divorce-law for several years, I know the heart-wrenching pain that comes with that decision and the difficulties of dealing with property, children, etc. not to mention paying the lawyer. I’ve not met a single divorce client who was doing it on a whim, I can tell you that!

            In any case, I don’t think the OP meant that statement literally anyway, I think it was hyperbole to make a point, which is worthy of discussion and that is how do you know when to end things and when to suck it up and deal?

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I see it mentioned in numerous places that people can expect to have several careers in the course of their working life.

      I think this is what OP was driving at. My Grandpa had one job and stayed at that job all his life. Because in those days (1930s and on) that is what people did. Now is quite different, not only do people have several employers but they also have more than one career job.

      Applause, OP. Good question and well-framed. I wish I had someone to ask that question of so many years ago. I would have saved myself so many problems.
      I am sure many people are reading this question with keen interest.

      1. some1*

        “I think this is what OP was driving at.”

        Right, but there are many, many reasons most people don’t stay at the same employer for their entire working life, or in the same career.

        There are other reasons people get divorced besides “diminished passions”.

        1. some1*

          & if my 3/4 of my married friends are to be believed, plenty of people choose to stay married after the passions diminish.

    4. EW*

      Honestly, this comparison jumped out at me too. I really hope the OP isn’t married yet. “Diminished passions” is a normal part of being in a long-term relationship. Unfortunately, movies and pop culture show romantic love in a skewed light, ending the movie just as the couple gets together. They rarely (never?) show the couple after decades of marriage who have settled into a very comfortable companionship and, yes, sex. I’ve been with my spouse for over a decade, and things were quite passionate in the beginning, but that has changed into something deeper. We have a child together, and face all of life’s challenges as a united team.

      So, that said, expecting the burning passion of a burgeoning romance to last years and years actually is a bit like expecting to have a “dream job” right out of college without ever paying ones’ dues. Yes, there comes a time when one outgrows the paying dues stage, but that varies by individual and industry. In fact, one reason I left my last job was because I was treated like a twenty-something field-hand with a high school education rather than the thirty-something professional with a masters degree and 5 years of industry experience that I was.

      1. Job seeker*

        Interesting. I am the mother of three 20 something year olds and I do believe this generation is very different from mine. I have been married 31 years and believe me it takes commitment and work. I believe today everyone should evaluate your consequences before leaving a job.

        I think young adults have forgotten paying your dues. Gaining experience and building a good record still should count for something. Staying in a marriage and working through problems and realizing I promised for better or worst. Facing life’s challenges as a team (and believe me you will have them) is worth it.

        Learning to appreciate all the blessing you have and not take things for granted. My husband and I have acquired a lot in our 31 years of marriage, but we didn’t start out that way. Sometimes I think my children think they should start out having everything we have. Building a career I think is probably the same way. One block at a time. When I was first married a wise older lady that had been married 50 years gave me some advice. I asked her the secret of being together so long and she looked me in the eye and said If this is going to work, it is going to be up to you. Years later I understand, anything worth having requires commitment and work. It requires realizing you usually pay your dues. Good luck to you.

        1. Tinker*

          “I think young adults have forgotten paying your dues.”

          I don’t see how they possibly could, unless they have the memory of a goldfish or live in a hole in the ground and never interact with the ideas of other people. It’s pretty much the first, fourth, sixth and nineteenth thing anyone says (and often in tones as if nobody ever has said it before on the planet) when the subject of “Kids These Days” comes up, and if you happen to be a Kid These Days then there’s an obvious route by which it can often come up around you.

          It’s not that they don’t know of the concept, I think, but that they don’t agree with it. And rightfully so, at least at times — some people go too far. I’m one of the older members of Gen Y, and at one point I was discussing some awkward incidents that had occurred in my last job search — this was just after I finished grad school, and I was getting pressured to abandon my preferences to work in my field and in my city despite that these goals were highly important to me and were logical extensions of my qualifications. With no more detail than that, the person I was talking to called me out as a perfect example of the “entitled youth of today” who was demanding too much. What I was looking for, it seemed, didn’t matter — the fact that I had expectations at all was sufficient.

          I think there’s a perception, which is sometimes true, that the concept of “paying your dues” sometimes goes beyond “hard work and commitment” to the point of expecting young people not to look for even appropriate rewards for their work.

          1. Job seeker*

            I agree some people do go too far. I have three wonderful, successful children in which I am proud. I do however, remember at their age appreciating things more. I do believe many very young adults today do not realize the hard work behind what they are trying to achieve.

            Having high expectations is a good thing, just note that there is always hard work behind success.

          2. Felicia*

            I have been told I am entitled because I’d rather not do a 4th unpaid internship and that Id rather not work in retail. Not that I won’t even, just that it sucks to even have to consider it. Sure i’ll pay my dues, but I would like to get paid to work and would like to get jobs beyond what I could have gotten as a highschool student after graduating from university with honours , doing 3 unpaid internships and working all through school. I don’t think that’s unreasonable, and in my parents’ generation people wouldn’t be called entitled for wanting that. But then for them you could graduate from university with some work experience and walk into a decently paying job. It’s not like I expect that, but it’s like feeling like i’m entitled to minimum wage proves all that’s wrong with my generation.

            1. Kyle*

              So much this! I hate it when people say the younger generation doesn’t know how to pay their dues. Unpaid internship after unpaid internship only to get a job that won’t cover your expenses, if you’re lucky enough to get one at all. If that’s not paying your dues/hard work then I don’t know what is.

    5. Brett*

      I think the letter writer was using this as an allegorical example of how older generations view their generation.
      “Your generation is lazy with your work and lazy with your marriages. In my day you stayed married no matter what and no one get divorced, today you young people get divorced right and left….”

      1. MarieK*

        I agree with this. And I don’t think it applies exclusively to this generation… I’m sure my parents got this kind of lecture from their parents, and so on. I think the OP’s question points to the fact that it’s tough to ask questions like this because many older, more experienced folks (not all) will jump to the conclusion that young people today are entitled/clueless/lazy/whatever and have no idea about paying their dues. It really can be tough to make the right decision about leaving a job. As many other posters have mentioned, I strongly recommend that the OP finds a trusted coworker or mentor outside of work that has some experience and can offer some perspective without immediately getting judgemental. Also, the OP is showing some common sense and maturity by consulting AAM in the first place!

  3. Del*

    One really good thing you can to is make at least one good friend among the older workers at your job, or outside the office at a (similar is better) job. Someone you can bounce ideas, frustrations, and situations off of, who can give you some sense of where your frustrations fall in the grand scheme of things.

    I tend to run toward being a little opposite of the Gen Y/Millenial stereotype; in past awful jobs I’ve had, I’ve suffered in silence, just assuming that that was how the working world was supposed to be; it took an older coworker pulling me aside and telling me flat-out “Hey, if you need to vent sometime, let’s take a smoke break in the parking lot and you can talk to me. Manager can be a real jerk sometimes, and I’ve heard him being hard on you,” for me to realize that that particular manager’s behavior was actually not really normal.

    Being inexperienced in the work world does mean that it’s a lot harder to assess the actual scope of difficulties you’re having — but drawing on your coworkers’ experience is absolutely a good step in these situations, so long as they’re people you trust not to take your frustrations and turn them into drama.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Likewise, us “older” workers, can reach out to a younger person.

