shouldn’t we hire younger candidates, coworker edited my email to make themself look better, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Wouldn’t younger candidates be better at the jobs we’re hiring for?

When does experience “age out?” I work at a small nonprofit that is trying to be “cutting edge” in our area, but they keep hiring older employees who don’t really know what they are doing. Recently, we went through a long, drawn out hiring process for a marketing role where they kept rejecting candidates on the basis of having too little experience since they want them to “hit the ground running.” They seem not to trust anyone under the age of 40! So, they hired an older woman, “Jane,” who has “a ton of experience and connections.” But, as it turns out, most of those connections have since retired and her idea of marketing is snail mail and print ads, and she doesn’t seem to know social media! She is also struggling really hard with our basic IT set-up; she can’t even get her signature to come out right. Wouldn’t a younger person do better in this situation? Or am I just salty that as the admin I have to fix a lot of her mistakes but get paid a fraction of what she does?

Nope, it definitely does not follow that a younger person would do better. There are incompetent and/or tech-illiterate people in every age group. You could hire a 25-year old who is bad at tech (believe me, there are tons of them; ask the many managers aggravated that their fresh-out-of-college hires have no idea how to attach a file to an email) and doesn’t know much about social media either. And you could hire a 55-year old who was a whiz at both. (Frankly, the idea of a 55-year-old inherently being worse at basic IT stuff is strange, since it’s been a part of professional life for decades.)

This isn’t about age; it’s about bad hiring. Good hiring means figuring out the skills you need and then testing for those in your interview process, something whoever hired Jane apparently didn’t do. And sure, recency of those skills can matter — if someone’s accomplishments in the area you need are all a decade old, you’d want to talk with them about current trends and get a feel for how they have or haven’t kept those skills up-to-date and how well they’ll do with the requirements of the job now — but again, this is about interviewing effectively and looking at what that individual person brings to the table, not about correlating skills or expertise with someone’s age.

2. Coworker edited my email to make themself look better

I have a new colleague who I am starting to interact with for the first time. I was getting increasingly frustrated because they were asking me questions about things we had discussed very recently (usually within one or two days). I started out responding kindly because they’re new and I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but then the same issue happened four times in one day. They asked me about an item we discussed in a meeting, which was detailed on the agenda sent out before the meeting and which I had emailed their whole team about previously. I was planning to raise these concerns with my boss and/or their boss about them needing to refer back to meeting notes, searching email, etc. before reaching out to me in the future, but then something else happened.

I responded to one of their questions and said something to the effect of, “We talked about this at the meeting, see agenda attached” and proceeded to provide an answer. In their email reply, they deleted the portion of my email saying that we had talked about the item at a previous meeting. When I noticed this, I was shocked. I cannot find a reasonable explanation for this and now feel like I cannot trust this person because I’m worried they are going to forward my emails after editing them to make themself look better or change my message to suit their needs. Should I tell my boss about this? Am I overreacting? I do know that I will be on high alert when interacting with this person moving forward.

Ooooh, I don’t like it. It’s possible that there’s an innocent explanation, like that they were copying and pasting that to save it somewhere else (like in a reminder about places to check!) and inadvertently cut it rather than just copying … but yeah, it really does look like trying to make themselves look better. Was anyone cc’d on the email or did it just go to you? If it just went to you, I’d be more inclined to give the benefit of the doubt, but if others were included, my gut would say they edited that intentionally.

As for whether to mention it to your boss, I’d probably just watch very closely to see if it happens again — and if it does, call it out at that point. But if this email went to more people than just you and the edit seems clearly designed to hide their mistake, I would mention that to your boss — framed as “I don’t want to make a big deal about this, but this looks like they changed my words to avoid responsibility falling on them.” Alternately, depending on the dynamics involved and what your coworker wrote in their response, you also have the option of replying-all back and just flatly saying, “It looks like you removed the part of my reply explaining that we had talked about this at a previous meeting.” (That would not be appropriate in all circumstances but it could be in some. If they just replied “thanks!” it would be overkill. If they replied “it would have been better to make this info more available,” it wouldn’t be.)

3. Our meetings are filled up with endless introductions

In the past year I started working at a large institution in an administrative role. I love my job and my immediate team — everything is going really well with my work and day-to-day relationships.

My department is situated within two larger entities, and we attend all-hands meetings monthly for both of them. Some have been virtual, some have been in-person. The issue is that the people running the meetings ask everyone to do introductions every. single. time. The first few times, I got it — we had a lot of people that hadn’t met anyone except their immediate team because of the pandemic, and then a run of new people starting all the time, but now things have normalized and it’s still happening. It takes up so much time in every meeting. I’ve started skipping the first 15 minutes of virtual meetings with these groups, but am still usually treated to at least another 10 minutes of introductions. The in-person meetings are a nightmare of tedium.

This strange practice turns what should be a 45-minute meeting where we get to everything into an hour-plus long meeting where multiple agenda items are pushed to the next month. I know I’m not the only one bothered by it, but I don’t work closely with either of the meeting organizers or their immediate team members. How do I effectively push back against this?

What on earth! How well positioned you are to speak up depends on how senior your role is. If you’re pretty junior, you probably don’t have the standing to tackle this when others aren’t. But otherwise, one option is to contact whoever’s running the meetings and say, “I know getting everyone introduced to each other has been important, but we’ve been spending upwards of 20 minutes per meeting on it, which means meetings run over and we’re often not getting through our agenda items. What do you think about skipping the intros now that we’re through our wave of new hires, or keeping them shorter?” (If you read that and think you’re not the right person to say it, you could try asking your boss if she’d raise it instead.)

4. I don’t want to do contract work for the job that laid me off

I was recently laid off from my job of three years in the middle of my vacation. It wasn’t totally unexpected, but the timing was and because they decided to make the layoff effective immediately, I didn’t have time to wrap up loose ends that I would have liked to do. It doesn’t feel great, but we’ve known for a long time that the organization was experiencing instability and I’ve been casually job searching for a few months already.

However, they offered me the opportunity to continue on-call until the end of the year, to support remaining staff and to finish some of the work I would have done if I’d worked out a notice period. The hours would amount to less than 15% of my previous monthly wage. I’d also have to pay my own taxes and other deductions from that, and give up the few other benefits I’d previously had. This would give me the chance to wrap some things up and help out my remaining coworkers (we were already understaffed for months when I was laid off, and as my layoff was a money-saving move, the understaffing will only be worse now.)

The way this has happened doesn’t sit well with me, but I understand their reasoning and I don’t bear a grudge. But I’d also really like to have a break from the uncertainty and organizational instability and move on with my life.

Would declining the on-call work hurt my professional reputation or future opportunities? All the references I’d use from the organization have already left (see: previous understaffing and cutbacks), so I’m not concerned from that angle, but I work in a mid-size sector with an ethic of pulling together and making personal sacrifices for the greater good. The organization has a not-insignificant public image and heaps of public goodwill, so I worry a bit about the optics of me leaving them high and dry. But I’m also just really ready to move on. Am I overestimating how much other people in the sector care, or even notice?

Yes. They’ve laid you off; that ended your work obligations. You have the option of accepting additional work from them if you want to, but no obligation whatsoever if you prefer not to. It would be 100% fine to say, “Unfortunately I’m not available” or “I wouldn’t be interested in working as an independent contractor” or “Thank you for the offer, but it won’t work for me right now.” It’s very normal to not be available to a job after you leave (ever, but especially one that terminated your employment). No reasonable bystander would think anything of that.

You also have the option of saying you’d do it for a higher wage. It doesn’t sound like you’re interested in that, but just as a general piece of advice, know you can always try to negotiate rates for stuff like this if you want to. (And it’s particularly easy to say, “I’d need $X/hour to make it work for me since I’d be responsible for my own payroll taxes and since it’s so many fewer hours.” They can then take that or leave it.)

5. Including quotes from a manager on your resume

What are your thoughts on using direct quotes from a performance review on a resume? I’m re-writing mine right now, and would love to use this text: “She is well respected and communicates well upward, downward and laterally.” Would a cover letter be a better place for it? Should I not include it at all?

I wouldn’t include it. You can include one or two truly fantastic quotes in your cover letter or on your resume, but they need to be unusually impressive. Otherwise it risks looking a little … meh.

“Well respected and communicates well” is lovely but not superlative enough for job application materials. (“Best communicator I’ve worked with during my decade in this field” would be, to illustrate the difference. Or even, “Earned the respect of her team under extraordinarily challenging circumstances” — something that indicates this was above and beyond your basic “good” baseline.)

However, you could think about what accomplishments you have that stem from the traits in your quote, and make a point of playing those up. What did those traits lead you to achieve in those jobs? Write about those!

{ 500 comments… read them below }

  1. Squidhead*

    #3- for virtual meetings, maybe suggest moving the intros to the chat? I attend a lot of inter-department meetings where everyone puts their name, title, and relevant role for that meeting in the chat box. It can also be exported for attendance purposes (sometimes 2 attendees are sharing a workstation, so exporting logins doesn’t capture everyone.) If they want some type of icebreaker question, it could go there too (“please list your name, your title, and how long you’ve been at XYZ enterprises” “please list your name, the workgroup you represent, and your favorite kind of taco”). Doesn’t help for the in-person meetings, though!

    1. Sally*

      My company has been growing, so we collect info on new people (name, title, photo, fun fact) and put it on a page in the intranet, and it’s mentioned during the monthly all company meeting. maybe the op’s team can do something like that.

      For my smaller team, my manager keeps track of who was hired since the last team meeting and asks that person to introduce themselves. And then when we go around the room/Zoom screen giving our usual updates, we add a little bit of info, like title and how long we’ve been on the team, so the new person can start to put names with faces.

        1. Antilles*

          The fact you can easily refer to the chat is super useful if there’s a lot of people. Even if you’re really paying attention to the introductions (which many people probably aren’t), it can easily become a blur of names and titles. But if it’s in the chat, you can always scroll back up and reference as needed.

      1. SometimesIComment*

        Yes to chat!

        I was recently in an All Hands question and answer meeting where the “answer” panel, ie top level C-suite types whose names everyone should really know, even if they’re new hires, spent 15 minutes on introductions and then deferred some pre-submitted questions because they ran out of time. So frustrating.

      2. GreenDoor*

        #3, Could you suggest to the meeting facilitators that they transition to people giving their name and title *only if you they are presenting or commenting*? That way you’re not wasting time on introducing people who might not even be presenting or commenting, but if someone does speak, everyone will be reminded of who they are?

    2. IndustriousLabRat*

      This is exactly what the coordinators set up for our last virtual Federal/State cooperative emergency preparedness meeting (150+ participants). The chat intros worked great! And for someone like me who is more visual, seeing the Name/Title/Affiliation in print is helpful.

    3. Phony Genius*

      The writer does not say how many people there were in the meeting. Anyway, the last time I was in a virtual meeting with over two dozen people, each manager read off the names of their staff who were in attendance. This was an audio-only call. If it were video, I imagine each person would have waved or something. It went pretty quickly.

    4. Llama Llama*

      I have two possible suggestions:
      1) Suggest a change where a one department presents themselves in each meeting. That way it’s more about what they do versus repetitive intros
      2) Suggest a survey about the meeting and have people talk about the repetitive stuff there.

    5. MigraineMonth*

      In addition to multiple people Zooming in from one workstation, I’ve seen a single person who Zoomed in twice: once for audio and once for visual. It can get around some bandwidth/quality/echo issues.

      I would be tempted to respond “taco choco” as my favorite taco, even though I had one lately and it didn’t really hold up to my nostalgic memories. Maybe taco salad in one of the giant fried tortilla bowls?

    6. Oh, That Meg*

      The other thing I like for virtual meetings/trainings is where you put your name/title/dept/location (we’re a nearly fully remote group) as your name on zoom. That way every time you speak up, people are reminded who you are.

    7. tessa*

      I also wish meeting attendees would follow instructions for introductions, i.e. “Please say your name, title, and (your length of time with company, e.g.).”

      But please don’t wax poetically about where you were prior to, how you came to be at company, details on your type of work, and other info. that translates into a mind-numbing five minutes.

      Please. Don’t.

    8. tamarack and fireweed*

      I agree. We also have monthly all-hands meetings, but we skip introductions for everyone except new people, and leads, then (if there are new people, the 2-3 leads will get re-introduced – takes < 1 min).

      We are pretty good about introducing everyone, if there are new people, in our smaller, bi-weekly, task force meetings. And that's ok and quick, and usually interesting.

    9. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      When I attend zoom meetings, we’re quite simply asked to specify our name and function on our tile.

  2. many bells down*

    Yeah, LW#1, I am 50 and consistently have to fix our SharePoint because a 30-year-old coworker manages to regularly break it in ways I’ve never seen. This week I had to explain USB-C to them.
    It sounds like the hiring people aren’t making clear what sort of marketing they’re looking for!

    1. Cold and Tired*

      This. Younger hires being automatically good at tech mostly seems to be limited to things you can do on your smartphone/social media (and even that isn’t universal. Outside of that, it’s just as hit or miss as any other age employee.

      For example, the recent college grad I trained this summer had no idea what cc on emails did, or how to use my tracker spreadsheet I made without breaking all the coding. Age is no guarantee.

      1. English Rose*

        This. Direct quote from a recent 21 year old hire in a team adjacent to mine: “Oh nobody uses email any more, we can just text each other”. Turns out they didn’t know how to use email effectively. And disguised by coming across as arrogant.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          Just the other week, I had a 12 year old student ask me “what’s an e-mail address?” when I told them to fill in their e-mail addresses to something. Now, obviously, there is a difference between a 12 year old kid and a professional adult who has been through college and the school is providing e-mail addresses so no doubt he will know well by the end of the year, but just to support the whole “growing up with computers doesn’t necessarily mean being familiar with every aspect of them, especially the aspects more commonly used for work and academics.”

          1. Rebecca*

            Irish Teacher, it is different, but it’s also connected. I believe we can draw a direct line from the lack of computer education in schools to the problems we’re seeing in the workplace. I’m an elder millennial and I got explicit computer education in school, now I teach and we a) assume that the kids can do all of it because they can work their parents’ ipads and b) are so afraid of ‘screen time’ that we don’t teach them how to use computers. I have students who google ‘powerpoint’ because they don’t know how to open the program, students who don’t know why the work they did on their computer at home isn’t showing up on the computer at school, kids who don’t know how to use google, kids who think google is a source, kids who don’t know how to type at all. Even now! Even now my kids (and often their parents) can’t navigate google classroom, and it’s designed for children!

            I think we’re seeing the consequences in adults, and I think we’ll continue to until we start to put the explicit instruction back.

            1. Rebecca*

              ETA: ‘Obviously how much computer education is in the schools will depend on region and district, and mine is particularly bad for this, but generally speaking, I think the point stands.

            2. I should really pick a name*

              Speaking as someone in my 40s, none of that was taught to me at school, and yet I learned it all. This feels like taking problems that have been encountered with individuals and applying them to an entire generation.

              1. ecnaseener*

                I mean, it’s not wrong to point out the systemic change. It was a widespread choice among many school districts to nix typing and computer lessons because they figured kids these days grow up playing with tablets and smartphones and that would somehow translate to knowing how to type on a keyboard and navigate file folders. Teachers at higher levels got used to their classes mostly knowing how to do those things because they’d learned it in elementary school – and I imagine employers got used to it as well.