      As Del says, OP, chose carefully and wisely. Choose people that seem to be doing the job well and seem productive. Look for people that seem to be getting along with others most of the time. I have found in a work group that there is usually one or two people that the whole group feels “this is our go-to” person. Figure out who that person is.

      1. Chinook*

        There were 3 of us that took the receptionist at one job under our wing. She was new to work world and it showed but she also had great potential. We kept an eye out to see if she was struggling and would point her in the direction of what she needed. When she would show interest in somethign slightly outside of her scope fo work, we would try our best to either get her more info or, subtley, state her case to the poeple we supported as Admins. And, when she started getting down because of the job, we would point out the benefits of the job (not only financial but that there is room to grow as 2 of the Directors started of in minor support positions). It was a pleasure to see her blossom.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          It is a joy to be a part of something like this. And a privilege, too, because not everyone allows us to help them.

          To me that is what makes my job for me- all the different ways I can help people as I go about doing my work.

  4. Mena*

    I think this is where having a mentor can be helpful, as well as networking with others. It is about building your perspective, sharing thoughts with others, learning from others and seeing how others handle these career challenges.

    And, it is WORK and you are paid to be there. It isn’t always about what you like, what you want, what you feel like. Big picture, do you feel satisified and respected for what you’re doing and are you compensated reasonably? But there are days when it is work and this is how you pay your bills.

  5. BCW*

    I also think it kind of depends on the person. Some people will take just about anything thrown at them, and suck it up because they need a job. Others are more thin skinned and take things to heart. Still others become combatitive. Its hard to say what one persons line should be. While it is work, and not play, if you really are miserable someplace, I think you should leave.

    1. fposte*

      I think that’s particularly true going the other way–if you don’t mind something, you don’t have to mind just because other people do.

      1. SevenSixOne*

        Yes, so much. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve mentioned something that’s “normal” to me and someone outside my industry/culture/generation/whatever is HORRIFIED that it doesn’t bother me.

  6. Jamie*

    Those from “older generations” say that individuals my age and generation (late 20s, Generation Y) are just lazy, irresponsible, and think we have the right to a perfect job right out of college.

    Not every older person thinks that – although you could assume so if you read enough bad career articles. I don’t – I work with amazing people in their 20s – 60s and some people are less amazing…but that also spans the generations.

    When you talk about work to people outside your workplace gauge their reactions. My husband used to think it was cute that I would get so outraged over a manager not saying please/thank you, or that people would sometimes say one thing in a meeting but do something else entirely when no one was looking. Oh and that people would run the copier out of paper and just walk away like it wasn’t their job to refill the paper tray. He wished me luck finding the perfect work place.

    But when I’d talk about something major – difference in tone and gravity from him. If you have someone you trust that you can bounce stuff off of it might be helpful – until you internalize it enough to sense for yourself what hill is worth dying on.

    I would suggest not viewing the work place as Us vs Them based on age – or anything else. I will judge people for their annoyance level, stink factor of their cologne, how loudly they chew their food, among other things – but not age or any other demographic area. Not only is it not nice, it’s not productive, or even accurate. As IT I don’t see a 20 something and dance with glee because they will be tech savy. I’ve got 60 year olds that can send out business tweets from their phone and 20 somethings that think their monitor is their “computer.”

    1. Anonicorn*

      Oh and that people would run the copier out of paper and just walk away like it wasn’t their job to refill the paper tray.

      Argh! I hate this too. Apparently we need to work together. It also frustrates me that people will press print but never go check the printer to find page 1 of 50 stuck somewhere inside it, and I have to spend 15 minutes un-jamming paper, refilling the tray, and waiting for it to print 50 pages when all I needed was my 1-page print out. :(

      1. Cat*

        So I’ve seen this complaint here before, and I’ve never understood it. How are you supposed to know if the printer/copier is almost out of paper when your thing prints out? I only know when it actually runs out of paper; and it’s not like that usually happens precisely at the end of a document so you can just walk away and leave it anyway. I feel like putting more paper in the printer is the responsibility of whoever is trying to print something when it runs out. Otherwise you’re setting up a system where people have to open the printer tray to check how much is left every time they print something, which is a huge waste of time.

        Or does everyone else have fancier printers and copiers that actually tell you when the paper is low instead of just out?

        1. ExceptionToTheRule*

          This complaint generally arises in my world when whoever printed 50+ pages never comes to get it.

          1. Cat*

            I am certainly guilty of that on a regular basis. I print things; the phone rings or someone stops by my office; and I don’t get back to whatever I printed for some ungodly amount of time.

          2. Jamie*

            This. Or when you do put paper in to do yours it runs another 50 pages of someone else’s stuff first.

            I will exempt people who use up the very last sheet and don’t know – but if your job isn’t complete then check.

            1. Lily*

              At my company, we have copy cards, so the bill is sent to the right department. BUT, if the paper is out (and the self-service copier is locked, so we can’t add more) the last person’s remaining copy job is billed to the next person’s department. I’ve stopped using the copiers. I send my print jobs to the copy shop for them to print out. They probably don’t like this because self-service copiers save them work, but I don’t like paying for someone else’s print job.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          The only solution I have ever found is to check the paper drawer myself before printing a large job.

          My problem is that every.single. one of these copiers is vastly different from the other and I need a PhD in engineering to make a darn copy.

        3. Kelly L.*

          Most of the ones I’ve used have a little graphic on the menu screen that looks like a tray with little lines in it. If it’s got 4 or 5 little lines in it, it’s got a lot of paper in it. When it’s running low, it’ll get down to 1 line.

            1. Kelly L.*

              There’s also the related issue where they run it out of paper in the middle of their document and leave, and then when someone else puts paper in, it resumes printing the 85 copies of whatever that the first person doesn’t need anymore because, rather than add paper, they went and started over at a different machine.

                1. Jamie*

                  Really? I’m not an expert but I’ve never seen a copier without a manual button to cancel current job. That’s brutal.

        4. RedStateBlues*

          @ Cat
          I’m not sure if the issue is the copier complaint specifically so much as the “every man for himself” attitude that it entails. Where I work you’ll be sadly disappointed if you expect anyone to refill/unjam copier, make more coffee, cleam up after themselves, douse you with water if you’re on fire, etc. These are grown adults with 10 + years of work experience (except one).

          1. Jamie*

            It’s a culture thing. My current work place that kind of stuff isn’t tolerated so it’s been years since I’ve seen a sink with dirty dishes or an empty paper tray. It’s not like anyone gets fired over it, it’s just peer pressure to not be “that one.”

    2. Lisa*

      I am 33 and these ‘damn kids’ piss me off. But they are still individuals so I am going to talk about this one kid in my office. JR puts his feet up on the desk! Screws around on his personal laptop while ignoring emails from his work computer, since he is never on it. He can’t form full sentences or forgets to, forgets to write subject lines for emails. Never uses spellcheck nor can he expand an excel column without asking how i did that, or ‘wow’ing at the technology. He is 22 and a product of the ‘participation award’ generation, a bad education system that graduates these kids without basic skills like how to write a sentence and how to follow directions. I told him to ‘track changes’ in word. He emailed the doc, named it ‘Content’ (really descriptive there), no subject line, and walked over to say ‘i know you told me to use track changes so I did it for most of the doc, but there are some parts that I manually highlighted in red / strikethroughed text.