                Of course some individuals will learn on their own, but as a group they’re not set up to meet the expectations set by older computer-literate classes.

                1. My+Useless+2+Cents*

                  In my 40’s but I remember a lot of basic intro computer stuff in school starting around 4th & 5th grade. By the time I got out of school a lot of that “basic” stuff was obsolete (DOS anyone?). I had to take a basic Microsoft Office class in college and most of that has changed enough to be worthless by now. Just the last couple of years with the explosion of virtual meetings has completely changed some offices and yet my office, which never went virtual, has become inept at what many now see as very basic office know-how.

                  Computer tech has changed so much in the last 30 years. I see my brothers kids doing school stuff on tablets and wonder about how obsolete those are going to be by the time they are out of school.

                2. LB*

                  There was an interesting article about how millennials and up know how to navigate file folders, but GenZ and lower generally don’t because they never had to- they are generally more used to just saving everything to the desktop or to one massive chaotic folder, and then finding it by typing in its title in the search. So they don’t have the visualization in their heads of the imaginary system of folders and some folders that you would keep things organized and within a computer.

                  Elder millennials also generally received explicit instruction, in school and from parents, about how to use things like word, email functions, etc, but the younger generations came into a world that expected them to absorb it all by osmosis.

              2. Rebecca*

                It’s not individuals, though. It’s systemic curriculum and education systems across a country. I work in France, and computer classes are not in the primary school curriculum. I’m not talking about one kid who failed a class.

                Can we all find examples of people who did well with computers even though they weren’t taught? Yes. Lots of people will find outside sources for education they didn’t get in school, and more power to them. But the individual doing well despite the curricular gaps doesn’t mean that talking about curricular gaps in schools and the wider effects that has on the adults who have come through that education system isn’t worth talking about or studying. We invented schools for a reason.

              3. Starbuck*

                Well I think part of it *is* the age cohort – I got a good amount of explicit computer instruction as a student, but also I had computers all around me growing up (30). Computers, not tablets/phones. So life was full of opportunities to practice beyond just what I learned in school. I think younger kids just don’t have that opportunity because the device they grow up on is a tablet or phone and not a PC / laptop.

              4. Triplestep*

                And yet, it will impact those of us in our fifties when we look for our next opportunity. Thankfully, my current team is no longer surprised over my very high technical acumen, but I am a consultant and I dread the day I need to look for my next gig. It is pretty likely I will be thought of as an “old lady” and assumed to be “probably not good with computers” by 20 something males (which if they are anything like my kids need someone like me for tech support.)

                1. Reluctant Mezzo*

                  This is an old problem. Back several decades ago, a computer call center wouldn’t hire older women–not even the one who ran her own BBS and clearly knew more code than her manager-to-be. They finally saw the light, but it took a while.

                  Still fighting the same battle, right?

              5. Kit*

                I mean, as someone who’s nearly 40, I didn’t learn all of that in school, and a bunch of what I learned in school computer classes is long-since obsolete (Hyperstack, anyone?) but formalized computer education helps provide a baseline of understanding from which students can extrapolate, if it’s done right.

                It’s often not done right, mind! A genuinely good computer-literacy course should be built around fundamentals and showing students how to seek answers for themselves; preferred programs come and go, but knowing how to find the settings menu and what those settings probably mean is going to serve someone well through their life.

            3. Myrin*

              I do have to chime in with my personal experience here, though, because I’m 31 and didn’t learn any of those things in school either and yet I’m a pretty proficient computer user; all of my basic knowledge comes from fooling around on my father’s computer when I was a child, all my more advanced knowledge comes from having to use computers and all kinds of programmes for university and being really good at googling what I don’t know.

              My 26-year-old sister did have computer classes in school (for several years, even, but I couldn’t tell you how many exactly) and did the same fooling around on our father’s computer as a child I did but since she’s a professional retail worker, she never had to do anything particularly complicated and as such, doesn’t know how to. She has some stuff memorised still from her classes but it’s generally stuff she either doesn’t even know exactly what it means/how to use it or she simply never needs it at all.

              1. Lenora Rose*

                But many “kids these days” aren’t growing up with their dad’s computer, or their mom’s, as their connection to the internet, the way you or I did; they’re growing up with tablets and smartphones and game consoles. Some use keyboards but many use X-Box or equivalent controllers, or touchscreens.

                My daughter has (also) been using a spare laptop of her uncle’s but I feel like she’s the exception

              2. MigraineMonth*

                That ability to play around on a computer and make all the mistakes is so important for learning how tech works and gaining comfort with experimenting.

                It’s far from universal, unfortunately. Many kids don’t have access to a traditional computer, or the computer is a parent’s work computer, or there is no backup so accidentally wiping it while trying to partition a disk would be a disaster. Even having a modern user-friendly operating system makes it harder to figure out what’s going on under the hood, since most users will never need to edit the registry or manually update a kernel.

                1. Claire W*

                  Yep, I’m 33 and this was the case for me – I am a web developer now but when I started uni, I was the only one in my class who hadn’t spent years “messing around with” and “breaking” the family computer – I had 3 siblings and 2 parents, I couldn’t do that to the one shared computer!

                  Just because someone has access to devices doesn’t mean they can, or can afford to try, investigating and pushing the boundaries to learn how it works beyond the basics.

                2. sofar*

                  Yep, I took an ‘intro to computing’ class my freshman year of college (I am an elder millennial) and, every week we had to turn in a “journal” about “something new we tried” on our computers, or something that broke and that we fixed ourselves without calling campus tech support.

                  A lot of that stuff is obsolete, but the thought process of trouble-shooting isn’t. When we went remote during the pandemic, it was crazy how many coworkers of all ages were melting down because they couldn’t just “call IT to come over.” My new 23-year-old coworker was managing to lock herself out of our tools every other day and did not understand the concept of doing a password re-set via email.

              3. BlueStarGirl*

                This to me is also the difference between my (elder millenial) and my parents (boomer) approach to technology.

                Often when they as me tech support questions my response is “I don’t know, poke around, try clicking some stuff, you probably aren’t going to break anything beyond repair” (since they’re not going in and, like, editing programing) because that’s how I learned to computer. They’re generally worried about pressing any button they don’t know exactly what it will do.

                1. Triplestep*

                  I am the age of your parents, but my attitude is much more like yours, which is why I now have a high technical acumen.

                2. sofar*

                  Yep. Whenever I’m home, my parents ask me to “look at something” that’s not working on the computer. I go straight to Google, click on stuff, reboot the router, etc. and eventually fix it. And they’ll make some remark about how my generation is “I thought your generation just knew this stuff off the cuff.” And I’m like, “Very few people know this stuff without Googling, we just have the confidence to try to figure it out.”

            4. Irish Teacher*

              Your experiences are SO familiar. I have had virtually every one of those issues with students and while our education system is different from yours, my students would be middle school/early high school aged (mostly 12-15 year olds; secondary school in Ireland is 12-18 but I tend to get mostly the younger students).

              And yeah, I do think we sometimes assume they know more than they do, but it is difficult to set up classes when you have some students who are coding for fun and others who struggle to turn on a computer. I actually teach Digital Media Literacy, but that is more about stuff like how the internet influences politics, etc, how to recognise good versus poor sources, understanding copyright, etc rather than basic computer skills,

              1. Rebecca*

                yuuuuup. I’m working in France, so the middle school and high school are the same ages.

                But it’s hard to set up any kind of class with ability disparity. I teach reading classes where some of the kids are reading high school novels and some of them are struggling with Wimpy Kid, I teach math class where some of the kids are whizzing through algebra and some of them can’t count to twenty with their socks on. That problem isn’t specific to computer literacy and is as a direct result of school systems cutting supports and spec ed so that one teacher is trying to do it all in one classroom.

                1. MigraineMonth*

                  Thank you for sharing, that’s really good to know! I tend to assume the US is special in its public education issues (we’re exceptional!), but it sounds like a much broader challenge than I assumed.

            5. Dinwar*

              “…we a) assume that the kids can do all of it because they can work their parents’ ipads…”

              Part of the problem is that Apple made iPads as simple to operate as they could. As I heard the story, anyway, they realized there was a huge market in computers powerful enough to do certain things, but not so powerful as to be intimidating–computers for folks who wanted to keep in contact with the grandkids and maybe check out a few hobby websites, but not actually do computer stuff (coding and the like). It was a significant niche that no one had occupied. So they occupied it.

              I don’t mean to downplay the technical prowess of the teams that succeeded in this. Making something work for mid-range users is hard, because mid-range users tend to do stupid things. But what it means for this conversation is that while people grew up USING computers, they did not necessarily grow up UNDERSTANDING computers. They grew up with an intuitive touch-screen interface that railroaded them into doing things a certain way. Some break out of that mold, sure–I know folks who can make an iPad do nearly anything they want–but many people simply don’t put the effort in to getting beyond that intuitive design.

              There’s a term for it in gaming, but I forget the term….In certain games there are strategies that work really well in the beginning, and people use them to the exclusion of anything else. It makes them beasts at first, but puts a hard limit on what they’re capable of doing. The Zerg Rush is the classic example–nearly unstoppable at first, but at a certain point becomes worthless. Worse, the player never learned any other way to play, so they have nothing to fall back on. iPads are that for computers.

              Let you think I’m insulting anyone, I’m firmly in that category. I use computers, but I don’t like them, and while I’m good enough at logic to figure out how to make things work the way I need them to, it’s an annoying, sometimes painful part of my job that I would gladly outsource.

              1. Anonny*

                I’m 31, my cousin is 16. I grew up messing around on computers and feel comfortable with pretty much any basic system (so not NASA launching or similarly technical stuff). She mostly grew up with ipads and tablets.

                A few years back at Christmas, I set up Netflix on my PS3 (which is a retro console now, oh god), showed my cousin how to use it, and put her in charge of it whilst I went and sheltered from the noise of family. She’s used consoles (Nintendo DS) before. Came back two hours later and it was still on the search page. She’d just left it because it wasn’t familiar to her. And all the older adults weren’t sure what to do with it either. Whereas you give a system to me and even it it’s unfamiliar, I’ll ask some questions and give it a tentative poke to work out what to do.

                1. Lenora Rose*

                  Some of that isn’t age related. I tend to learn systems faster than others (Not all others, but it was noticeable at a job which replaced their two different sets of customer delivery order software and point of sale software with another single system) because I am willing to poke at menus and do very basic user troubleshooting. I’m not better in the end, but I start by finding the quirks myself and trying to back out of them. Others would ask me, or email the trainer, because they worried if they touched any extra button they would blow things up.

              2. Smithy*

                I also have to wonder if the diversity in options and relatively fast pace way that programs such as Googles Docs vs Microsoft Word etc. can change makes the development of curriculum more challenging.

                I’m 40, and learned typing and some forgettable computer class in school – but growing up the process of going getting Word Perfect or Microsoft Word installed on every computer I had for college certainly led to a different kind of base familiarity. However, while I’ve had a gmail address for ages – two years ago I got a job where we used Google for email and all documents – and it was utterly painful how slowly I transitioned. I knew a switch was coming to Outlook…and the whole time I just kept on trying to hint to people it’d be even more painful than they could imagine. Which it was – and for people particularly struggling, everyone is just directed to search online for a training program.

                At this point, I’ve hit my own wall where I don’t know if new tasks are going to be intuitive and I’ve never done them before (i.e. making a combined PDF when I have the right level of Adobe pro) or as complicated as an intermediate Excel course.

              3. skadhu*

                It’s not just Apple, it’s all of them. I’m someone who by virtue of my work has had to learn a big range of programs, relearn them when they get updated, and learn new ones as the world changes. All digital ecosystems are becoming more siloed and controlled—I had a google support tech admit to me this week that the problems a google workspaces user was having might be because someone had set up their new laptop with All Things Google, their personal google account might be blocking the workspaces account from functioning properly.

                But almost every program is also making assumptions about what you want to do and then setting itself up (and dumbing itself down) to make it easy to do those very specific things and very difficult to do anything else, even when it is technically possible. Sometimes they actually remove functionality; I’m using old versions of a couple of programs because they do things that newer versions can’t (that functionality has now been transferred to a shiny new program that of course you have to buy separately….)

                1. Dinwar*

                  I’ve noticed that with Excel. In 2004 I could do certain things with it that in 2022 I can’t. They made it more user-friendly, but did so by nerfing a bunch of features that scientists actually need. I made a workbook to deal with strike and dip data in 2004, for example–you could plug in the numbers and it’d do a series of calculations and produce a projection for you. I can’t do that in the modern version of Excel.

              4. Bumblebee*

                This echoes my own experience with my kids! They are still in elementary/middle school, but while they can do all kinds of things on tablets, I realized at some point they had no idea how to type. And one of their kindergarten teachers told me that the whole class would struggle with the first round of standardized tests, because they are entirely on desktop computers and the kids just go in and start tapping the monitors with their fingers!

                1. Irish Teacher*

                  My nephew tries to point the mouse at the computer when he uses my computer because he uses a smartphone at home (he’s in junior infants, so much like kindergarten).

              5. Triplestep*

                This explains a lot. My 91 year-old mother uses her computer for basic email and ‘net searches on things she wants to look up (the way a lot of people use their phones.) But I got her an iPad at the start of the pandemic and she took to it really well! She attends zoom calls, borrows library books on it and reads a few newspapers. Occasionally she’ll accidentally take it offline and not know how to get it back on, but I have had to offer very little support. She just presses buttons until she gets it to do what she wants!

              6. one L lana*

                I’d put it a little differently — iPads were really designed for consumption, not creation. People who wanted to browse websites, post on social media, watch videos, etc. Streaming media was just becoming a thing, and were basically meant as a tool for someone who didn’t need to write anything other than a Facebook status or maybe a quick email.

                Honestly, though, desktop computing has changed very little since the dawn of the tablet era. The Mac operating system looks very similar. Windows is a little more different, but not that much. You absolutely didn’t need to learn how to write code in order to use it, but you did have to be more familiar with a lot of the basics in order to get the fun things you wanted done.

            6. History Teacher*

              That’s why I’m glad my school has computer classes! For the last four years I taught an Office 365 class to 8th graders. We went over how to use Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, as well as mini lessons on how to use Teams, OneDrive, and Outlook. Maybe they won’t ever be experts, but at least they have a foundation for the future!

            7. NewGrad*

              We discovered about 6 months into “school from home” that my 15 year old brother had NEVER saved a file.
              He wrote the work, printed it or emailed it to his teacher, and closed the word doc.
              If he found a mistake, he’d rewrite the whole thing.
              We found out when he complained something had vanished (he hadn’t saved it and clicked yes to close applications when his laptop did an update)
              I went to his files and literally found it empty. I had to explain to him why it was important to save shit and how to do it.
              On a weekend, he’ll literally spend 80% of waking hours on a screen.

              I also work in a grad scheme. I grew up on apple, so windows and Microsoft are pretty foreign to me. I was still the only one capable of making a new PowerPoint and actually putting it in our share point rather than keeping it on my own harddrive.

              1. Starbuck*

                Oh my goodness… honestly too bad he wasn’t using Google docs because then you don’t have to save. But ahh! I still remember the era when I changed my preference from Word (better because it’s safe on the hard drive, don’t need an internet connection to edit/save) to Docs (better because it’s on the internet and if your computer dies you won’t lose it).