      The reality is that … NOT ALL NEW GRADS ARE CREATED EQUAL. There are Gen Y kids that have passion, drive, want to learn, and have the basic skills that will make them productive members of their company / society. We made this kids, and we need to treat them to be accountable and not let them get away with everything. But its on us that we hired / kept people that do not fit. It isn’t only their fault. Without telling them that their behavior / work needs to be stepped up, we are doing ourselves and them by not correcting behavior / work and just lumping them together as an entitled generation.

      1. Del*

        I still want to know where I can pick up my participation award! I keep hearing about them, but all I ever got was “You got a B-? You’re failing!”

        1. Felicia*

          Add me to the Gen-Y people who’s never gotten a participation award (and yes I got lectured for anything less than an A). I read about participation awards in those stupid articles about how our generation sucks, but it’s nothing I encountered as a kid in real life. Since those articles were always full of over generalizations I did wonder how widespread participation awards really were.

          1. doreen*

            Just want to point out that “participation awards” usually come up in a sports/competitive context more than an academic one. When I was a kid, you got a trophy for first, second, or third place or for some sort of individual achievement.
            However, when my kids (22 and 23) were young there were participation awards. You still had trophies for the top three places and individual achievements , but every single kid who participated got an award at the end of the season- usually a clear piece of lucite that just had the name of the organization and the year. If they entered a poetry or essay contest or spelling bee and didn’t win, they received a “certificate of participation” . And getting these participation awards had nothing to do with expectations regarding grades- plenty of kids were expected to get high grades but still expected to get some sort of award for being on the bowling team that came in last.

            1. Cat*

              But they still gave out first, second, and third place prizes so it’s not like those were devalued or made irrelevant. Kids aren’t dumb; they know that participation is worthwhile but not the same as winning.

            2. Felicia*

              Awww I never got any sorts of participation awards for soccer or the spelling bees and poetry contests an things I entered. It just wasn’t a thing. But even if it was, kids know that the real prizes were for first second and third, they’re not stupid. I’m 23 as well, and I really think things vary a lot by location. And being on any extra curricular was ridiculously expensive – only the rich kids could take dance for example, my parents couldn’t afford it. So it also has to do with how much money you grew up with

              1. Jamie*

                You should come work with me. Every time a vendor gives a class or webinar they send everyone registered a participation certificate suitable for framing.

                Of course they send them even if you don’t actually show up, so they don’t mean a lot, but you can get all kinds of certificates that say you participated in something.

              2. llamathatducks*

                “But even if it was, kids know that the real prizes were for first second and third, they’re not stupid.”

                YES THIS.

                I have a slightly different perspective on this: my parents and I immigrated from Russia when I was very young, and in Russian culture (at least what my parents had grown up with) teachers of all sorts are a lot more direct with students than in the U.S.: whereas an American teacher will (typically) make sure to always include some positive feedback before telling a student where to improve, in Russia it is (was?) quite normal to just tell students that their work sucked without trying to sugarcoat it.

                So my parents – and the other Russian parents I knew – would make fun of the American style, saying no wonder American kids weren’t that good at math, music, other hard things (in my area these are dominated by Asian and Russian immigrants) since their teachers always tell them they’re doing well!

                But in reality, kids know how they’re doing. They adapt their listening to their culture, and while “needs improvement” doesn’t technically imply “bad,” that’s what the students will (somewhat correctly) infer. Kids are still competitive and still care about how they’re doing and still are disappointed when they don’t get the real praise and results.

            3. doreen*

              I’m sure most kids knew the difference- I know mine did. But some didn’t seem to know the difference ( for example, crying at events that didn’t give participation awards or taking a participation award to school to show off ) and the parents of those kids often didn’t believe there should be any distinctions – no special trophies for winning, no all-star team, no teams requiring tryouts. I wouldn’t say the existence of participation awards caused any of this- I suspect the correlation is in the other direction.

              1. Jamie*

                I think this kind of thing started innocently enough with the “everyone plays” thing. When I was a kid the people on the team could be benched all season while the good kids played. Then someone realized that kids don’t get better if they aren’t allowed to play…

                And then IMO it went too far where every kid got the same amount of time for championship games, regardless of who would actually help bring the win.

          2. Anonymous*

            But did you get all those little graduation ceremonies? Apparently that’s a thing now. I had high school (skipped it), undergrad (skipped it) and Master’s (parental units put foot down and we went).

            1. Felicia*

              You mean like a ceremony for every year? That’s a thing? I only got middleschool (grade 8) ,highschool and undergrad…went to both because my parents wanted to.

              1. Anonymous*

                Yes, it is a thing. I think it started with the middleschool one that you had. But then teachers, especially those in inner cities, realized that whatever year it was, for some of those kids that would be their last chance to have any kind of graduation.

                I only know because a co-worker was ordering a cake for her kindergartner’s graduation. I thought it was a joke and laughed. Awkward.

                1. Felicia*

                  I think we only had a middle school one because we were all moving on to a different school, which makes some sense since it was mostly to celebrate all the memories we had at that school and that we were all going to different highschools. But Id never heard of anything beyond that before….I do think a kindergarten graduation would be absolutely adorable though:)

                2. Jamie*

                  My kids had kindergarden, Jr. High, and of course High School.

                  Kindergarten is done because they are so freaking cute!! I still have each of their little paper caps and little tiny rolled up diplomas. I know it’s twee – but I don’t care.

                  And unlike high school they posed happily for as many pics as I wanted without getting annoyed.

              2. Anonymous*

                They are called ‘moving up’ ceremonies when you go from elementary to middle school now.

        2. Cat*

          Same here. Grades may have been “inflated,” but what that means in practice is that anything less than a straight A was considered a bad result.

          1. Anonymous*

            I had a Prof that graded on a bell curve. (yes, Physics, however did you guess! And for those who don’t know, that means the median score is a C, and there are exactly as many failing grades as there are A’s.)

            He accidentally gave us sophomores his grad student’s midterm. I got an A! I got exactly 17% correct!

            1. Not So NewReader*

              It sounds like the test was brutal and you did very well with it.

              Different profs curve differently, too. I had a couple of profs that declared there could only be one A in the class. (There were no A pluses.) So if you got 93 out of 95 questions right, and one person got 94 right you got the A minus, the other person got the A.

              Conversely, one teacher was written up for making his tests too hard. NO one in his class got Fs after that. All the Fs were upgraded to D minus.

              Silly me. I thought school was for learning the material. Silly me.

            2. Rana*

              I think curving’s more common in the sciences than in the humanities. I never needed to curve anything; people’s work tended to naturally fall along a bell curve all on its own. In fact, it was a useful way of checking the rigor of my assignments; if the peak of the bell was at a B or B+ it was too easy, if it was at a C or C- it was too hard. (I aimed for a B-/C+ peak in most classes.) And if it was wildly skewed in a bad direction, I generally tried to find ways to compensate for it in subsequent assignments.

              It’s not the students’ fault if their instructor can’t properly gauge the difficulty of an exam or assignment, is my thinking.

              1. college teacher*


                BTW, students ask me every semester if I could please give them a certificate of participation for attending class without doing the homework or taking the exam. This is not a once in a blue moon question, but one that is asked on a regular basis!

        3. Anx*

          I’m over a year late with my comments, but I have some pretty strong feelings about this.

          No doubt, a participation award may contribute to inflated sense of self-worth in some individuals. But my case of pale yellow loser ribbons gives me mixed feelings. Sometimes I feel proud of myself for putting myself out there and sticking with something I was bad at. Other times I wonder why I wasted so much of childhood on being well-round and a team player instead of cultivating talents or passions. The few red or blue ribbons don’t make me feel particularly talented; instead it draws attention to their dearth.