                1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                  Oh yes – the you actually have to save things argument. Fortunately my now teenager knew about saving documents (we taught them how to do that in elementary school). Put them ahead of a lot of their classmates when Covid sent us online.

                  My FIL – saving your documents and not downloading viruses, that’s an ongoing battle in futility. My spouse grabs and disinfects the computer twice a month.

              2. Lenora Rose*

                So many online places just save for you… it gets people out of the habit of doing it for themselves.

                (Aside: It actually annoys me when working in a google doc that I don’t hit a button to save. Because that’s always been my tactile memory that I *did*. The visual input at the top of the screen (“Last saved a few seconds ago”) isn’t as convincing to my back brain as clicking a button and briefly seeing a spinning symbol.)

              3. Triplestep*

                As I’ve said elsewhere here, I am in my fifties and have a high technical acumen. My adult children do not. I have been proofreading my son’s resumes and cover letters, and when I complained that I keep correcting the same things over and over again, and asked why he does not start with the last corrected copy, I found out he has no system for keeping them. He has to find the email to which they are attached. His computer has them as temp files, but come on! This is not a filing system!

            8. Wouldja*

              Mm, I’m Gen-X and my school bought its first computer– an Apple 2E, everyone was very excited– the year after I left. And I can still make teh computerz do what I want (most of the time).

              It’s just a matter of whether you rock with tech or not.

            9. Librarian of SHIELD*

              I help people on computers all day at my job, and the number of people in their 20s and 30s who have no idea how to type on a physical keyboard because they usually use the touchscreen keyboard on their phone or tablet is worrisome. One recent example is someone who looked at the keyboard, saw that the letters on the buttons were all capitals and got panicked about how they were going to be able to type lowercase letters. On a phone keyboard, the letters are lowercase until you hit shift, and then they change to capitals. This person didn’t know that the capital letters on the buttons didn’t mean they could only type capital letters.

              I don’t blame the person for their lack of knowledge, it’s clear they hadn’t had any sort of typing instruction on a computer, but that’s not the only issue people in that age bracket are having with using a computer rather than a touchscreen device.

              1. My+Useless+2+Cents*

                Side thought: Every time I text I wonder when someone will come out with a new keyboard that is more intuitive than an Qwerty keyboard for typing on phones. But can you just imagine the chaos that will introduce to the workforce? Someone who has only texted their entire life than sitting down to a Qwerty keyboard in the office…. yikes

                1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                  The QWERTY keyboard was initially designed to slow typists down, because some typed so fast the typewriter keys would get stuck together.

                  Back in the 80s I wrote course content to teach touch-typing using a mini dedicated computer for my boss who was a geek before geeks even existed. It proved very popular, and sold like hot cakes. Soon we were getting requests for other keyboards, including for a keyboard called Dvorak (like the composer) which had been designed to speed typing up now that computer keyboard keys would not get physically jammed. As I wrote the course content I of course learned where the keys were and for a time, I had my computer configured to always use that keyboard. This was particularly useful in that in those days people didn’t each have their own computer at work, so when I was out, others might come and use my computer. This wouldn’t normally be a problem, but there was one young airhead who somehow always left the computer in such a mess nobody else could get it to work.
                  (In the end, we discovered what she was doing: instead of Ctrl-S to Save, she was doing Shift-S which launched the automatic spellcheck, making the computer freeze and check your spelling every time you pressed the space bar)

              2. MigraineMonth*

                That reminds me of when I showed up at my first computer programming class and couldn’t figure out how to turn on the computer. I’d used many different computers before (at home, at school, at the library), but I’d always used a computer with a built-in monitor. In my mental model, a screen was an inseparable part of the computer.

                One of my classmates had to point out that I was just turning the monitor on and off, and I had to hit the power button on the computer itself, which was under the desk.

            10. Clobberin' Time*

              Maybe you are also dealing with students whose families are not wealthy enough to have computers at home.

          2. Boof*

            And here we get into the challenges of “differentiated instruction” – computer literacy is such an essential skill that I agree it should be covered in public schools /especially for those who don’t readily have access to computers / but some kids will already be masters, or may know some things really well and have gaps in other areas. This could potentially be solved with a basic skills test then modular teaching to shore up weak areas, but considering it took a month of my daughter sitting through ABCs in first grade when she was already reading at a 3rd+ grade level before they’d even think about a reading assessment and maybe a differentated reading group… yeah. I mean it was a challenging time [pandemic, remote learning, and of all things they threw a long term sub to develop a remote learning curriculum) but this is not an underfunded district at all. Uhg, it’s why I’ve sent my kids back to a private school (that is, in fact, doing some classes on computers, online etiquette, etc now in 3rd grade!) even though I moved to this area specifically for the great public schools (the high school level really should be good…)

            1. KatEnigma*

              Differentiated anything makes kids feel bad. They resist doing that now. The bright kids can just be bored, and learn to tune out so their gaps in learning never do get bridged…

              1. Rebecca*

                Who’s resisting doing differentiated learning? Not any school or teaching training program I have ever been through or worked in.

                That it isn’t working particularly well because the teachers are stretched too thin with large class sizes, too many special needs in one class with out outside supports so one teacher is doing it all, and the kids at top often get deprioritized because the teacher is too busy putting out fires for the kids at the bottom – all true. But nobody is resisting differentiation on principle.

                1. NewGrad*

                  My school would only do two classes of two sets for English and maths, for about 100 kids. So you were either in class A or B, which were upper, or C or D which were lower.
                  I’m honestly not sure who benefitted from this. The kids at the top and bottom didn’t quite get the level of teaching needed, while the kids in the very middle were typically going a little faster or slower than ideal.
                  Utter nonsense.
                  Bizarrely, this didn’t stand for maths, and we had 5 sets (I think). My only complaint there was that it was really hard to change sets. I scored poorly in one test and ended up in second set. I was ahead of the class and super bored. Took me until halfway through the second year (and a few threats from my mum) to move up a set. I outperformed most of them and now have a maths degree… No system is perfect clearly

                2. Librarian of SHIELD*

                  Exactly this. Several of my friends and relatives are teachers and they’ve all talked at one point or another about how they wish they could do more differentiated learning, but when you’re the only adult supporting a class of 30 there’s only so much you can do.

                3. Lenora Rose*

                  People do resist anything that smacks of “Let’s put all the special ed kids off in a totally different corner and not address their (also vastly differentiated) needs so the “Abled” kids don’t have to think about them or treat them as human.” And there are good anti-ablist reasons for that.

                  But a good teacher with a couple of EAs and a reasonable class size CAN do differentiated learning within a classroom, and there are often extra supports for those behind or optional projects for those ahead. (Or what do you think mixed grade classes, which still exist especially at smaller schools, do?)

                  The problem with this is that it requires funding and support from above. It can’t be done in classes of 30 with a single part-time EA (at best) who’s forced to focus all their energy on keeping a child from melting down (who wouldn’t be melting down in a smaller class where they could get the attention and learning support instead).

              2. Irish Teacher*

                Differentiated teaching doesn’t mean “you’re in the top ability class, you’re in the middle ability class and you’re in the bottom ability class.” Differentiation happens within a classroom and students usually aren’t even aware of it.

                One example I have (that isn’t computer related) is that I teach English and I have these cool storyworld cards when students choose a picture on write a story based on it. The cards have questions at the back. For example there might be a picture of a wizard casting a spell and the questions at the back might be “what spell is this wizard casting?” “why is he wearing blue robes?” “what will happen if the spell goes wrong?” I tell students they can use the questions if they are stuck but they don’t have to. So the weakest kid in the class will just write something like “the wizard is casting a spell to make himself invisible. He is wearing blue robes because blue is his favourite colour. If the spell goes wrong, he will remain invisible forever.” Meanwhile, the most able student in the class might write a 3 page story about how the character is actually just dressed as a wizard for a fancy dress party and turn it into a love story where he meets the girl of his dreams at the party or write a long fantasy story about a wizard in a world they’ve created. The kids think they are doing the same assignment, but obviously, what they have done is very different.

                It only makes kids feel bad if the teacher goes around and says “you need to look at the questions at the back and just answer those.” “Johnny, you’re not allowed to look at the questions at the back. You’re smart enough to think up something without them.” And I hope no good teacher would do that.

                With computer skills, it would be similar. You would maybe get kids to search for something, so the ones with no experience with computers would just be learning what google is and how to enter searchwords, whereas the kids with more experience would be questioned on which words gave them the best results and whether the results were valid sources and so on.

                1. happybat*

                  This is what I would expect in a differentiated class, too. Open ended tasks that pupils can respond to in ways that make sense to them, with a good teacher there to support and challenge them to do their best work. Setting and streaming, while frequently used, are not always spectacular at supporting learning, especially for those who are not taught the content they would need to move from a ‘bottom’ set to a top set. Give me diversity any day.

                  I’ve seen it work great in STEM subjects too!

        2. Cranky lady*

          Yup. And then they complain about not knowing what’s going on because they didn’t read any of the emails sent to them. (I have coworkers like this both over and under 40.)

        3. londonedit*

          Yep, I’ve heard a lot about lecturers at universities having a real battle trying to convince their students to actually check their uni email accounts and trying to teach them how to communicate via email, because they just don’t use it in their everyday lives. People my age made a natural transition from writing actual letters (first by hand and then on a computer, printing them out and sending them by post) and emailing, so when we started using email we treated it like an electronic letter. But people of university age have probably barely even written a letter in their lives, let alone using email on a regular basis, and it’s very different from texting and using messaging apps (especially in a business context where you need to be clear and professional in your communications).

          1. alienor*

            My daughter is nearing the end of university and I think she’s finally, finally developing the habit of checking her email semi-regularly. It doesn’t help that a lot of classes at her university use the Canvas learning management system, so the students are used to looking there for things and not in their email.

            (And I remember those early days of long, letter-like emails! When I got my first professional job in the late 90s, one of my work friends and I would send each other those missives all day long, like we were a couple of 19th century women writing back and forth with the news from our separate country estates.)

            1. Triplestep*

              Both my adult children insisted they read their email. My husband and I got in the habit of texting and telling them to read their email if we had to send something that was not well suited for text.

              One of them (who is easily insulted to begin with) would get very offended that we texted to say “check your email” insisting that she indeed did read it every day. So we stopped texting every time we sent something via email and you can probably guessed what we heard. “I didn’t see your email because you didn’t text me to tell me you had sent it.”

              1. 40 Years In the Hole*

                Reminds me of the pointy-haired boss from Dilbert, where he asks his admin to email/fax/print…the same document…just in case.

          2. parsley*

            I used to work at a student accommodation agency, and I was constantly having to send out reminders for students to check their email for information about their security deposits – they’re protected under certain laws in the UK, and they couldn’t access their deposit without checking their email for the activation link. Often, they would miss the email altogether and miss out on their deposit information, which meant they then came demanding their money back at the end of the year, but I couldn’t magically open their email for them to get to the link to click on it. I had that conversation pretty much daily during the summer months, absolutely draining.

        4. Anonym*

          We have to regularly remind people that using text and WhatsApp for any kind of business information are violations of about a zillion internal rules and government regulations. Information security and data privacy, people! Your favorite ways to communicate socially are not secure and can land you and your organization in trouble!! (Rightly so, especially when it comes to things like customer data.)

          1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

            I mean, personal communications platforms should be secure, but governments everywhere seem generally terrified of the idea of the public actually having access to and using secure encryption…

          2. Observer*

            It sounds like the hiring people aren’t making clear what sort of marketing they’re looking for!

            Oh, the could very well be secure, but it’s STILL a major problem. Meta can’t give anyone the contents of you WhatsApp chats, nor can Signal. But that still doesn’t make it ok to use that – there are still about a gazillion rules that could be at play. Some of them are legal – I just googled “bank fined for using whatsapp” and got a bunch of hits from the last year along. Others are internal – there is no way for a company to document and track work related communications, and that can be vital.

          3. MigraineMonth*

            I remember being horrified at the beginning of the pandemonium that people were using Zoom for anything that required privacy or security. It’s gotten much better, but when it first became popular it had practically no security.

          4. Claire W*

            Ugh yes, the peope I have worked with who were working in a 10-person startup by having all chats on Whatsapp, and then wonder now they’re in a 500-person company why they have to learn slack or Teams instead of having the entire company use Whatsapp…

            Plus aside from anythng else, I do not want every employee at my company to have my personal phone number, weirdly enough! Nor do I want to have 24/7 notifications.

        5. Summer*

          Ugh and this is what I can’t stand – the arrogance! Just because someone is 40+ doesn’t mean they don’t have a clue about tech and their experience means nothing. We grew up with this stuff and plenty of us know what we are doing. LW1, just because your office made a hiring mistake, or just doesn’t know how to hire well, doesn’t mean that everyone over 40 is automatically useless.

          Sorry I’m salty about this but I’m sick of 20-somethings who seem to think everyone over 40 is a doddering old fool. Guess what? If you’re lucky enough, one day you will be that older person. You won’t like being denigrated based solely on your age either.

          1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

            I know, I am 41 and was part of the analog to digital generation, or the “Oregon Trail” generation, often called X-ennials! We were the first real generation dealing with the constant changes with technology as the internet became what it is today. And I tend to learn all the newer tech right away because you need to be able to do it, but I also know the older tech and professional tech. Younger people might know the newest thing, but that doesn’t mean they know more technology that is genuinely useful in the workplace than I do!

        6. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          Also shows that they have no idea what type of tech security businesses put on their email systems to avoid data breaches and other issues. My workplace would be up in arms if we were texting each other about our cases, which are highly confidential, especially since we would be using personal cell phones (the agency does not provide cell phones for most staff).

      2. Sloanicota*

        I used to tutor college students and a lot of them are using their phones as their primary devices (no shade – these were often low-income students and I’m sure that’s what is available to them) so they were not at all familiar with what I would consider basic desktop computing.

        1. Clobberin' Time*

          Exactly. Not everybody comes from a family where a working, up-to-date desktop computer and reliable ethernet/wi-fi are givens.

        1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          Honestly, smart kid! But not the best candidate for a job where knowledge of social media is a preferred skill!

      3. Not your typical admin*

        Yes to this! My high school junior started a duel enrollment program at our local community college where all assignments are submitted online. One required class is an “intro to college” class that covers things like using your school email, how to attach documents to be submitted, how to use Microsoft word and excel, and things like that. We tend to assume younger people know how to use all technology because there’s a lot of it they’re good at, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to being good at technology made for business.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          Man, I wish “how to do college” and “how to have a job” were standard classes that everyone had access to. It would be so helpful to do many people.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I’m a decade in and I still want that “how to have a job” course. I remember ignoring so many opportunities from my college career center about how to write a resume and interview well, because I thought I knew how to do those.

            Dear Reader, I did not.

            (Though after reading some of the letters about college career centers, maybe a blank slate was better than some of the weird/gimmicky advice I might have gotten.

            1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

              Yeah, but honestly, most of those college career centers give horrible advice!

          2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

            True, if the class actually teaches what you need to know. The one described above sounds pretty good, but I can see “how to have a job” being a course where, depending on who is creating it, it would not be genuinely helpful and might even be harmful.