          Many children are very observant. Participation trophies, certificates, and ribbons may make it harder for them to trust any actual praise. “Good job!” is a meaningless platitude. In environments that don’t lend themselves to deeper evaluations, an earnest good job from someone may fall on deaf ears, because they don’t mean anything.

          Even so, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to have participation records. Trophies for the winners and acknowledgment to others that they did something and didn’t sit on the sideline.

      2. kelly*

        I’m in my late 20s and granted I was not the athletic or sports type, but the activities I was involved in never had the participation awards. I have seen more of that with my second cousins on my dad’s side who are maybe 10 to 15 years younger than I am. Some of them just have a bit too much self esteem and it really wouldn’t hurt them to be taken down a peg or two. These are some of the same individuals who were involved in some sport or other activity 75% of their available weekends starting in pre-schoool. I think the whole idea of getting a trophy or ribbon just for showing up is more applicable for people born after 1990.

    3. Job seeker*

      Jamie, you made a good point. I am one of those people that can not believe people not refilling paper trays at copiers or leaving their basket at a check-out line in grocery stores for the next person to put away. That irritates me. You are right some older individuals are very tech savy. Some 20 year olds cannot seem to keep from texting at a meeting either. I have seen that at my last job, they would be doing it under the table. I know there is not a perfect job but I am big on saying please and thank you to. Maybe, it is a southern thing with me, but when we first moved here I would ask how are you to be polite and people never asked back. Funny now.

  7. Joey*

    I think there is a blanket, across the board rule or more accurately a test: how would a reasonable person in my situation feel or respond?

    1. Jazzy Red*

      One needs a bit of experience under their belt to know that. It’s exactly what the OP is asking.

      1. Joey*

        Not really. Reasonable is highly subjective. You don’t need experience to look up laws, best practices, or to talk to trusted colleagues. The definition of reasonable is a personal one. You can choose to gather as much or as little info as you want to help you define it.

        1. fposte*

          I’m with Jazzy *because* of that subjectivity. Plenty of people think that they’re reasonable in their response when they’re not, and plenty of work weirdnesses aren’t something you can judge reasonably without context. If you don’t have context, the answer to “What would a reasonable experienced person do?” is “Hell if I know.” Get feedback from an actual person like that, sure, but if that person isn’t within you, you really can’t find her just by asking.

          1. Joey*

            Agreed, but the op is self aware enough to know he can’t always rely on his judgement. And you really can find reasonableness by asking. How many people you need to ask depends on how risk averse you are?

          2. Lily*

            Can I substitute company culture for context? Given that companies are very different, what is reasonable in one company is unreasonable in the next.

            I recently commented that I didn’t want to hire job hunters who broke the rules, because I work in a bureaucracy which has low tolerance for such behavior, but a start-up which is intending to break the rules of their industry might like such candidates very much.

  8. HR lady*

    I love Jamie’s examples about the things that her (his?) husband used to think were cute and Jamie thought they were horrible. GREAT advice to gauge how other people react to your stories about work (and also listen to their stories – does it sound like their workplace experiences are on par, worse, or better than yours?)

    Also, in my opinion, there are things that get better about working the higher up you go in a company. You get to make more decisions, you get to do more of a variety of tasks, you get to analyze/problem-solve more. You have more autonomy. You get to stimulate your brain more, and you get a better sense of accomplishment (there’s definitely a sense of accomplishment from almost every kind of work, but personally I’m more proud of being able to solve a problem than creating a set of great filing labels.) The higher you go, you do less filing, copying, putting labels on folders, etc.

    I’d suggest keeping your eye on moving up in your company (or another one), and realize that you’re paying your dues (I imagine that phrase makes me sound old…) now, and things will get better if you can get higher-level jobs over time.

    That said, I’m dying to know what kinds of things are going on at your workplace!

      1. Jazzy Red*

        Your Hello Kitty stuff had us all fooled ;=)

        When my goddaughter was about 6 years old, she put a puffy Hello Kitty sticker on the dashboard of my car. I kept that car for 8-9 more years, and she was amazed that I never took it off. You posts always make me think of her (she lives far away now, and has husband & kids of her own).

  9. Anonymous*

    I think that trying to visualize the scale can help here too. Your manager likely manages several people. You are only one part of the business. When the person in charge of the company is thinking about the company/business/state/non-profit etc as a whole, how much does this matter?

    You may have a million great ideas, but they may have already been considered and thrown out for reasons you don’t have access too. You may not like the new printers and feel like it would really save you time if you could just have one at your desk, but maybe all of those one off printers for joe who can easily walk over to the far far cheaper and easier to maintain, replace, and repair printer will save millions of dollars a year and it is worth 2 minutes of your time to get up and go to the printer for the company.
    You may want to just make a few small changes to the companies website for reporting your time sheets because it would be so simple and you know you could do it better and easier because you program this other thing, but you don’t recognize that they need to meet dozens of reporting requirements and separation issues of who has access to what and so they have to contract with an outside vendor to do this process and they only get to redo it every 5 years.

    1. expat in Germany*

      There is a great book which addresses this issue: Das Frustjobkillerbuch: Warum es egal ist, für wen Sie arbeiten. Unfortunately, it is in German.

  10. MiketheRecruiter*

    I’m dealing with a similar situation now – but I’m thinking my situation is “I work in a looney bin”. We’re a ~25-30 employees company who has lost 23 people over the 1.8 years one of my (now resigning) colleagues has been here, including several people during my stay having lasted 1-2 weeks, and we aren’t in a high turnover industry We’ve also had a ton of other people turn down offers at the last second. The telling sign is one of our Director’s preparing to potentially resign as well (and if he leaves, I could legitimately see 5-6 other people departing, he’s that important), which to me says we have a toxic culture which isn’t going to be fixed.

    It’s a shame, too, because I’ve never worked with so many intelligent people in my life. I don’t feel prepared to quit, though, as I’m not in the financial situation to do so and my last job left me with a very short stay on my resume, and adding a 1 year stay after says “this guy is a quitter”.

    1. Jazzy Red*

      You should be looking, anyway. It could take several more months before you find a better job.

    2. Gracie*

      Turnover like that is a really sure sign that your workplace is indeed toxic. That people are refusing offers in this economy is an even bigger one. Alison, do you agree? Do environments this toxic ever turn around?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The turnover, definitely — they’re either a horrible place to work or terrible at hiring. People refusing offers doesn’t alarm me as much; people do refuse offers when they have other options.

        As for turning around, it usually takes someone new at the top who’s willing to be very assertive about making changes.

  11. TRB*

    This is great timing. I was just about to write Alison and ask whether I was truly justified in feeling frustrated or if I’m just being the stereotypical millennial. I’m still not quite sure but I have been at my job for a little less than a year and this is only my second job out of college. I stayed at my first job for about a year and half but moved to another city for my current one. I’ve been feeling that I should be given more work and be in the loop on higher level projects because I’ve been progressing so quickly (their words, not mine) but I keep getting put on the back-burner. This blog and particularly this question and some of the responses are helping me to realize that I can chill out and wait awhile before getting crazy and looking for a a new job. I don’t really have a person to talk to but I will be finding one soon!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      If you see that ABC has not been done yet, go in and ask the boss, “I see on the Smith project that ABC has not been done, would you like me to start that?”

      This shows thinking/initiative yet defers to the boss’ decision. He might say “No, but you can start doing E and F on the Jones project.”