            Granted, I was reading the post about career networking on here recently and I remember my law school career counselors telling us how to “network” – it was all horrible and awkward advice. I even googled “law school lies about networking,” and the first site to pop up was a site giving the same horrible advice about networking as a law student! I would love to teach a class for law students called “The Law School Networking Myth (and what to do instead).”

        2. Miss Muffet*

          and you get good at the stuff you use. My kids are in a district with 1:1 Chromebooks, which started prepandemic and just solidified with online learning. But they use google docs, etc. If they were to end up in a company that used the MS suite, they’d have to learn it. Would they pick it up quicker because they are at least used to some baseline of similar tools? Probably? But as someone who “grew up” on MS stuff (post-college … we barely had email in college) making the switch isn’t always as intuitive to me and I imagine even younger people can struggle with the differences until they get used to it.

      4. Richard Hershberger*

        The Kids being assumed to be good with technology is a recurring theme with different technologies, and always ages out after a while, even to the extent it was ever true. A classic example is the automobile in the 1930s to 1950s. They were all the rage. All the kids wanted them. But they also were kind of clunky and required constant maintenance. So those kids had to learn how to keep the car running. This was an advantage for the US during WWII, as basic field maintenance of internal combustion vehicles was second nature to many of the troops, where most other armies had to have specially trained mechanics doing a lot of the simple stuff to keep the vehicle running. Nowadays? Not so much. Or really, at all for anything more complicated than changing a tire or topping off the oil. This is not a commentary on the moral decay of today’s youth, but of the difference between modern cars and those of a couple generations back. A modern car needs much less routine maintenance, and what it does need requires much more specialized equipment. There is neither the need nor the potential for the shade-tree mechanic of old.

        Computers have gone through the same cycle, and a bit faster than did automobiles. I first got online in the mid-1990s. This involved a visit to and multiple phone calls with a local ISP to get various codes that had to be input in very specific ways. I had been using PCs for a decade at that point, so I had enough background that I was able to get it up and running without a tech visiting my apartment, but that would not have been unreasonable. AOL’s great advance was smoothing out the process so that you could sign up without all that hassle. That is just one example of many. I pay attention to what folders a file goes into, and what higher-level folders they are in, and so on. This is because I am old enough to have been using computers when this was necessary. The Kids nowadays just hit Save and don’t think about it. And this usually works just fine. The upshot is that intuiting how computers work is no longer something The Kids learn, because computer design has gone past their needing to learn this.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I have a terrible sense of direction/navigation, and Google Maps undoubtedly played a role. If Google Maps ever goes down, I don’t even have approximate mental maps for most places I need to get to.

          I mentioned this to my dad, and he agreed that technology has caused some of our skills to atrophy. Then he asked me, is it really important to know how to shoe a horse if you never ride one?

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            The trick is to recognize what skills are genuinely obsolete. Might Google maps go down, or otherwise be unavailable in some plausible set of circumstances? Absolutely. It isn’t even hard to come up with a scenario. How was the internet coverage in central Florida a week ago? (I don’t actually know. Perhaps it was just fine. But this doesn’t mean some other plausible event wouldn’t be different.) It also is mysterious to me how one plans anything. Do you need to consult Google to figure out how to run errands on the weekend? I honestly don’t know. That being said, Google is not solely to blame. My teenagers have absolutely no sense of local geography because kids don’t explore on their own. They don’t do this because he teach them from an early age that they can’t leave the house without an adult. It is not clear to me how old they have to be before I won’t be considered a neglectful parent to let them walk down the street. I hope it is before they are old enough to vote. I also hope that they learn how to find their way home, because they certainly haven’t been taught that yet.

            1. Emmy Noether*

              I train my 3-year-old to find her own way home from nearby places we go on foot (the park, the store) by making her “show” me and walking three paces behind. She’s already quite good. I think it’s an important skill in an emergency.

              I plan on letting her walk short known routes alone around 6 years old (but I now live in Switzerland. Children are still expected to walk to school alone here.).

          2. metadata minion*

            And on the other hand, I have a terrible sense of direction and was a relatively late adopter of smartphones, and having access to gps dramatically increased my ability to have a mental map of a place. Without an easily-accessed map, I painstakingly memorize the one way to get to and from a place, and outside of that designated route I get hopelessly lost. With a smartphone, I’m much more willing to explore because I know I can just look up directions if I get lost (which happens *frequently*; this isn’t just a “wow, I could secretly do it all along but my phone gave me confidence!” thing).

            1. Nicki Name*

              Yeah, my relatives are all terrible at maps, so I was excited to see GPS become an everyday thing because it helps them all immensely.

            2. But what to call me?*

              Yes this. I would be severely limited in my ability to go new places without my GPS, and that was true before I got one. I could probably figure it out if I sat down with a map, but when that isn’t an option and someone tries to give me directions I’m lost. It also saves me from getting actually lost or panicking if I miss a turn or something goes wrong with the route, which makes driving in unfamiliar places a whole lot safer.

              One pre-GPS evening of frantically driving around downtown through dangerous neighborhoods as a college freshman, completely lost at rush hour, while my dad tried to give me directions by phone and every single street he told me to turn left on didn’t allow left turns at that time of day was enough for me. And for my grandma, who immediately bought me a GPS rather than ever let that happen again (slightly pre-cellphone GPS era).

              Maybe some people have naturally good (or decent) navigation skills that have atrophied through the use of GPS, but for those of us without them GPS is a lifesaver.

          3. Richard Hershberger*

            An example of a genuinely obsolete skill that people complain about The Kids not learning is cursive. I am old enough that I learned it when it was a current thing, but I haven’t used it as a practical skill in decades. This is why, when the topic arises, the arguments one sees for devoting significant class time to are so bad. They all come down to it was important back in my day, so it logically follows that it must still be important. My kids got a couple days on cursive, so they would recognize what it was. Much more time was spend on learning to use a keyboard, which is a vastly more useful, and indeed necessary life skill nowadays.

            1. Westsidestory*

              Cursive should be taught. I’ve run into quite a few kids who can’t read it – they think it is a foreign language. (Any parent worried might try this at home with a Babar or Madeline book). Plus, having a beautiful script can be a social advantage …getting back to the question of computer literacy, it’s nice to see some schools putting effort into teaching basic computer skills, and I feel bad for kids who can’t get this at home or at school, as it gives them a bad start in many careers.

              1. Lenora Rose*

                We’re just now starting to transition from a particular report coming in on handwritten carbon copies to online input, and we *know* a lot of people will be handing them in on the ccs for months yet. Interpreting handwriting including cursive has been part of my job. It can be a workplace skill for people other than historians.

                It’s still less important than learning to type, which kids also don’t always get to do.

              2. Librarian of SHIELD*

                I gave up writing in cursive in about sixth grade when my teachers stopped requiring it, and I can’t think of a single social advantage I’m missing out on. My printing is neat and easy to read, and it’s been good enough for the last 25 years or so.

                The ability to read cursive writing will likely continue to be important for people like historians and researchers, but in a lot of ways I see writing in cursive in the same way that I see writing with a feather quill. Is it cool? Sure. Is it a necessary part of modern existence? Not really.

            2. an academic*

              If one of my students writes all in cursive on an exam, many of my TAs cannot read their responses well enough to grade them. It’s fairly unusual for a student to write only in cursive- maybe about 1 in 500, so like 1 or 2 students per class- but I have to grade that exam.
              I am teaching my son to read cursive. I’d love for him to read his great-grandma’s letters, while she is still alive to write them.

            3. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

              I agree about cursive, but I have noticed as society started typing everything more, I find it hard to write by hand at all. I mean that I am so not used to writing things down, that if I have to hand write something relatively lengthy, my hand starts to hurt! My handwriting is not as good either. Even if it is print, though, I think we need to keep the art of handwriting!

      5. Nina*

        I’m not an old (yet. I hope) but some of my more recently graduated colleagues think I am because I’m more familiar with desktop than mobile apps for things.

        I’m fairly competent on Microsoft Office apps because I messed about with them on a desktop computer as a little kid, at a time when little kids having access to desktop computers was unusual. My younger sibling is not competent on most Microsoft Office, or only knows the very basic functions (struggling with styles in Word or text-to-columns in Excel, f’rex) because they learned to use those apps on an Android device.

    2. MEH Squared*

      I agree. I am 51 and started using a PC regularly in college. I haven’t looked back since, and I would be classified as a heavy user. Whatever I don’t know, I can learn.

      As Alison said, this is a matter of bad/inadequate hiring for one reason or the other, not OP#1’s coworker’s age.

        1. Bagpuss*

          Yes, I’m not far off 50 and my dad (retired for over 10 years now) was a software engineer and is still very competent with these things. My mum (also in her 70s) also uses a PC regularly and competently (and her jobs were not office jobs and didn’t involve much in the way of computer use).
          I’ve used PCs daily since I started working and for a while was responsible for our social media.
          It sounds as though it’s skill-set not age, and as Alison says, it’s poor hiring. They culd hire someone in theeir 20s and find they were just as bad, or someone in the 50s or 60 who was fantastic.

          1. Keymaster*

            I once had to sit a staff member from another IT department down and explain to him that a LOT of companies have older tech knocking about and no firm is going to have 100% cutting edge technology that was all he bothered learning.

            So, yeah, he did have to deal with that Exchange server.

          2. Sandi*

            My grandmother is 96 and went online decades ago in order to check her bridge (card game) scores because she didn’t want to have to wait for them to be posted physically. She can’t code, but she emails regularly and has many tech skills. My mother is early 70s and always felt incompetent with tech until I showed her how my new skills are mostly based on trying different things and looking it up online. It’s all about skills, willingness to learn new things, and not age.

            1. londonedit*

              Definitely. My mum and dad are mid-70s and my dad is great with computers and tech because he had to constantly move with the times and adopt the latest bit of technology in his work. My mum didn’t, and while she’s OK with the things she feels comfortable with, like her phone and iPad, she has that ‘oh god what if I delete everything, what if I break it, I can’t remember what I’m supposed to do, I’m just not good with computers’ mentality. We’ve explained to her many times over the last 20+ years that she really can’t do much damage, but she won’t just play around on a computer and see what happens, so she’s stuck where she is. Which is fine, but it does show that developing these skills isn’t just about whether or not you’ve grown up with them, it’s also about whether or not you’re prepared to give it a go.

              1. Librarian of SHIELD*

                I have to reassure people about this all the time. My standard line when someone is worried they’ll do the wrong thing and break their iPad is “unless you throw it down the stairs or run it over with your car, you’re not going to break it. If you download the wrong thing or open the wrong program, the worst that’s going to happen is we’re going to reset it to factory settings and start over. That would be frustrating, but it’s something I know how to help you with if we have to do it.” Sometimes that puts people at ease, but sometimes it doesn’t. That fear of “I’m going to do the wrong thing and ruin everything” can run pretty strong in some people and it can be hard to talk them out of it.

            2. irene adler*

              Mom will be 90 in two weeks. And she’s still computer savvy: Emails, on-line purchases (Amazon is a regular), genealogy programs, games programs, on-line newspapers, financial software, writing letters, etc.
              And she’s low vision too. She knows how to adjust the screen to see it more clearly (colors, fonts, backgrounds, etc.)

            3. Sylvan*

              It’s all about skills, willingness to learn new things, and not age.


              Same attitude that you use to cook. Look for instructions and keep trying stuff until something works out.

              1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

                That’s an excellent analogy that highlights a huge host of reasons for why some folks struggle (I’m going to steal it for the future) – there are a lot of people who cook who find experimentation unacceptable; the cost of ingredients is too high, you have picky eaters who won’t take well to you playing with the recipe, it requires more mental and emotional bandwidth than you can work on, you’re terrified of getting it wrong, etc…

                They have a recipe, which if followed, turns out the same result every time. They don’t know why it matters that you add the dry to the wet ingredients, or why you have to use table salt instead of kosher salt to get the right ingredients, and a lot of times, they don’t care – that doesn’t make them bad people or incompetent in a kitchen, but it does means that what you can expect from them is a rote recipe.

                Another person might understand that there are such things as substitutions – that you can use milk + vinegar instead of actual buttermilk, for instance. They’ll stick to the recipe as closely as possible, but can deviate a bit when needed.

                Then you have the people who spend their time learning about their common set of ingredients, and all their ins and outs. They may not know what to do with a star anise, because they’ve never seen it before, but they know what to do with the things they consider staples, and are perfectly fine cooks.

                Etc, up to the person who understands flavor theory and profiles, and can sniff a new spice then figure out how to cook around it.

                1. My+Useless+2+Cents*

                  lol, great analogy.
                  I don’t think I’ve ever followed a recipe 100% in my entire life. It’s a guideline and starting point for whatever I’m looking to make and I’ve never hesitated to experiment or play.
                  However, show me how to do X on the computer and I will follow those exact steps until the end of time. Learning to do task X differently is fun and exciting but not something I seek out. I grew up using my dad’s DOS computer and terrified of breaking it so experimentation was not an option.

                2. Emmy Noether*

                  Interesting. I don’t think I’ve used a recipe for cooking to the letter in my life (baking – yes – though I’ve been known to creatively substitute there as well). Recipes are mostly inspiration to me, not instruction. Only problem is I can’t really replicate a good result. Even my staples turn out slightly different every time.

                  I am the same way about technology. Googling gives me an approximate idea, and then I click around until it works.

              2. Aerin*

                I work in tech support, and for most of our users it’s not that they couldn’t figure it out, it’s that they’re terrified of being wrong and so won’t even try when they could just have someone else do it for them.

                For the most part I get it, but every so often we’ll get someone who’ll be like “Oh, I’m not good with computers because I’m an Old, tee hee” and I want to smack them. Personal computing has been a thing for over 30 years. It’s not cute to suck at this, it’s a choice.

                1. alienor*

                  I hate when people do that too. I’m 50 and I used a computer for the first time in my school’s computer lab when I was in the eighth grade, so it’s not new by any stretch of the imagination. People need to figure it out.

            4. Siege*

              I keep telling my mother (who hates computers and smartphones) that she’s a dream to troubleshoot for because she listens, she tries, and she wants to do what she wants to do well even though she would prefer they not exist. My dad, on the other hand, loves computers, doesn’t listen, and routinely calls me for the most ridiculous problems you can imagine because he won’t even Google how to do something unfamiliar right.

              Now if I could get my mom to stop calling texts, FB comments, FB messages, and emails “email”, and assuming I have all of them as well because they’re email, that would make her perfect.

              1. MigraineMonth*

                For a while, my mom would send me long, rambling emails with a question or request sandwiched somewhere in the middle. For example, she wants to know if I can pick her up at the airport at 5:45pm, which is in the middle of an update about some family friends’ health issues with the subject line “re:re:Uncle’s Birthday Party”. I explained to her that I get alerts with the subject line and first 10 words, and I prioritize reading based on those; if she has a time-sensitive question, it was best to text me instead.

                So she started texting me “Please read your email”.

          3. Lizzie*

            I’m 56 and pretty tech saavy. I also can look something up if I don’t know how to do it!
            My mom, who is in her late 80s, has an ipad, iphone and a mac, and can use all of them pretty competently. And she is VERY good at Google and Youtube to help her figure out stuff when she has issues, so def. not an age thing.