      Sometimes the way to get more work is in baby steps. You ask for something more routinely- but you do so by inquiring about specific tasks. Be prepared to be given something other than what you asked about. It does not matter- it is more work which is the main point.

    2. Rachael*

      I could have written this letter, Alison. I’m a recent grad in her first “real” job and already prone to anxiety at the best of times. On top of that, it’s in a brand-new country where I barely speak the language (I teach English so this is not a workplace problem, specifically). It’s only been six weeks and I’m stressed as hell. I don’t know if it’s true of all full-time jobs, specific to my field, or if the company really is a poor environment. Add in the cultural differences and it’s impossible to figure anything out. Aaargh.

  12. Me*

    I think this is a very valid question. I’m a twenty-something and have definitely wondered at times if things I don’t like at work are actually worth being concerned about or if I’m being picky and over-analytical.

    I often hear from older generations about how my generation doesn’t understand how to work hard, so I always worry about whether I’m being ‘lazy’ or if my concerns are reasonable.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      As a 50 something I am embarrassed to hear such critical remarks coming from my age group.

      When we were 20, our older generation thought we were going to hell in a hand basket. We were the worst generation ever.

      We were accused of the same things “lazy, stupid, know-it-alls, etc”.

      I do not believe we create better employees by throwing (verbal) rocks at them. And that has nothing to do with anyone’s age. We create better employees by answering people’s questions- even if the question is hard or we don’t feel like answering questions right now.

      Look for people who answer questions with respect. Look for people who can say things like “I remember ….I used to wonder about that myself….Here’s what I came up with that helped me…” Those are the people that are the best.

    2. Anonymous*

      It reflects badly on anyone who lumps everyone into a group. Everyone is an individual, and every single one of us has at least one amazing talent. If a person can only see the group, they miss out on the bigger story.

      Looking right at you, my 20-something neighbor who thinks boomers do not understand the Internet, computers, and mobile devices. Hey, who do you think INVENTED them? Then he asks me for help with his website. Um, I’m a boomer how can I possibly have anything to add. Oh, that’s right, I’m a webdev with 20 years experience…I forgot that somehow in my dotage.

      1. Jamie*

        That’s funny – my dad was “in computers” back when most people’s knowledge of them was limited to what they saw on “Lost in Space.”

        He was pulled out of accounting in 1959 because he was able to troubleshoot the giant mainframe IBM his company was using to kick the ass of every other company on the block.

        Sometimes I feel sorry for him when I think he went through the bulk of his career with the vast majority of people having no idea what he did. Then I realize that everyone has a computer now and most people still have no idea what I do.

        But yeah – my dad was older when he had me and was writing code in Fortran and programming machines by physically moving cables long before most of the naysayers were even born.

        It’s not age – it’s aptitude.

  13. Mike C.*

    My best advice: get to know the website of your state labor board. That way when that “holy cow this must be illegal” thought comes into your mind, you’ll have a better idea if that’s really the case.

    One of the issues folks like you will face is that many of the jobs taken by those with little experience often play fast and loose with the rules, or they go right up to the line without crossing it. Without that knowledge, you won’t know the difference between the two.

  14. KM*

    I basically agree with the advice, here. I think it takes some experience (working in different environments, for different organizations/companies) to figure out what’s variable between employers and what works for you, personally.

    No matter what, though, you ALWAYS have the “right to action, such as speaking to one’s manager, looking for another job” etc. I think it’s important to remember that the job doesn’t have to be at fault somehow for you to leave it — not liking it is a good enough reason to look for something else. I find it more helpful to think of it like, “This doesn’t feel like the right fit, so I want to exercise free choice and try something else” as opposed to “This job must be objectively horrible somehow or else I have no moral cause to leave it.”

    (Breaking up with people works the same way — you don’t have to stay with someone forever just because they’re not objectively horrible!)

    1. Anonymous*

      But for many of us we need a job because as a coworker says, I like to sleep indoors. So yes you do, but if you need to pay the rent you may need to think twice before you up and quit.

      1. KM*

        Sure, but that doesn’t stop you from looking for another job to replace the one you currently have (and leaving once you accept another offer).

  15. Katie the Fed*

    I’ve seen two distinct sets of millenials where I work (I guess I am technically one since I was born in 1980 but I don’t really identify with them that much).

    – you have the stereotypical my-workplace-is-here-for-my-personal-fulfillment and why-doesn’t-everyone-recognize-my-genius ones, which I think is more an effect of youth than generation.

    – Then there are the ones who started college in a world/economy filled with promise, and graduated to find a collapsed job market, moved back in with mom and dad while working at Target and trying to find a career job, and are eternally grateful for the opportunity, worrying constantly that they’re going to be fired.

    1. BostonK*

      As a 2012 college grad, I’m going to generalize and say that my friends and I fall in the second category. We finally found jobs 9 months after graduating from college, and yet all find ourselves underworked (not enough work to go around) and wondering 1. how we have jobs and 2. when we’re going to lose them. It’s terrifying, especially when you’re already behind on your student loans (that are more than $50k).

      1. Katie the Fed*

        One of my employees is so nervous I have to constantly reassure her that she’s not in trouble if I say I need to talk to her.

        1. Jamie*

          UGH!! This must stop!

          The response to “when you have a second can you come in my office?” is never “what did I do?”

          And it isn’t just me – they say it to every single person who asked to speak with them later. It makes impromptu conversations seem appealing.

      2. Felicia*

        I am also a 2012 grad, and I think my friends and I also fall into the second category in general. Most people I know are so desperate for work that when they get it they’re so grateful and also terrified of doing something wrong and losing it.

        Though since we all started college in a world/economy filled with promise, and graduated to find a collapsed job market, I think the first category might come from the same place. People aren’t doing what they were told they’d be able to do their whole lives, and they’ve done everything they were “supposed to” so now they’re disappointed and not acting well. Their parents could have walked into a decent job after an undergrad degree and maybe an internship, so when they’ve done most they feel entitled to something in their field. Though I think there have been youth in that first category in every generation.

    2. Jesicka309*

      The other issue (2010 grad) is that many of us graduated, and got jobs that were outside our scope/not ideal, with the mentality that “most jobs these days are hidden. I’ll get in there, really wow them for a year or two, and they’ll see my potential and move me up!”

      But the reality is that many of us have pigeonholed ourselves into unrelated roles. The people at my organization who are getting promoted and interesting roles are the job hoppers, not the ones who suffered hell in the same job. I’ve read that the graduates of today have taken a massive hit in overall earnings…that we will NEVER catch up on.
      I’m currently job searching, and I’m fighting for entry level roles in my field this time. Obviously I’m unsuccessful so far…but they’re not hiring new grads either. They’re hiring the job hoppers with 1 year stints in various organizations, or the people who are outright lying about their previous roles (eg. Making an internship as a promo driver into a ‘freelance publicist’).
      Without being disingenuous I don’t know how to break the cycle. Incredibly frustrating, and could explain why a lot of good young workers come across as entitled. We’re doing our best in a bad situation and still have nothing to show for it.

  16. Anonymous*

    As usual everyone has given sound advice here already. I do think part of this boils down to the answer Alison gives so frequently – if these are the terms of your employment, are you willing to live with that? Of course she says it a lot better than that. It is a personal choice and not one that anyone else can make for us. I agree with others that it takes a couple of jobs or more before you figure out what type of environment you function best in.

    One thing I try to keep in mind is that I will have gripes about any job, no matter how “perfect” it is.