            1. Some lady*

              Yeah– the sterotype about older people not knowing tech is outdated, if indeed it was ever dated. My dad, born in 1935, wrote a weekly newspaper column about computers up until his death at age 85.

              (And really, who do the young ‘uns think invented this stuff?)

    3. allathian*

      Yeah, absolutely. I suppose some people who work past a typical retirement age have been working long enough to see the introduction of PCs to offices in the early 1980s, but the vast majority of office workers have never known an office environment without computers.

      Sure, the LW’s employer hired the wrong person who doesn’t have the up to date connections or social media skills that they need, but the age of the employee is irrelevant.

      1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        I’m 57 and have used computers my whole working life. Granted that started with a DOS-based WordPerfect (with a card that you put above your function keys to tell you what each one did when combined with the shift key, etc), strictly Boolean Lexis-Nexus, and Lotus 1-2-3.

        1. bishbah*

          Late-Gen Xer here. The function key guides were a trip. I held onto a beloved DOS-based version of Quicken for years and years until I was forced to update for Y2K. I remember my parents (now in their 70s) dialing into LexisNexis on a gigantic modem at $20/minute. They also did punch-card programming in college, and bought us an IBM PC Jr when I was five. Boy did I drool over the two color Macintoshes in the school’s computer lab, though. We were writing Hello programs on the Apple IIes, booting floppies and playing Oregon Trail, mostly. Junior high had a Compaq computer “writing” lab. In high school, the “computer math” class included writing code in QBasic. My first email address was a string of numbers, courtesy of CompuServe. And my first ethernet connection was in college. (It was a revelation.)

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            I’m 61. I wrote my first computer program in high school, on a TTY to the school district mainframe. My spouse is over 70, and they were demonstrating some of the first small business computers, pre-PC, in the early 80s. We have both experienced discrimination based on age with regards to computers, including people telling them that they “didn’t have to be afraid to admit that they were afraid of computers”. They weren’t. The twist? We’re both AFAB, so there’s sexism in it too.

    4. anon24*

      I’m 30, always worked blue collar or health care and I don’t even know what SharePoint is. I can use Outlook and Word but the last time I used PowerPoint was back in the days of Office 2007 and the last time I created an Excel spreadsheet was never. I have one social media account where I post maybe 4-6 times a year and get about 6 likes per post, so you don’t want me running your social media.

      But I’m actually not a technological idiot, I built my own computer, tend to pick things up pretty fast, and usually am the person at jobs that people come to when IT isn’t around and something isn’t working right. It’s just that I’ve never needed to use certain common skills so I never developed them, whereas an older worker with a different skill set could blow me away in that department.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I think this is key — people talk about “digital skills” as if they’re like, one skillset, which hasn’t been true since at least the 90s (or maybe I just think that because that’s when *I* started using them!) The digital skillset that most office workers have now is different from the skillset that teenagers have which is different from people who navigate shopping/banking/government stuff online but don’t have office jobs and all of those are completely different from people who are specialists in social media or software or accounting or database architecture. And there’s a big difference between the specific technical skills that anyone has in their profession, and the area of “general computer knowledge” they have because of their membership of a particular social or professional group.

        I saw someone yesterday on Twitter complaining that gen Z don’t have “basic digital skills”. And like, they do! They just don’t have the same ones as you!

        1. skadhu*

          I think the above point is key. People learn (a) what is around and considered important at the time they are learning, which varies significantly depending on the time frame, and (b) what they are interested in and want to use. This has always been true of every technology.

          About 8 (?) years ago I was at a conference where someone presented the results of research into which age groups had which kinds of technical proficiency. They found that the most flexible people, those who used the widest range of software, were middle aged; younger people who had grown up computer literate might be more expert with any given software, but used a far more limited range of it and tended to be baffled when presented with something outside their comfort zone.

          I’m coming up to 68 and would call myself generally very computer literate; because I was a communication designer I used a wide range of programs professionally, from Office software to professional design software to very focused and specialized software addressing different aspects of that profession. I also constantly had to adjust my skillset because all of them kept updating and changing (where did that functionality go?).

          Beyond a couple of courses on specific programs in the 1990s I am entirely self-taught. So I am not an expert at anything—I generally taught myself only what I needed— but it does mean that I’m usually not scared to take new things on—if I want to. I never learned coding in the general sense and I never learned to code a website, because it wasn’t what I did. But last year I built a pretty complicated website for an organization that I volunteer for, using a very complicated WordPress template; I’m sure it’s not as good as what a coder could have done, but it works well and I’m proud of it.

          At the same time there are programs I don’t use and will never learn for a variety of reasons ranging from you-couldn’t-pay-me-to-use-X-because-a-b-c to meh, just don’t care about that. And in that I am just like younger people who don’t know stuff that other people think is important.

          In practice, it doesn’t matter whether you are old or young; with specifically limited practical exceptions (I’m not going to learn to be a carpenter now because I’m too old to manage heavy building materials), no group is incapable of learning any given set of software, or any other skill. The differences mostly come because of norms existing at the time you are learning and personal interest. If software is of no use to you you’re unlikely to learn it until you find yourself somewhere that requires its use as a norm.

          I think that if we really want people to be able to handle a range of software in both personal and professional environments we have to teach them how to be generalists, i.e. teach them the skills required to learn new things, and make that a desirable learning outcome that isn’t linked to ageist stereotypes that enforce who should know what.

        2. Cold and Tired*

          Exactly this. I work in IT so I’m well aware of my strengths and weaknesses. And even within the same program you can have different strengths. Like Excel for example. I do more project management and weird software imports, so I’m great at making trackers with fancy coding, doing graphs, using vlookup to prep things for import, etc. My brother, on the other hand, is an accountant so he’s fantastic at all the money formula stuff. Neither of us can really do the others skills in Excel beyond the basics (and when we help our parents in our free time when they have excel problems as they run their own business, we often end up referring them to the other based on what they need. Accounting spreadsheets? My brother. Managing inventory of supplies? Me.)

          There’s too much out there for anyone to learn all digital skills. It’s more that we learn subsets of them based on our job and perfect those, like me learning the project management suite of tools vs my brother with the accounting suite.

      2. WellRed*

        I work in an office on a computer all day. I can manage most if it and update our website regularly but can’t use excel well at all and never used PowerPoint. I’m curious to what theOP is thinking.

        1. Allonge*

          Also, none of this has anything to do with marketing and social media. Other than that social media is also on a computer.

    5. Cranky lady*

      Agreed. Assuming that the marketing position is just one example, it sounds like the job description isn’t clear what they are looking for. Someone with no social media skills isn’t going to apply for a job that is all about tweets and SEO. Others have pointed out that digital native does not assume technologically literate just as over 40 does not mean illiterate.

      Taking this away from technology, there are things that I definitely learned with experience in the workforce that I didn’t see I was lacking as a bright, energetic 20-something. I get that it can be frustrating to see outside candidates brought in that you have to support on something. Is there anything you can learn from them? The tact with which they handle an emotionally or politically sensitive issue? The troubleshooting they apply to a challenge?

      1. Mockingjay*

        Agree about the job description. Alison is correct that they need to screen candidates better, but the root issue is what are they screening for? Define the role. It’s fine if the job has several facets, simply define those facets: tasks, skills required to execute the tasks, minimum experience. My company lists the software and systems we use in every job post. We’ll train if you lack experience in a particular system. I myself lacked experience on one software product, so my bosses asked many questions to ensure my willingness and ability to learn. OP, presuming your company defines the position more clearly but you still have problems finding candidates, will your company pay for a course?

        1. JustaTech*

          More yes abou the job description. My in-laws hired a social media marketing guy, and then my FIL got super frustrated that this person (who was perfectly good at the social media stuff) wasn’t *also* a regular outside sales guy wanting to go on calls, meet clients and schmooze at the trade shows.
          “But you didn’t hire him for that. You hired him for social media marketing. That’s marketing, not sales. If you wanted someone to do both you needed to say so when you were hiring.”
          (They let that guy go, then got frustrated with another person they hired who was a customer service person when she didn’t want to go out for drinks and schmooze after a full day at a trade show. Again, sales was not the job you hired her for, you hired her for customer service.)

          My mom spend most of her career in development (fundraising) for higher ed. She would never want or take a job that was about social media fundraising not because she’s not tech-savy but because her skill set was working with elderly alumni to get the school into their will. Like, there are many different skill sets to non-profit fundraising and an organization should be really clear on if they want fast-paced stuff or if they’re looking for estate planning and legacy stuff.

    6. tg33*

      LW#1, it sounds like the first move is to let this person go. Then decide what skills are needed, and how to asses these skills. I don’t know if you are in a position to influence this, but it isn’t as easy as hiring by age.

      1. NYWeasel*

        Agreed 100%. When I hire, I look to see how the candidates synthesize new information they are given in the interview. My best candidates hear me say “A is important to us” in one answer and “B is a critical limitation” on another and will turn around and ask questions like “When you are adjusting for B, how do you avoid C affecting A?” It’s not important to me that they walk in knowing everything about A/B/C, but rather that they are strong in the thinking skills to recognize that if they see connections, they should ask questions rather than make assumptions. This skill is not correlated to age—I’ve had weaker employees in their 20’s and strong employees in their 50’s…and vice versa!

      2. Observer*

        LW#1, it sounds like the first move is to let this person go. Then decide what skills are needed, and how to asses these skills.

        I would reverse the order. First figure out what you actually need. Then decide how you get there. Is this person trainable? Are your bosses willing to make the investment? etc.

      1. many bells down*

        What’s especially funny is that this employee was apparently the one who was responsible for migrating most of the files to sharepoint in the first place. I had not used it at all until 3 years ago. But somehow I became the expert and they’re still not sure how to sync their files.
        “Digital skills” is such a wide field. They really need to be specific about what they’re looking for.

      2. Nina*

        I haaaaaaate Sharepoint, my company has it firmly coupled to Teams, so people save things in Teams in a different location to the Sharepoint, then send you the Sharepoint link to find it, and surprise surprise it doesn’t work. Nobody seems to understand it and stuff is constantly getting lost so a lot of documents are shared as OneDrive links with ever-widening access settings instead. It’s chaos.

    7. The Trainer*

      I am 54 and currently rolling out Internal Excel training courses in my company as so few people know how to use Excel. They can open a spreadsheet and add numbers but that’s it. The problem is that IT knowledge, especially Office is assumed by work environments but not taught by schools. An earlier UK qualification used to be mostly MS Office based, that was dropped and now it’s mainly programming and other aspects of IT like Networking and Server management. Plenty of people have never been taught Office, just how to use the documents and files they have been given.
      For any Excel fans out there, try the formula =ROMAN(54), it give my age in this case in Roman Numerals or put your own in. A most satisfying yet largely useless formula

      1. just passing through*

        And, to prove your point further, I’m 25 and getting my doctorate, but I have no idea how to do anything with Excel beyond basic math and sorting things—because I’ve never needed it, I’ve never had a position that used a lot of numbers or data. I could learn if I needed to, I do have the Google skills to self-teach, but if I were suddenly dropped into an Excel-using position I’d be entirely incompetent despite my relative youth.

        1. anon for this*

          And to add one more point, I’m a PhD in math with a job in data science, and I still just about cried one day trying to get Excel to do what I wanted (for some reason couldn’t use Python that one time). Install a working scientific computing setup on a Linux box in a Docker container? Sure. Figure out indents in a Word file? Someone help!

      2. londonedit*

        We didn’t have proper IT lessons at secondary school (late ’90s – we were meant to, but some of us were doing an extra GCSE subject and there wasn’t space in the timetable) so I just learnt the Office programmes I needed as I went along. Being an editor I’m really good with Word, but I’ve never had a job that’s involved Excel so I don’t really have a clue how to use it beyond opening a spreadsheet and putting some numbers in. I have a vague notion that you can make it add things up in columns and whatnot but that’s it! I don’t need to know how to use it for my job, though, so there’s never been any reason for me to learn – I obviously would learn if it suddenly became useful in my working life!

      3. RunShaker*

        Also 50 & started learning basis computer skills in high school. I’m at new job in which the company is somewhat behind (in my mind) on technology. It’s one of the things I miss most about my old company. Having to explain what certified copy is to 28 year old & that it’s not same as photocopy was weird. I miss having all my work mail delivered electronically & company letters being in program that mailed it out for me. I’m having to stuff envelopes! Also, many of the employees, no matter the age, don’t like to use Teams to IM or communicate quick messages. Reading letters such as this worries me that this kind of mind set contributes to age discrimination.

      4. bishbah*

        When my coworkers see me using a Pivot Table or an XLOOKUP, they think I’m some kind of wizard. Um, no, I just took the training classes the company provided.

      5. Insert Clever Name Here*

        Slightly more useful is =ARABIC(MMXXII) to convert Roman numerals back to arabic!

    8. Koalafied*

      It’s also possible that what the new director is doing IS what the nonprofit needs. The average nonprofit donor is about 70 years old and prefers to give by mail. Some nonprofits have had a lot of success with a digital first approach and with targeting younger audiences, but there are many, many more nonprofits whose existing donor base is trained to give by mail and who will lose revenue if they try to shift to a digital first approach too rapidly.

      Most large non-profits I know with existing donor bases are steadily decreasing share of total giving by mail while increasing digital share every year, but it’s a process that’s in about year 15 and will probably take another 15 years to finish shifting to digital-first, because individual donors don’t change their habits very much. Trends come from older donors dying and new people with new preferences becoming donors to replace them. And overwhelmingly young people who prefer online giving do not have enough collective disposable income or accumulated wealth to sustain every nonprofit that currently relies on mail donors.

      1. Mabelline*

        This is an important point! It also reflects Allison’s point about hiring practices- If social media is an important part of the role, when your organization hired for this position, did they emphasize social media and digital outreach? Or did they just look for general marketing experience regardless of format, knowing that many donors would likely still donate by mail?
        Additionally, is it possible that this person has other skills that were apparent to the hiring committee but don’t show themselves on the day to day? I’ve worked with folks that were amazing strategists and thought up some fantastic and highly effective methodologies, but never did get the hang of setting up an out of office email. I’m in the “young” crowd at my work and will readily admit that acclimating to all of the different computer systems is one of the hardest part of starting a new job. Once I’ve worked somewhere for a few years it’s easy to forget how it took me 3 months to get my calendar notifications configured correctly and in the meantime showed up to multiple meetings half an hour early because I found the system so confusing.

      2. Yvette*

        Excellent point. My mother-in-law (90+) has pet charities that she has donated to for years if not decades. If she could no longer donate by check, she probably would not donate at all.

      3. KoiFeeder*

        Honestly, one of my bugaboos with mail donation is that I don’t have stamps! Most of my mail output is medical billing, and they pay for the return so I don’t need stamps for that. But then the Audubon Society shows up and goes “your stamp helps pay for vital operations, uwu” and. I don’t have stamps. I would have to go out of my way to get stamps. I’m not going to go to the post office just to make a donation, I’m going to go onto the website of my local wildlife advocacy group and donate there via paypal, and unlike the mail donation there’s no minimum permitted donation. Also, occasionally the local group emails me pictures of turtles, which is a real plus.

        1. Yvette*

          Many US supermarkets carry stamps at the courtesy desk and sell them for the same price as the Post Office. Of course if you get your groceries delivered that does not help.