    1. SevenSixOne*

      And things can go sour in the blink of an eye– OldJob was the closest thing to a “dream job” I’ve ever known… until the company got a new owner and everything went straight to hell in the span of about three months.

      1. Rebecca*

        THIS!! I loved my job, absolutely loved it and looked forward to going to work every day. I was moving up, learning new things, and then boom – owners sold to a bigger company, and it has sucked eggs ever since that day. It’s been over 2 1/2 years. It’s not going to get better, and while I despise working here, I need money and prefer to sleep inside with heat.

        But, I am 50, the job market sucks, our area has really high unemployment, and jobs that can keep a person inside and fed are few and far between, let alone ones that supply health insurance. I’m keeping my eyes and ears open and hope to make at least a lateral move sooner rather than later. It’s just so draining to deal with this every day.

  17. A*

    This post is very timely, as I’m experiencing a problem at work and as a 20-something and less than 1 year at the job, I’m not sure if I am reacting appropriately to this issue.

    My co-worker and I (hired at the same time for same position, though we work different sections of the department) both applied for a promotion at the same time. On Tuesday I found out that my application was rejected, which was very upsetting. I briefly discussed with my boss only and continued on with my work for the day. My co-worker ran over to my cubicle after hearing me get off the phone with HR and asked me what happened, but I said I did not want to talk about it. After work, this co-worker approached me at my bus stop to tell me that MY boss told HIM my application was rejected and that he would try to get me a raise anyway (That’s news to me – I never discussed this with my boss!).

    The next day I confronted my boss about this incident. After not getting any details out of me, my co-worker apparently ran to my boss to gossip about the status of my promotion. And, outrageously, my boss actually discussed my promotion with this guy! My boss does not supervise this guy, our work is completely unrelated so nothing to do with my performance, but I guess they are buddies…??

    I only confronted my boss about this incident and he apologized a lot for discussing my promotion status with my peer. I feel very angry and upset, I feel a bit violated and uncomfortable that my co-worker knows things about my position that I didn’t know and seems to be interfering with my position. I don’t really know how to handle this beyond talking to my boss about it. I did not talk to the co-worker, just trying to avoid him.

    Any advice, insight on this guy’s motivations, ideas.. I’m not sure if I over- or under-reacted to this.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Your boss is trying to get you a raise, so I’d err on the side of not making a huge deal out of it.

      He apologized. What more do you want?

    2. Not So NewReader*

      From where I stand this is more the norm than the exception.
      Going forward- assume a boss is discussing your raise with other people.
      Is it wrong? YAH! Sure it is. But it happens so often that it is better just to calm down and let it blow by you. I was ticked, too. But I had to let it go by me. I needed my job and I needed to have a working relationship with those around me.

      If your coworker tries to open this topic again, tell him the topic is closed. Do not engage in further discussion. It will only make matters worse not better.
      The sooner the three of you can return to normal work routines the better.

    3. Del*

      Your boss apologized, and from the sound of it he’s still pulling for you, so I’d leave that be.

      With your coworker, pull him aside at some point and just tell him quietly that if you tell him you don’t want to get into it, that’s not his cue to go running to your boss about it.

      Ultimately, that’s about all you can do.

    4. fposte*

      “Confrontation” is a really strong word, too; if you mean it, you may have overreacted.

      I’m not even going to go so far as Not So New Reader and call what he did outright wrong–it’s not professional and it’s not ultimately good for the organization , but your conversations with him aren’t a sacred trust or a confidential right. Unless you were promised confidentiality or it’s company policy, your manager isn’t bound to keep stuff only between you or never to tell his friends, and not getting a desired promotion is often pretty public knowledge.

      That doesn’t mean that you can’t address something with him that’s going to be an obstacle to your work life, but that’s the tenor of that conversation–“I know you two are friends, but It’s tough for me to talk to you the way I’d like to if I know that my co-worker is going to later hear what I say to you in private now.” There’s no riot act to read him on this, so you want to avoid looking like you’re trying to.

      And your co-worker sounds like a real treat. Good luck there.

      1. A*

        I know promotions are public knowledge eventually. But this is just hours after hearing from HR. I was trying to deal with it by myself but he got involved and rubbed it in my face that he’s able to discuss my situation freely with my boss.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I agree with fposte though — it’s not “wrong” though it’s probably not wise or professional, and “confronting” him may have been too strong a reaction. Her suggested wording is good.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I guess I am dismayed by what I am seeing managers do now and reacting to the whole package.

            The whole pack goes like this: Managers review other evals with their fav workers. They tell their fav workers what the raise will be. This, long before the evaluated employee sees the eval. Soon, everyone in the whole work group knows the eval and the raise EXCEPT the employee who is directly involved. Additionally, the last two managers I had drove past employee’s houses to 1) see how well the property was maintained and 2) to see who was visiting the employee. The information collected in the drive-by is added into the hopper for the evaluation.

            I understand A’s knee jerk reaction. I have been though this a couple times now, and each time I felt like I was walking around in my underwear. (You know those dreams- where you dream you are at work in your underwear and everyone is staring. Sadly, it’s not even your good underwear- it’s the crappy Sunday underwear that you keep for around the house.) I am not clear on when and why these things changed. Ten years ago or so if a manager was caught discussing an eval with another employee that manager would experience fallout. Now it seems to be common practice.
            The drive-bys, I cannot even begin to comprehend.

            (On my last drive-by the boss said I had a cute house with a well-maintained yard. But Boss commented on who was visiting. So I am not clear if I passed that test or not. I left the job a while later.)

            In short- if I think something is wrong it does not change the fact that this is the way it is. All I can figure is to grow some new coping tools and move forward.

  18. Brett*

    I’m honestly in my 40s now and I have just as many problems judging my workplace as the letter writer does. I don’t think it is just a millennial problem. Sometimes you just encounter situations that you have no idea how to deal with. I have a job I love, that has me in the middle of a 10-year across the board pay freeze that was instituted in my 1st year. Every year I keep wondering how far out of band is too far for a job you actually like.

      1. Brett*

        5 years in. We did get a single adjustment pay raise to account for the reinstatement of the FICA tax, but otherwise the freeze is still in place until 2018. Probably the worse problem is that we are having trouble hiring people so I’m doing work for a lot of other departments too.

  19. Tony in HR*

    My suggestion? Find a networking contact that you can trust, someone with experience in the working world and use them as a sounding board. Good luck!

  20. Carlotta*

    I’d like to share my experience from the other side. In my first job, not knowing what on earth was normal and what was not I had all kinds of strange experiences I put down to being part of the job I did the very best I could, worked out what I wanted to achieve and did my best to make it happen. I didn’t think I could complain about anything because I thought that was how work was. Now three jobs on and still with only five years of experience I can see what a crazy place it was! I don’t know what exactly I’d have done differently apart from leave sooner, but it definitely takes some experience to know what’s normal and what’s not. You guys can definitely help someone see what is normal and what isn’t and what is acceptable – and not – without coming across all fuddy-duddy!

  21. Sarah*

    I had actually emailed Alison when trying to figure out if I should leave my first “real” job out of college or not. I was working at a non-profit, and left after 3 months. I, however, left with a second job starting the next week that I have now been at for 7 months, and oh my goodness what a difference. Love my boss, love my office and love my work.

    I think especially for those of us out of school, it’s hard to figure out “is my boss really awful at managing, or is this how working really is?” or “is this a toxic environment or do people just hate work?” It turns out for my first job, I had a really, really terrible manager. (Didn’t help that my coworkers spent most of the day complaining about the clients, their salary and each other. But no one ever cursed directly at me! Which I considered a win.) However, it’s hard to tell when you haven’t worked a real 9-5 job if this is what the “working world” is like.

  22. Jubilance*

    I think this is one of the things where you have to be very self-aware. Some people are able to stay in difficult situations for long periods & others don’t handle it well – neither is bad or good but you have to know what camp you fall into.

    I’m one of those people where I begin to manifest physical illness when I’m in a high stress environment for long periods. I first learned this in my PhD program & I couldn’t make it through a day in the lab without a headache. I was eventually diagnosed with migraines & tension headaches. Meds didn’t help but leaving my program with my MS & getting a job stopped them. I truly believe it was my body’s way of dealing with the stress. About 5 years later I was in a horrible job & very stressed out and once again I started having physical symptoms. I tried to make the best of it, I tried to move into a new internal position, but the only thing that helped was finding a new job…after searching for 2 years.

    If you’re in a job that you hate, you’re unhappy & stressed out, see what you can do to make the job better to start. Can you work from home, do a more flexible schedule, get help from your manager on prioritization, etc? Can you transfer to a new position or dept? If you’ve exhausted all the things you can do in the job, then it’s time to job hunt & find a new opportunity that’s a better fit.

    1. HAnon*

      “If you’ve exhausted all the things you can do in the job, then it’s time to job hunt & find a new opportunity that’s a better fit.”


      This is why I’m looking for something else — I tried to make the job I’m in work for 6 months until I discovered that there was nothing that could be done to change the situation. I adjusted my attitude (try to stay positive and focused) and have been looking for other jobs for 6 months. It WILL happen eventually…

      1. Recent Diabetic*

        Yes!! I started work at a small non-profit last year and it became quickly apparent to me that it was a very toxic environment created by the boss at the very top. I stuck it out for a few months and then started my job search. Not mention in this time we’ve almost had a full staff turnover in a team of 8 people. I started looking for work actively since March 2013, but no dice. Partly cuz I want to move to a different city and it is difficult to get employers to call out of city candidates to come in. Also, This is my second professional job and I’ve tried everything to make it better, but nothing has improved from the top management. I have decided to do something that AAM tells its readers to really try to avoid – quit my job without one being lined up. I am lucky to have a partner who makes enough for us to live fairly okay (no entertainment budget, but that’s okay). We are packing up our bags in 2 months and leaving, giving enough time for us to save some money and start over. After slugging it out at this non-profit, I’ve realized that I value my emotional and mental health above money and I am happy to start fresh in a city that I love rather than be miserable for another six months in a city that I hate. I am lucky to have a partner with a good income to make this decision. I know that it is not an option for many. I am also under no illusions that I can just move and get a new job. I know it will take time, but that is the risk that I am willing to take. The staff turnover + a tyrant of a boss, with no signs of change coming our way has worked to seal the deal on this decision.

  23. Jan Arzooman*

    Even those of us in the older generation have trouble figuring this out. Although younger people are finding it hard to get jobs out of college, the older generation faces ageism in hiring, and no one of any age seems to have job security. Since it’s so hard to find a new job, a lot of people are staying in unhappy positions.

    To me the best answer is to look around you at your coworkers. Make friends, talk to them, look outside of yourself at what other people accept and what bugs them. A person who’s been there a while and has also worked in other places can be a good guide.

    Sometimes you have a bad manager and there’s nothing you can do about it but try to band together with fellow employees and make the best of it. Or sometimes a fellow employee can make your life miserable. Try to find someone you can confide in, in or out of your office.

    And just keep reading blogs like this; you’ll get a better feel for what the better workplaces look like.

    1. Jamie*

      That’s a really good point. That’s one of the collateral benefits of being a regular AAM reader is you get a feel for what a widely varied constituency considers something you can work with, and when people start suggesting looking for a new job.

      A lot of the problems people write in about can be compared in context and scope to a lot of other issues …so one doesn’t have to send a steady stream of emails to Alison to figure stuff out – just read and the archives are great for this, too.

      Can you imagine if we all sent Alison every workplace question and annoyance all day, every day. She’d be in a little fleece covered huddle on her couch surrounded by cats buried under the weight of millions of emails.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I think I have said this before but it is worth repeating. I have learned more about work places HERE than I did in college and from my parents, combined.
        OP, I encourage you to never stop reading. Read everything that you can get your hands on that looks like it might be relevant to whatever current setting you are facing. AAM readers are really great at pointing out the best books.

        Alison, if you ever get around to compiling a list of most often recommended books, I bet that list would be well received.

  24. HAnon*

    Late to this.

    But as a still “somewhat” recent grad (4 yrs out of college), the best advice I can give recent grads about this particular issue is this:

    1) If the deal breakers that AAM listed are not in the list of reasons you’re wanting to leave, give it at least 6 months. I wish someone had told me how difficult it is to transition from college to a legitimate adult lifestyle with a full-time job and bills to pay. A good percentage of first job frustrations I think are just the fact that it is a job, period. You no longer have control over your time, what you do with your day; if you want to sleep in, you can’t; if you want to avoid someone who annoys you, you can’t; you can’t take off at the drop of a pin; you have responsibilities to other people who aren’t people you necessarily like but have to interact with because it’s part of your job; work isn’t exciting, it’s mostly boring; you’re the low man on the totem pole so everything is new/scary/grunt work/difficult/not stimulating enough/etc….

    2) Get a job; if you can’t find a job that utilizes your major/degree right off the bat just stick with it anyway. You’ll still be gaining relevant skills that will add to your resume, and you can always find/make opportunities to contribute your unique knowledge in your position.

    3) Going to grad school will not enable you to skip ahead and avoid steps 1 & 2, unless you’re super specialized and incredibly in demand.

    1. athek*

      I agree with your comment. One thing I like to tell people is to find common threads in your employment history and play up those skills. I’ve had a lot of different jobs (grunt work in a law firm, IT recruiting, office management, and now public service), but somehow all of these positions have had me working quite a bit with databases – building, maintaining, etc. It’s been a real plus for me, and definitely nothing I ever set out to gain.

  25. Anonymous*

    It’s definitely harder when you’re first starting out to figure out what’s acceptable and what isn’t, because you don’t have a lot to compare your first couple jobs to. It wouldn’t surprise me of companies that hire young people take advantage of that. Any complaint a young person has, no matter how legitimate, can be easily dismissed with a “grow up” or “get used to it” if management doesn’t want to address it.

  26. Steve G*

    Good question. I’ve seen so many articles in the media on this recently. I’ve also had people start calling me a millenial, which is odd, because I’m not. Not so much older people talk to me like I have no idea what it is like to live without a cell phone or internet, and it pisses me off, because they are just talking down to me to make themselves feel superior! Ugh. So I can only imagine how annoying it would be to be a millenial and have to deal with such people.

    Also, one of the reasons millenials feel slighted is not because they are entitled, but because most are probably underpaid and desperate to move up or out or do anything to make enough money to pay off the debt they had to carry to go to college. Its very sad for them.

  27. Kacie*

    I’m a GenXer, we were accused of similar things. :)

    If you’re miserable at your job, think about why. Is it the work itself, your coworkers, administration? If any of these smaller pieces were different, would you be happy? Sometimes it takes a change of job, other times a change of career.