        2. bishbah*

          The post office will sell you stamps online at! IIRC there’s a $1 delivery fee. I like it for holiday stamps because you have access to all of the designs and not just whatever is in stock at the local office.

          1. KoiFeeder*

            Oh, for real? I doubt I’ll need stamps any time soon, but I’ll check my budget and the price on USPS’ website and maybe I’ll grab some. Thank you!

            1. JustaTech*

              And you can pick the cool/pretty stamps rather than just what the store/post office has that day.

            2. I Talk About Motorcycles Too Much*

              Also, it is worth noting that stamps are now “forever” stamps so if you do buy some and only use one or two a year you don’t need to worry that prices will increase and you could be stuck needing new ones to get the correct value to mail a letter. I don’t use many stamps but do like keeping a small booklet of them in my (yes, still paper) planner for sending the occasional card and I was so happy when the post office made that change.

        3. Koalafied*

          Most nonprofits include courtesy reply envelopes that don’t require postage, the nonprofit only gets billed if the CRE is actually used and doesn’t have postage added to it by the donor. It’s also fairly common to include a URL in the mail package for donors who prefer to give online, but different organizations handle it differently.

          My organization’s mailpieces always have a website where they can give online, as well as a line where they can put their email address to receive a receipt (with a checkbox to also join the email list, so it’s possible to give your email and leave the box unchecked if you wanted an email receipt but not to subscribe to the list). Consistently only about 30% of our mail donors provide an email address and in our most recent campaign 95% of the responses to our mail package were returned by mail, with only 5% choosing to go online to give.

          The transition is underway and most nonprofits are facilitating donors who do want to give online, we’re just as an industry nowhere near the point where we can just stop sending mail without taking a massive financial hit.

          1. KoiFeeder*

            I used the Audubon Society as my example because their donation request is currently in my trashcan with the cutesy lil “your postage stamp saves us vital funds!” message right on the return envelope. I probably would have donated to them if it had come with a CRE.

      4. HBJ*

        I’m relatively young, and I dislike online giving. We always send checks because then neither we nor the NP have to pay the fees.

    9. KoiFeeder*

      I’m in my late 20’s and while I can certainly figure out social media and IT signatures, I can and historically have broken tech in novel and bizarre ways. I once had to revert my hard drive 48 hours back because a picture of one of my koi had begun propagating itself uncontrollably and was deleting other parts of my hard drive to make more room for itself.

    10. Observer*

      It sounds like the hiring people aren’t making clear what sort of marketing they’re looking for!

      I’d go further and say that it sounds like that they themselves are not clear what they need.

    11. Lost in Nonprofitland*

      I’m 35, one of my direct reports is 23, we work in a history nonprofit. When we hired him, he sold himself on knowing the most recent technology–this is important, because he expressed 100% confident that he knew how to update websites, a computer program we use for our archives/collections, etc. Turns out he just thought that him being young meant he’d know this stuff and be able to figure it out on his own–he had NO previous experience with any of the programs we were using, and the “complicated” things I asked him to do (like update the website) were WAAAAAY harder than he anticipated, because they weren’t in a smartphone/plug ‘n play format.

      It’s been 1.5 years since I hired him, and my encouraging him to literally just “play” with the website, or Google the answer instead of running to me every single time he can’t figure out something, has taught him more than anything else about technology that we use for our daily operations.

      Also, I thought getting a younger person would mean people would stop running to me every single time the printer didn’t work to fix a jam. Nerp. I am still, 15 years into my career, the de facto “printer fixer” in the office, even though I’m now the highest-ranking person. *sigh* Young guy can get it some of the time, but it’s amazing how often he asks me questions too.

    12. NotAnotherManager!*

      A good chunk of one of my teams is recent college graduates, and if one more person tells me how “lucky” I am to have all those “technologically savvy” people on my team I will scream. They are digital natives, and I’m sure they run circles around me on social media content creation/usage and emoji meanings… but I spend so much time training them on how to use the business applications that are used daily in our organization. They can open and type in Word but do not know how to use styles/headers, create tables of contents (mandatory for many of our submissions), or automated page numbering (also mandatory for all submissions). Excel usage is spotty at best, unless someone did research or statistics in undergrad. So we teach all of that to new hires.

      What we do is identify the skills people need to have (technical and non-technical), make sure they’re in the job descriptions, that we discuss them at interviews, and that we provide specific training on them. I do a class on how to write business emails and communicate effectively with our stakeholders. We explain WHY you can’t send business information via personal communication channels or non-enterprise file transfer/cloud storage apps. We also do a class on our specific office culture (for instance, we do leave things in people’s chairs as a default drop point, and it’s not a personal insult).

      I can teach anyone with a willingness to learn and good problem-solving skills, but I do a lot of training and development work with the younger generation that I do not generally have to do with the 30+s.

      1. sarah*

        So funny you say that because I once worked at a place that had a “leave things on the chair” culture and the first few times it happened I did get insulted! Like, what, you think I’m so stupid I wouldn’t have noticed if you just left it on my desk? Once I figured out everyone did that to everyone, I got over it. An office culture class would have been very useful!

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          I actually got the idea from here after the great debate over whether it was mortally offensive to put things on people’s chairs. :) That’s just how we do things at my office (and the one prior to that), so it seems normal *to me*, but it was clearly offensive to other people, so we started making a list of “the Company Way” sort of things and went from there. It’s gotten good feedback!

    13. Meep*

      My 85-year-old grandfather is extremely tech-savvy. Same for my 80-year-old grandfather. I had a 55-60 year old coworker (for 5 years) who didn’t know how to resize images and she was the Marketing Director! Anyone can learn if they want to. I think they need to focus on adaptability.

    14. AnonInCanada*

      Been there done that! I’m well past 50. It seems every single time I am away from the office, this 20-something who needs to do a mundane task on my computer while I’m gone always leaves me with a f***ed up computer and/or printer when I return. I’m still trying to fix the problem he caused the other day when I was off sick. Lesson learned: take away any chance he can log in with any credentials into my system!

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        This comment strikes me as evidence against all the “just mess around with it, try different things, you won’t break it” advice above.

        Sometimes I fumble and accidentally hit some kind of shortcut I didn’t know my keyboard did, and now something’s jacked up–and I don’t know what I did, or how to undo it, and sometimes even the words I need to use in my Google search to fix it. It’s pretty frustrating, and a bunch of the other comments (“You won’t break it!) feel dismissive to me.

    15. BackInMyDay*

      And anyone who “grew up with computers”, and feels the need to be snotty about it, should keep in mind which generation created those. Steve Wozniak & Bill Gates are boomers, video game creators are now in their 50s, the first smartphone was used in 1994.

    16. Nesprin*

      In all fairness, SharePoint regularly breaks itself in new and exciting ways.

      But yes, ageism is a bad and possibly illegal idea, selecting for skills such as computer literacy or an active network of contacts is good.

    17. Captain Swan*

      My daughter is 20 when she was taking her Intro to IT computer course virtually in college a couple of years ago, I was the one telling her where to find things like File Explorer on her laptop. She’s good at Google docs, YouTube, texting, and a lot of online tools. But she never picked up on how to effectively use Windows OS or Microsoft Office programs. Now I’m teaching her the tips and tricks for most of those.

    18. Wonder Why*

      Aww Sharepoint! My 60-year-old self was pretty good at Sharepoint until the state switched to a different system.

    19. Cookie*

      This is an obnoxious question from the OP and it sounds like yourejustsaltyabout doing your job because dealing with minor computer issues is part of what being an admin is about. I’m in my early 30s and grew up with computers but I regularly ask our mid 50s admin assistant to assist me with my signature lines, figuring out why a file won’t attach, fixing my formatting/indenting when I feel stuck on MS Word etc. Perhaps because of my age I’m not afraid to just say “sorry I can’t figure this out can you do it” without fearing some coworker thinking I can’t do it because I’m just an old dingbat that can’t learn new tricks and I should just retire rather than the reality which is I’m just choosing to move on from this minor issue and focus on something else. Maybe when I get older I won’t have that luxury as I’ll fear assumptions by people like you but questions like yours are why laws against ageism exist – your question is just dripping in it.

      I don’t agree with your company’s position that those under 40 can’t do the job either but there are certain things where a number of years of experience if required and it sounds like they hired someone that they erroneously thought had the experience and contacts simply because of their age – another form of ageism.

      Anyways one day you’ll reach the age of this person you look down on and regret your attitude.

  3. COBOL*

    LW #4 contracting might make it easier in your job search. Getting laid off isn’t as big of a deal as it was before, but if you’re not sure what you’re looking to do next anyway it could be a bridge of sorts. And clear up any doubt that it was a performance issue.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      If you do go that route, though, ask for a lot more money!

      The usual rule of thumb I see for employee -> contractor is to charge double what your employee wage was, to cover pension and health insurance contributions, sick leave and vacation time, savings to cover unemployment, etc. In this case, given that they laid you off first, I’d ask for triple. I definitely wouldn’t agree to do the same job, but in less time and with significantly lower pay and benefits, at least until the UI ran out.

      1. LW4*

        Triple, really? I know I was underpaid there but I chose to take the job for the chance to work with a really stellar field expert (who’s since moved on), so my sense of reasonable compensation is a bit skewed. I can’t lie, they might be able to get me for double but I doubt they’d be willing to pay even that much.

        1. BubbleTea*

          Calculate how much it would cost you to cover all the taxes, health insurance, retirement contributions and anything else that was included in your pay. Add that to the amount you would want in take-home pay. That’s your absolute minimum and really you want more than that to offset the lower hours.

          1. bamcheeks*

            And bear in mind that if you were working full-time as a contractor, you’d also be charging to cover business development, marketing, office space, computer equipment. That’s the figure they should be thinking about if they want to contract with you!

        2. AcademiaNut*

          Anything less than double, and you’d be making less than you did before they laid you off. As a contractor, you don’t get PTO (so any sick day or vacation means you don’t get paid, no FMLA eligibility), they won’t make any pension contributions, you’ll have to pay the full price of medical insurance, and you won’t be accruing unemployment benefits. If they’re offering you the same amount of money they paid you before laying you off, they’re taking advantage of you.

          I said triple basically because they laid you off and are now trying to get you to keep working for them at nearly full time for significantly less than they were paying before (and no guarantee for the number of hours). They could have given you a month or two of notice so you could wrap things up in a tidy fashion, but they chose this instead. So basically, the contractor version of the @sshole tax.

          1. xl*

            All the things you said about the extra costs of being a contractor are true, and there is another part that a lot of people forget: as a contractor, you will have to pay the full amount of payroll taxes on your earnings. As a W2 employee normally your employer pays half and you pay the other half.

          2. ScruffyInternHerder*

            I mean, just the taxes, retire contributions, and known worth of my health care plan darn near double my gross rate every week.

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          Double really is the boring, no-drama baseline if you switch from employee to contractor. If double isn’t their starting offer then you should feel free to giggle snort, struggle to arrange your features into not-sniggering, and politely state that their offer won’t work for you.

          (It is also allowed to search your heart and say “Nope never” or “$5000/month to be on call, with a max of 25 hours” or whatever value would make you truly say “Okay, for that much money the work has become worth it.” Like, no one would blink if you were laid off but agreed to go back for a million dollars.)

          1. WellRed*

            I don’t like the on call aspect either. Should OP change their mind about saying yes, I’d get real clear on what that means.

          2. Antilles*

            The first paragraph is spot on, but note the key words are “baseline” and “starting offer”.
            Double your previous salary is the rate they get in the absolute ideal scenario – you really want to do it, you’re getting a consistent number of hours for budgeting purposes, you can trust them to pay every two weeks no questions asked, the hours work in a way that allow you to fit in other work/job searching, etc. If there’s *anything* that isn’t 100% ideal and perfect for you, then the rate jumps significantly.

        4. Mockingjay*

          Based on your response, I’d move on. You got the experience you wanted working with the expert. Use that experience now to move forward in your career.

          You mentioned that you don’t want to leave them high and dry, but that’s exactly what they did to you. Let them go, thanks for the memories…

            1. Librarian of SHIELD*

              This is the part that makes me angriest about the LW’s situation.

              LW, The Powers That Be in your now-former workplace couldn’t even be bothered to wait for you to come home from your vacation and lay you off in person. They dropped this bomb on you in the middle of your time off and probably made it really difficult for you to enjoy the rest of your vacation.

              And now they want you to agree to work part time on call for them for a fraction of your previous salary? HELL. NO.

              1. Becca*

                One thing the LW doesn’t specify is if this was part of a mass layoff. If it was a single layoff that just affected the LW, then absolutely they should have waited. If it was a mass layoff, my understanding is it sucks but is often unavoidable that people might be on vacation when the layoff happens and they should still be notified along with everyone else so they aren’t hearing about it secondhand (because, for example, you’re often required to give people who are being laid off a full list of all of the people who are being laid off, so if you didn’t notify the people who were OOO, then a bunch of other people would know before them). I’m not sure we have enough info to know if we should be offended by the timing or not, but I might have missed that detail in the letter.

        5. Boof*

          Absolutely, the rule is if you are switching from employee to independent contractor, double the hourly rate.
          You are now liable for all your benefits, taxes, etc. On top of that, imagine that as a full time employee, you are giving a certain amount of “bulk discount” for your labor, that is because the company is agreeing to pay you 40hrs/week worth of work / $X amount of money (or however you define full time) – but given the amount of extra headspace, inconvenience, unpredictability, to work just a little for someone (presumably that work is not enough to sustain you and you will have to figure out how to do it on top of whatever your full time gig or other full time commitments are) – charge more.
          Imagine if you were freelancing full time as lots of part time temp projects; you have to charge double to break even with a full time salary most likely to make up for gaps in work between gigs, paying your own benefits, taxes, possibly marketing yourself, etc

          1. Boof*

            Also agree that double is probably just the starting point unless there are some other circumstances in play, and triple and/or proposing a super high figure if it’s the only way you’d feel happy to do the work is TOTALLY OK (and just refusing is also totally ok, in a way the super high figure can be a sort of soft refusal but there’s always a chance they’ll realize they @#$#ed up and take it)

        6. NotAnotherManager!*

          Yes, when you have to pay your own payroll taxes, no withholding, and dealing with the extra forms/filings associated with being a 1099, double may not even cover it. Find an online tax calculator and base your ask making whatever you made full-time plus at least a 10-15% markup with your additional tax liabilities covered. I’d be surprised if that worked out to less than double your former salary.

          I have had 1099s who used to be full-time employees (not layoff-related, the choice to not work full-time and go consulting was theirs), and we did these calculations when we were setting their consulting rates. I needed it to be worth their while to continue in a consulting capacity and not lose the institutional knowledge.

        7. Westsidestory*

          Triple. For reasons, See below. And take it from me, you will not be spending less time on your old projects; you will soon wind up doing your old job with less $, no security, and no benefits. A company suddenly realizing your value can be flattering, but you really should ask for triple the equivalent of your old hourly rate.

        8. goddessoftransitory*

          If they aren’t they can put up with whatever they’re willing to pay the person they hired to replace the person they laid off and then offered the job at a pay cut and no benefits.

        9. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          If they’re not willing to pay you equably so that you end up with the same amount of money as if you’d spent that time as their employee, they won’t use your services, freeing you up to work elsewhere!