    I tried to not stay anywhere that made me dread getting up in the morning to go to work. But I also never left without another job lined up.

  28. Piggle*

    I work with teenagers for a living and this summer I have had the opportunity to hang with a 20-something who came to live in my house for the summer. She was very responsible for most, but not all, of the summer, but when she left she sent me an email accusing me of ageism. While she might be right on some levels, she also was clearly a 20-something party girl with her own agenda. She would leave the air conditioner on all day (in 60 degree weather!) or use the air conditioner all night with the adjacent window OPEN. And she left the room completely trashed. In short, she was a bit unaware of how her behavior affected other people (bills and time).

    One thing I’ve learned in my recent 40s is that sometimes the best learning opportunity is often the suckiest job. Recently I earned a work opportunity where I was in over my head. To be honest, on many levels I couldn’t win. Instead of wallowing in that feeling (for a short time), I realized that it was my responsibility to reach out and communicate with others. Truly, my peers had already judged me, but I learned to collaborate and help them so that they could help me. My job was always incredibly difficult, but I learned a phenomenal amount that I never would have learned if I had not reached out. I was just a cog in the wheel and that there was a bigger goal, the job.

    My advice is to acknowledge your disappointments, but also think about the things that you can do to improve your situation. Reach out to your coworkers and, ultimately, do your job well. Approach your manager, but, as I’ve learned, with specifics. Figure out what you can learn from the situation.

    Sometimes when you give up on something, you just take the same limitations with you to the next job.

  29. Anna*

    I have the same fears as the OP. My job has very big pluses and minuses. On one hand, I just got a significant raise and oh my GOSH it’s nice. On the other, my boss uses yelling and berating us as forms of communication. She actually told me the other day that she didn’t believe me when I explained a techy thing to her about email. I literally had no idea how to respond.

    The job is in my field, and the pay is really, really great. So for those reasons I’ve been really struggling with leaving. It’s hard though when I cry in the bathroom because my boss tells me I’m a liar or says that I’m not good enough. I feel like this cannot possibly be okay behavior, but at the same time I’m so lucky to have a job out of college and something that pays off my student loans. It’s tough.

    1. Ruffingit*

      It’s not OK behavior, not at all. Having been in that very same situation, I can tell you that it will destroy you emotionally. Begin job hunting TODAY. Seriously, get out as soon as you have another offer in hand. It’s not worth it to stay in those environments.

      As for how to respond when your boss tells you you’re lying about something, just say “OK.” It’s not worth trying to defend yourself in those situations. Your boss is clearly unbalanced and the only response is to get out as soon as you possibly can.

      I feel for you. I had a job with a person like your boss once and it was extraordinarily difficult. It’s one of the two jobs I have left without another one to go to because I simply had to get out. Not suggesting you do that, I was in a position financially to be able to do so at the time. I am, however, suggesting that you job hunt hard and get out as soon as it’s feasible. Crying in the bathroom every day (been there) is not normal or healthy for you.

      And one more thing – cling to the fact that this is about her, not you. It’s so easy to internalize the emotional abuse. It’s NOT YOU!!!

  30. EE*

    This reminds me of a time that a friend, educated to postgrad lebel was miserable at a “man the phones” job. She had a bad relationship with her manager, and described times when the manager would tell her to do something different, at which point my friend would defend herself and say ‘but this way of doing it makes more sense’.

    I cited Captain Janeway saying: “This is not a democracy!” about running a starship. At a job, you may have found a more efficient way of doing things or you may not. That doesn’t change the fact that your manager is in charge.

    About a week later my friend told me that she hated hearing what I had to say but realised she needed to hear it.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Yup. I had a great mentor at one of my first professional jobs out of college who told me I was not going to change things in my workplaces. Show up, do the job they pay you to do, go home. Don’t bother trying to make changes, it almost never goes over well. 15 years and many jobs later, I see the wisdom of this. Just do your job and if you don’t like it, find one you fit better with, but don’t bother trying to make changes and such unless you have a literal investment in the company (that is to say, you actually own some or all of the company).

  31. OP*

    A big thank you to Alison for answering my question and the readers for their comments! I would love to have a mentor that I can go to for advice about different work-related issues and complaints.

    As for the divorce comment..yes, I was generalizing to make a point. I am very well aware that divorce occurs for many reasons.

  32. Tinker*

    One thing I think of here is that earlier in my career I was much more concerned with “what I deserve”, in both a positive and negative sense. This isn’t quite the same as what folks talk about with the Entitled Youth Today, because that seems to be more of a case where — to take that old joke — one has already conceded that one is a whore and now one is just haggling over price. So, in this case, the folks representing Gen Y are saying “I deserve this much” and another set of folks are saying “No, you deserve much less than this”. Nobody’s much saying to quit being concerned with the question, it seems.

    One thing that Dave Ramsey says often, when he’s asked how he’s doing, is “Better than I deserve”. Not to put words in his mouth that I don’t know he’s explicitly, but judging from his expressed beliefs he probably figures he rates hellfire. However, he also doesn’t seem to have a problem with all the things he presently has that are not hellfire, inclusive of having a national radio show, lots of popular books, evidently fairly large piles of money, et cetera — what he deserves, it seems, is not necessarily an obstacle to what he has, can have, and can pursue.

    Although I don’t quite agree with him in the details, I think the general concept is valid. Life is hard, and the only thing you’re guaranteed to get is death. So you might as well have good will toward other people and focus more on making it possible for everyone to get more than on making sure that everyone gets what a strict and ungenerous accounting says they should.

  33. Jobseeker1*

    Not saying this applies to the OP, but the 20-something wanting to know what’s appropriate in the workplace got me to thinking about something I saw the other day. I was applying for a local writing job and I Googled the contact for the company I was applying to. Turns out she’s the daughter of the woman who owns the company. Her bio on the company site said she was 22, about to start at one of the university campuses nearby and that she was in training to be a life coach. She had a bunch of stuff on her site too about how we all have tool boxes in life and she wants to show us all how to use those tools in our daily lives.

    I just had to laugh. Maybe it’s unfair of me, but I thought “You’re 22. You know NOTHING about life. Life coach? For who? Middle schoolers?” It always amazes me when people with no life experience whatsoever want to be life coaches and therapists.

    1. HAnon*

      This is exactly why I’m waiting until I’m at least in my 30’s to go back to grad school for psychology. I want to go into private practice one day, but I have a feeling that no one would listen to me at my age because of my “lack of experience,” no matter how true my insight may be.

      1. Therapist*

        Many people can have true insights, but it’s the empathy factor and real understanding that is missing in many young people simply because of the lack of experience. If you have no real experience in the working world for example, it’s harder to understand all the nuances of professional environments. This is why someone like Alison is going to be taken much more seriously than the intern down the hall who just started working two years ago.

        I once worked with a young therapist who was about 26. She’d married her high school sweetheart and her first real job was the therapist job she’d obtained that I met her at. Many of the clients were having communication issues in their marriages, going through divorces, people were having difficulty with bosses, etc. This young woman was in way over her head and many of her comments to her fellow therapists showed that. She had no idea what it was like to have your heart broken since she’d married the only man she ever dated. She had no idea what it was like to be laid off, fired, etc. She went from her parent’s house to her marital home. She had no clue what living on your own and rebuilding your life was like after a divorce or break-up or how hard it was to be laid off when you don’t have a second source of income such as a spouse.

        There is just no substitute for life experience when it comes to empathetic listening and understanding of another person’s pain.

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