          I do this all the time as a freelancer. I was asked to take on an urgent job last Thursday. I would have needed to spend a good five hours of my weekend on it. I don’t mind working weekends but right then I was feeling tired, so I said I’d do it only if they paid my weekend rate. They found someone else.

          Then yesterday I was asked to do a job that looked rather boring, with Monday as the deadline. I have done such work in the past, while I was building up my clientele, but I now have plenty of work and can afford to turn boring jobs down. I could have fit it in, but I told the client I was much too busy and wasn’t available until Wednesday, knowing that their client would never expect to wait that long.

      2. J*

        Yeah I was coming here to say something similar. If they’re offering 15% of your former wage, that should buy them like an hour or two per week at most as a contractor otherwise they’re ripping you off.

        On top of all the stuff AcademiaNut listed (great name!) which you’d be paying instead of them, you would also need to earn enough to compensate for the fact that you’re only getting a small number of hours and they can potentially cut you loose at any time, and having contractor commitments might get in the way of job searching or other things in your life. You wouldn’t take a job with that sort of instability unless the pay was incredible right? So add an instability tax to the rate to make your take-home amount from contracting double or triple what your take-home from working those hours would have been.

        1. The Original K.*

          I was going to say the same. I’ve worked as an independent contractor and 15% of your previous wage would get them very little if I were you – and if they’re requiring that you be on-call, I’d charge them even more. Don’t sell yourself short.

          time, and having contractor commitments might get in the way of job searching or other things in your life.
          This is particularly true of on call work and you should be compensated for it.

      3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Me too, I’d ask for at least triple. You didn’t include all the expenses involved in WFH, OP will no longer have her work computer, so will need to use her own, and she’ll need to heat her home office, and pay for whatever other supplies might be necessary.

    2. Global Cat Herder*

      Also for LW4 it sounds like the former employer offered an amount for the contract work, which isn’t how this works. LW needs to figure out what they’d need on an hourly basis to be able to pay self-employment taxes (state and federal), any business license fees in their state, business insurance if needed (some professions it’s mandatory, some it’s just a good idea), their own office supplies, everything.

      Then ask for more than that. And stick to it. “I’d be happy to help you with that project, but my rate as a freelance contractor is $$$” and be sure to use the word consultant or contractor A LOT because that part may not have really sunk in with them yet. You’re not an employee who costs the same but just isn’t on their payroll any longer. You’re an independent contractor who sets their own rates.

      1. LW4*

        You’re pretty close! They told me their monthly budget for my contract work, but haven’t specified how many hours of work they’d expect for that. If it’s less time with a higher hourly rate, I might consider it. But if it’s at my previous rate of pay, after unemployment insurance claw backs and paying my own payroll taxes I’d be working for about $10/hour; less than minimum wage and way below reasonable expectations for my education and experience. And that’s without taking into account expenses like professional fees, insurance, supplies, etc that you and other commenters have mentioned!

        1. tg33*

          Note as well that they are asking for ON-CALL work. There is a premium for this. AS a contractor, you also get to decide when you are willing to work and how long you are willing to work. Rush jobs attract a premium on top of double your rate.

          If they have a budget for contracting work, it’s up to you to tell them how much that buys.

          1. ScruffyInternHerder*

            Because if they get to decide when and for how long, they’re really just trying to keep you as an employee on a 1099, which is not a thing.

        2. Mongrel*

          Not forgetting that you’d need a good contract.
          You may be able to find a generic one online that you can modify, but you’d need to make it clear what the end goals of this job are and what they’d expect for your hourly rate. You don’t want to end up doing tons of unpaid hours because the contract was for project sign-off but they keep coming up with “one-more-thing”.

          You’d know better than us whether your former employer is pitching such at terrible deal because of maliciousness or obliviousness\naivety.

        3. AcademiaNut*

          Another thing to consider – if you’re going directly from employee to contractor, and are basically doing the same work, with the same parameters (like, they set the hours and location and pay and how you do things), it may not actually be legal. The definition of contractor is more than waving a wand over an employee and declaring that they no longer need to pay benefits or payroll taxes, but you can still act as if they’re an employee.

          1. Jackalope*

            This was my thought as well. If basically everything about your arrangement is the same except that they’re no longer paying payroll taxes/benefits/etc. then they shouldn’t be considering you a contractor, but rather keeping you as an employee. I recommend looking on this site for a definition of contractor vs. employee status; Alison has talked about it a number of times, and there are specific things that have to be true. If they are wanting to keep you in the same relationship they had before then it’s illegal to make you a contractor.

          2. Becca*

            Agreed. My company has unfortunately been through mass layoffs this year and we’re contracting with some of our previous employees. We can only do specifically scoped projects (can’t do ongoing hourly basis like we do with some other contractors, even though they set their own schedules, etc like they’re supposed to for contractors) and have to have meticulously documented SOWs, no group meetings, etc. It’s a bummer because we miss them and everyone wishes they could be as visible/integrated as some of our other contractors (who have varying preferences for how integrated or not they like to be with the team).

            We’ve also doubled their hourly rate, and we also fall over ourselves reassuring them every time we reach out that there’s no pressure to accept. I admit triple (or more) isn’t something I’ve heard before and would mean we’re paying WAY above market rate for our contractors (I work in a field where a mix of full time and contractors is very common, and there are pretty easily gleaned market rates for roles like editors, copywriters, graphic designers, videographers, etc). If one of our previous employees wanted triple their salaried hourly rate, that’s fine, but we wouldn’t be able to afford it and they wouldn’t be able to get that rate as a contractor most anywhere else, so it would be up to them if they want to come down or not. As it stands, market rate typically is more like salary + 30% based on the salaries we were paying, but we’re willing to pay double for now bc per project rates (vs ongoing contractor with guaranteed weekly hours) is more expensive and we’re benefitting from keeping the institutional knowledge. We’ve been upfront that we likely won’t be able to get that budget approved long term once the chaos from the layoffs subsides, at which point we may need to find and train new contractors who are charging more normal market rate, and we’ll no longer benefit from their institutional knowledge.

            And of course, there are some former employees who don’t want to contract with us at all post-layoff, which is totally understandable. If LW’s former company makes it seem weird at all if they just don’t want to or are too far apart on rate, that should be taken completely neutrally with no impact on their references, etc.

        4. goddessoftransitory*

          At that point it’s an active slap in the face.

          How do they have such a great reputation?

          1. LW4*

            The organization has done some really great work in the past, and the changes in organizational culture, values, and leadership have been very, very recent. It will take time for those shifts to become more publicly visible but I don’t doubt that it will happen eventually. It’s quite sad.

  4. Viette*

    #1 – Please don’t resent your wildly incompetent but unfairly well-paid coworker for being older than 40. Being older than 40 is the least of her offenses! Being older than 40 is the most benign thing about her.

    Don’t get youth confused with competence. Resent your company for not being able to tell the difference between age and competence; don’t start believing it yourself.

    1. An On*

      Exactly. Someone who’s 40 have been in the workforce since around 2000, 2002. That is definitely in the era of computers and internet. If they don’t know how to use either of those, that has nothing to do with what year they were born.

      1. Sunnyside*

        Right? I’m in my mid-40s and got my first email address in the mid-90s, before I was even 20! My mother who’s in her 60s was a computer programmer through the 80s.

        I think OP1 is overlooking how not-new computers are by now! Which I get because I also forget how many decades have passed! And yes, some parts of the working world have been slow to embrace digital tech. But it’s not an age thing anymore. We’re just all a lot older than we realize!

        1. londonedit*

          Yep, I’m 41 and we got our first home computer with (clunky dial-up) internet when I was doing my A levels, in the late ’90s. I was at uni 2000-2003 and did all my essays on a computer – yes OK we were saving them to floppy disks and taking the disk to the central computer room to print them out to hand in, but still. By the time I started working in 2003 email was well established in all the offices I worked in, and over the last nearly-20 years I’ve worked my way through loads of tech updates – when I started in editorial we’d mark up hard-copy typescripts by hand and courier them to and from the typesetter for corrections, and now I mark everything up on PDF proofs and the new file comes back to me the next morning. You adapt, and you learn more with each adaptation. I actually think it’s an advantage that I can remember the ‘old days’ when things weren’t so instant and you did have to do things by hand, and it’s an advantage that I’ve had to learn and adapt to these things rather than assuming they’ve always been there.

        2. xl*

          I’m your age and I also got my first email address probably around 1994 or so….on CompuServe. My dad showed me how and I used it to email my grandma, who was very active online. I knew it made her happy to hear from me.

          Then, when I got to high school, I graduated into getting my own Rocketmail email address.

    2. BethDH*

      I see the same variety of tech skills across all age groups. The only correlation I see between age and tech skills is that people who have a certain number of years in the workplace are more likely to have the capital from other skills to get away saying they don’t want to learn new tech.
      I can’t tell from this letter whether the new marketing person is incompetent or just has specific skills gaps. It does sound like OP might be doing things beyond their job description and could talk to their boss about having that recognized through a pay raise and/or title change. I had a comms/admin assistant job for a while and I know there are similar titles a lot of places.

    3. Gnome*

      yes. I’m early 40s an wrote my first word on a computer! my mom was a programmer, so we had a computer in the house well before most people and despite being over 40, I am a digital native. I can’t use our stupid newfangled TV remote, but I program in multiple languages, am familiar with SEO practices (despite having nothing to do with websites or marketing), and have my own areas of tech expertise. age has nothing to do with it.

    4. Sylvan*

      Yep. Your company needs better hiring practices. I know you’re not in a position to do anything about that, LW, and it’s frustrating, but please don’t take on any more of their weird age-related judgment.

    5. OP1*

      I have been taking a long look at the comments and I think they have really helped shape my perspective. While I never meant to imply that older people are bad at technology ( I should know better – my retired father is an IT Wiz!) I’ve definitely been internalizing the values my organization keeps espousing in their hiring process. I didn’t mention it in the letter but the last few positions hired were given to younger applicants only after they couldn’t find a more experienced person willing to take their low pay. And when they did hire these younger people they cut the listed salary and gave them a more minor title because they had less years of experience even if they are really excelling at their job and have all of the listed skills. So, I think this sort of judgment has led me to view the reverse as true: my org thinks that years of experience is more important than skills, but these employees are not good, so it much be that those with many years of experience have no skills. Which obviously isn’t true! It also doesn’t help that our IT manager is also fairly incompetent and when he doesn’t know some thing he points to me and says hey OP1 is young they can figure it out for you! But of course I don’t get any additional pay for doing half of his tasks.
      So yes, I am mostly just salty, age does not equal skills or lack thereof, and it’s my organization’s hiring process that is the issue. :)

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        When I’ve been in those same salty shoes, I’ve taken a deep breath and dusted off my resume. Tolerating a workplace that does a rather essential function poorly (as you’ve mentioned – your employer doesn’t do an awesome job hiring, and that’s pretty essential as a business function) can really really wear on you.

        Best wishes, truly :)

        1. Observer*

          I think that looking elsewhere is a good idea. Your workplace IS dysfunctional. And when your workplace dysfunction starts affecting your fundamental thinking, it’s time to escape.

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I’m gonna be really honest OP – when you get to the point that your organization is making you internalize these kinds of perspectives it can stick in really unfortunate ways. This is a sign to me that you need to get out before your mindset gets more warped. It’s going to be really hard to unlearn these things otherwise.

        1. OP1*

          Yeah, I’m definitely trying to get out. I’m realizing that my resentment for my organization is coming out as resentment for my coworkers when it is not their fault that my org keeps dangling things in front of us like raises, WFH, disability accommodations etc. and then deciding that they actually won’t do that in any meaningful way – or deciding that it applies to everyone except me (the lowest paid immunocompromised person). I’m applying for jobs but there are not many willing to pay and offer decent benefits. (Also my org is too small to have to follow ADA)

          1. Jujyfruits*

            Woah, your letter only covered the tip of the crazy iceberg! They’re trying to frame disability accommodations as a perk? Keep looking! There are places that value your skills, will pay more, and provide accommodations. Good luck.

      3. Smithy*

        You mention being in the nonprofit space – and I have to say that while these types of issues aren’t unique to nonprofits – I do think there are specific ways they can be uniquely harmful in the nonprofit space.

        For these young staff members who are stepping up and doing impressive jobs and not being compensated, that’s painful to watch repeatedly. And understandably can sour anyone on an industry or industry norms. However, when you’re working in a place that’s not attracting more experienced (and respected) colleagues in your field – perhaps because the salary is too low and/or they’re posting confusing job descriptions – you’re not being put in the best place to get mentors and learn from those who’s careers you’d want to follow.

        It’s incredibly common in small to midsized nonprofits to be on a smaller team in a more junior role, doing fantastic and hear repeatedly that you’re just not quite ready for a promotion. This is common sector wide, and having good relationships with either your supervisor or other senior staff to give you real talk about what your best next steps look like professionally are invaluable. And if you’re working somewhere that’s hiring more senior people that are proving to be extreme skill mismatches – you have fewer and fewer options for those mentors.

      4. NotAnotherManager!*

        I think this is an astute observation, and it’s really easy to normalize dysfunction when you’re mired in it all the time.

        Bad hiring processes often lead to bad results overall – they can be masked by certain high performers or someone willing to take on things well outside their responsibilities for the sake of “the mission”, but things will not improve until you change the process.

    6. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      Also, age discrimination is illegal in the U.S., so that’s another good reason not to do it. Hiring people is difficult enough without bringing preconceived assumptions in.

    7. Observer*

      Don’t get youth confused with competence. Resent your company for not being able to tell the difference between age and competence; don’t start believing it yourself.


    8. snarkfox*

      I honestly think the LW has every right to be frustrated that the company is discriminating against younger people. I agree that the main problem is hiring incompetence, but part of that is that they’re writing off anyone under 40 as not being “experienced” enough (if that is what’s happening… It’s also possible LW is unaware of exactly why they’re hiring the people they are… Maybe the incompetent new hire is someone’s aunt or something, idk).

      1. Smithy*

        Not to say this is 100% what’s happening – but just looking at the situation mentioned by the OP: working for a nonprofit that wanted to hire someone experienced in marketing. Given the mention of snail mail/advertisements vs digital/social media, I’m going to assume this is in reference to fundraising.

        In my experience with fundraising, a lot of our jobs end of in departments and on teams that are (or should be) some of the smallest in the entire organization. Even now at a nonprofit that hires thousands of staff members, I’m on a team with technically less than ten people. Therefore, for medium sized organizations it’s not uncommon to see younger staff doing fantastic jobs in roles but seen as “not quite ready” for promotions. And it feels like garbage to hear that repeatedly and not entirely understand why.

        However, unless you have good mentors and don’t work in a mismanaged place – it can be hard to see how a lot of our organizations don’t necessarily have “next step” jobs. And so our employers aren’t looking at us as “not ready” for any promotion – but not ready for the promotions they’d have available. Nonprofits aren’t always great at cultivating mentors and managers who explain this well. Who explain the difference between doing these specific jobs well for 6-36 months vs 10 years+ of experience. So the frustration is totally normal understandable – but I’ve more often seen this be a case of bad hiring + bad mentoring of younger staff as opposed to discrimination against younger candidates.

    9. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I think the problem with OP’s company’s hiring process is less about the individual ages of the people they hire and more a misunderstanding of what “more experience” means.

      At my old job, we were hiring for another librarian in my department. One of my former coworkers applied, and knowing her skill set and her work habits well, I gave a good recommendation for her to my boss. They did the interviewing and ended up hiring someone with “more experience,” and she was a disaster. She didn’t know how to do a lot of really basic things and had no idea how to figure them out, which made things hard for all of us. But, she was about 10 years older than the person I had recommended, so she had entered the workforce 10 years earlier and on paper had “more experience.”

      But experience is not just “how long have you had a paying professional job?” It’s also about what you did in those jobs, what you learned, how you acquire new skills, and a host of other variables. In reality, my friend had more practical experience than the person hired in place of her, despite having had fewer years of paid work.

    10. LittleMarshmallow*

      So true. I’m 38 and I work with people much older than me that are more tech savvy than I am. And I’ve worked with people in their early to mid twenties that couldn’t figure out how to check their email. I’m average, I’m great with spreadsheets but hate PowerPoint with a firey passion (I usually have to have someone help me with PowerPoint. Not because I don’t know how to do things in it… just because I suck at designing slides). It has nothing to do with my age. It’s my skill set and experience. I would hope that an interviewer would be able to tell that if they want me for a technical data analysis job vs a marketing data presentation job that they’d be able to tell the difference in my skills from my resume and interview and not just decide that I’d probably not be good at technical data analysis in whatever software just because I’m no longer in my twenties.

      Don’t be an agist… look for the correct skills for the job.

  5. AcademiaNut*

    For LW1 –

    It’s worth figuring out what sort of experience you actually need in the position. If you’ve got a job (and title and pay) that would be appropriate for someone with 5 years of solid experience, and you’re trying to hire someone with 20, you could easily be filtering for badly qualified candidates because well qualified candidates with 20 years of experience wouldn’t even considering applying (and your poor hires would naturally all be over 40, because you aren’t considering anyone younger) There’s a big range between not entry level, and a senior level position with decades of experience.

    1. Billy Jean*

      I suspect a big issue is that they’re not paying enough to hire the type of candidate that they want and have fixated on years of experience as the key selectional criteria regardless of its relevancy to their actual applicant pool. OP says their org is looking for someone who has enough experience to “hit the ground running”, but based on the letter their only alternatives to candidates with insufficient experience are those whose experience is out of date. It wouldn’t be the first time that an organization wanted to hire a mid-level position at an entry level salary.

      It’s a bit like my current search for a new-to-me car where I’ve been struggling with balancing mileage, model age, and cost. I could set a budget and then look for options within that budget with the lowest mileage, and those options would likely consist of older cars with limited features. If I go into it with my eyes I open then that’s fine, but the organization (or at least OP) seems to be shocked that the “bargain” they got doesn’t come with the employee equivalent of heated seats and Bluetooth.

      1. Artemesia*

        And if the position is poorly paid then years of experience would be more likely to toss up incompetents than hiring someone with 3 or 4 years experience who might be early enough in their career that a challenging position that is not very well paid would be acceptable or desirable. This might be an argument you can make to the people doing the hiring. And of course you are always likely to get incompetents if you hire without testing/evaluating for the precise skills you need. They apparently hired someone for marketing without even asking them what their ideal marketing plan would look like.

      2. WellRed*

        This was my thought. They want a superstar but aren’t willing to pay. Or don’t realize they don’t need a superstar

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I think it’s more they don’t know what they want or need – but they hire and then decide this isn’t what I want.

          I was the employee in that position once – and it stunk being pushed out in two years because the new boss hired at about the same time had no clue what he wanted when he hired me – but decided after the fact, nope you aren’t what I want after all.

          1. Observer*

            Having seen some of the OP’s comments, it sounds like a combination. They don’t know what they want, but they also are not willing to pay for quality.

        2. sweeps*

          SAY IT AGAIN!!

          This drives me NUTS in hiring. My old org was like this. Then, even if we got the superstar to come work for us, they wouldn’t be allowed to do anything superstar like because the exec dir didn’t know how to delegate.

      3. Allonge*

        That may be part of it but they also have pretty bad interviewing / selection practices if the person who is hired cannot use Outlook/Gmail or whatever enough to set up a signature right and never actually worked with social media.

        This is pretty easy to filter for if one actually looks at more than number of years experience.

    2. Dr. Hyphem*

      I also kind of wonder if it’s just more frustrating if someone with more experience has these areas for improvement because there is more of an expectation that they would know it. Like, everyone has areas for improvement, but I imagine that someone with 20 years of experience is lacking in an essential skill, it’s seen as more of a deficiency, whereas someone with five years, it’s just an area for improvement.

      But also, I have had conversations on here with people who are posting “just above entry level” jobs but also didn’t care if someone with very senior experience wanted the job as long as they understood the nature of the role. But they were surprised that people were constantly taking jobs and expecting it to be more advanced. Like, at some point, you have to define the role and you have to define the role clearly.

  6. learnedthehardway*

    OP#1 – what you need to do is to improve your screening and interviewing processes, so that you are hiring WELL QUALIFIED people. Age has nothing to do with it. What you need to be looking for is evidence that your candidates are skilled in the areas your organization needs them to perform well in. That means structuring your interviews so that you are asking the right questions to elicit good information about what the candidates’ genuine experience is with the critical requirements for the role.

    Eg. for your marketing position, the initial screening should have covered what marketing skills and which technologies the candidates have used, how many social media campaigns have they run and on which platforms, what did their last couple of roles entail as it relates to your position requirements, etc. And the interviews should have asked candidates to give examples of social media campaigns they had put together, what their personal role was on those campaigns, which critical decisions they had made (and why), the metrics they used to evaluate the campaigns, and the outcomes. Along the way, someone should have asked the candidates questions to make sure they were aware of the current trends in digital marketing, etc. etc.

    You would have found better candidates from both young and older age demographics, if your recruitment processes were better structured and more thorough.

    1. Lilo*

      Yes, I don’t understand how they hired someone for marketing and didn’t discuss the kinds of campaigns they wanted to do with the candidate. That’s what an interview is for.

      1. iliketoknit*

        What I wonder is if the non-profit is actually interested in snail mail/print ad marketing, or stuff that is similar enough, that they hired Jane specifically for those skills, and the LW is to some extent extrapolating from Jane’s other issues with IT. It’s not clear to me what mistakes the LW is fixing and whether they’re actually central to the role that Jane has been hired to play. Or to be clearer, I’m not sure that the LW’s assessment of Jane’s ability is necessarily the same as their bosses’ assessment. I know we’re supposed to take LWs at their word, but the assumption that the problem must be Jane’s age leads me to question the LW’s judgment somewhat.

        I don’t mean to suggest it’s okay that Jane makes the LW’s job harder by making mistakes that the LW has to fix! That should definitely be addressed. I’m just not sure whether LW is in a position to evaluate the core responsibilities of Jane’s job.

        (I also don’t mean to say that Jane is actually good at marketing – I’m obviously not in a position to say that. But the LW and the organization may have different ideas about what constitutes good marketing.

        1. Her name was Joanne*

          If their marketing person is working in fundraising (like ours does), then her expertise in direct mail is very relevant. Direct mail is still a very big part of fundraising, bringing in much more funds than online giving. Eventually that won’t be the case, but right now the average donors (and especially donors who write big checks) are over 60 years old. The hire might have exactly the skills they were looking for.

          1. Bucky Barnes*

            Apologies if this posts twice.

            Way off topic but are you by chance a Michael Nesmith fan? If so, hello from one Nez fan to another!

    2. Nobby Nobbs*

      To be fair to OP1, they’re right that one of the ways to improve the hiring criteria needs to be not automatically screening out applicants under 40. Age shouldn’t be a factor here one way or the other.

      1. iliketoknit*

        I agree, but I’m not sure how much “they seem not to trust anyone under the age of 40” actually means they don’t want to hire young people, and how much it means they don’t want to hire entry level people. “Seem” is doing a lot of work in that sentence (plus, depending how old the LW is, I’m curious how good they are at assessing people’s ages).

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          The organization seems to value ‘experience’ as ‘years spent with X role and/or Y title’ and places more importance on *that* than on accomplishments, skills, and savvy.

    3. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      Well, that’s what the organization needs to do, probably, but OP is not in a position to change it (they chimed in on a thread above). What OP needs to do is find a different job, because their comments show that this workplace is pretty toxic overall!

  7. SpittingFactz*

    #3 girl, tell them to pony up ($$$) or shut up, but in business speak of course. You deserve better

    1. LW4*

      Ohhh, can we crowdsource the business speak for this?? I love a good, cuttingly polite turn of phrase!

      1. BubbleTea*

        “Commensurate with my value to the organisation” and “appropriate given the revised nature of our relationship”?

        1. Artemesia*

          nah the main think is ‘since the responsibility for payroll taxes, as well as health insurance will now fall on me, I will need X and hour to continue in this role on a contract basis.’

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yes. This is really all you need — no special business speak necessary. This is a very straightforward and normal situation, LW4! Also, you said you want to make a clean break and you can just do that instead — you don’t need to deal with this at all if you’d rather not do any work for them.

            1. Fishsticks*

              Yeah, Allison is spot-on. You owe these people absolutely nothing after termination of your regular employment. If you’re ready to cut ties and go, then fly, LW4, you are free!

              1. LW4*

                Oh, your last sentence made me tear up a little bit in relief, so I think maybe that tells me everything I need to know. Thank you.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        “I could do that for $X/hour” or “I could do that for a flat rate of $X/month, maximum of Y hours per month.” Set that rate high enough that you will be mildly pleased if they respond “Done!”

        Hopefully someone can come up with a chillingly professional riposte for “We thought you could do it for the exposure” or whatever other “we don’t like to pay in things as crude as money” line is floated.

        1. Westsidestory*

          My answer to that has been “people have been known to die from exposure.” It trips them up just enough to realize the conversation is OVER.

      3. Hlao-roo*

        “My rate for contract work is [$2X-$3X] per hour. Let me know if that works for you.”

        Where $X is your current/former hourly rate as an employee.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*


          In the US, 1099 contract work is different than W2 work. Contracting in the case means you are literally in business for yourself, and have additional expenses that are hidden from you, or that an employer pays, in W2 work.

          When a company hires you on a W2 basis, that means that they will cover all of the employer taxes plus do the withholding for all of the payroll taxes you pay. The employer taxes plus benefits can easily be from one to two times your base wage. So the actual cost to them of your job is two to three times your stated wage.

          When you contract on a 1099 basis, all of those taxes and benefits that they paid now come out of you! So you need to determine your multiplier, which is a function of the base hourly you want to see, plus all the taxes and additional expenses like health insurance and retirement savings that you will have. Your multiplier will usually be from two to three, or more.

          Part of your multiplier can be an “asshole tax” – if you know that they nickel and dime people on hours, pay late, constantly change their minds, make lots of last minute demands, etc, you will want it to be closer to three or even higher to compensate you for the inconvenience of dealing with them. There are some jobs I’ve had where it would be well over five. But your absolute base multiplier should be two – that’s close enough to match what a skinflint company has to pay for an employee.

  8. Language Lover*


    The thing you’re conflating is the ability to use something (social media) with an ability to monetize or create engagement using a social media platform. There are plenty of people who can create a TikTok video or Tweet but who can’t generate much interest in what they put out. Then some do know how to generate engagement, but the content might undermine the image your nonprofit wants to project. It’s a serious skill to turn a non-social media company’s social media presence into an asset in a way that drives engagement yet doesn’t alienate. It’s easier for me to teach someone how to use social media than the wisdom/experience to strike the right tone.

    So I think you’re just frustrated. You have a company that wants to be “cutting edge” but probably doesn’t even know what that means for themselves. Do you have any standing to push back on fixing this person’s mistakes?

    1. Luna*


      I’d have no idea how to use social media in terms of a job. I barely manage to do it for my streaming or let’s play videos. I may create a post when it happens, but I don’t ensure it remains ‘fresh’ past the initial post.

      1. Lilo*

        Yep. I’ve been using the internet since I was a kid but I wouldn’t know how to conduct an online marketing campaign or do SEO.

          1. Sylvan*

            Search-engine optimization. Getting your website to the first page of relevant Google results or getting your social media post showed to as many people as possible.

      2. Sylvan*

        +1. I work in digital marketing and I use social media, but I don’t have any professional skills in marketing on social media. Social media marketing takes a specific skill set that LW’s employers should be looking for, but aren’t.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      You have a company that wants to be “cutting edge” but probably doesn’t even know what that means for themselves.
      I think this is the crux of it. Someone upthread asked why the focus on snail mail didn’t come up in the interview, and I’m guessing because the person interviewing was thinking “We want someone who really knows marketing and stuff” rather than “We want someone with proven metrics in building social media engagement.”

    3. ferrina*

      Yeah, the difference between a good marketing specialist and a bad one isn’t in the age, it’s in the ability to gauge the reach and effectiveness of a campaign, and design and execute successful campaigns. Sounds like your company was assuming that years of experience=proven results= ability to repeat results for your company. And they only looked at years of experience without asking about proven results, what tactics/audiences the person specializes in, and whether that’s appropriate for your company’s strategy/audience.

  9. PollyQ*

    #1 — Just a reminder that in the US, it’s illegal to discriminate against employees who are 40 or older. A few states also make it illegal to discriminate by age at all, so it’s possible that OP1’s employer is breaking the law by favoring older employees so strongly. Of course, the solution to that is, as Alison says, hiring for specific skills rather than demographic category.

    1. BethDH*

      I doubt they’re breaking any laws if they are phrasing it as years of experience. As far as I know, none of those laws prohibit requiring 10 years of experience or something like that, which would by default eliminate young candidates.

      1. Observer*

        I doubt they’re breaking any laws if they are phrasing it as years of experience.

        It depends – if the position is clearly not one that needs that much experience, then they could get clobbered. In this case, it could be ok.

    2. Fluffy Fish*

      This is not accurate.

      The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) protects certain applicants and employees 40 years of age and older from discrimination on the basis of age in hiring, promotion, discharge, compensation, or terms, conditions or privileges of employment.

      You can discriminate all you’d like against younger employees.

  10. Snoozing not schmoozing*

    LW2, many places compile information from staff, and cut and paste those contributions then edit the whole thing down for various reports and publications without giving individual credit. I always assumed that most things I did or wrote on the job would be uncredited.

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        TBH, I’m not completely sure what issue the LW is raising.

        Is it this scenario. OP sends out agenda with some substantial info (“The process for auditing the configuration contraption consists of the following 7 steps …”). New Employee is supposed to contribute something for steps 3-5 of this process. NE sends OP an email asking for the steps. OP is annoyed, b/c NE should check email and agendas first, and the steps are in there. So OP sends back a message with the slightly highlighted intro “as previously communicated in the agenda…”. And then NE comments on the points 3-5, but only keeps the bit about the steps in the email … to whom? The OP – that woudldn’t be a problem. The OP knows what they said. To the other team members? Also not really a problem…. So to whom?

        I’m usually a fan of editing the email I respond to down to the bare bones of what needs to be commented on. That the points were re-sent on request is not really relevant if the discussion is about the content.

        Sure, I could imagine situations where it’s clearly a case of making themselves look better, but I think the OP should think about what’s the actual case here. Maybe the NE only edited out the slightly accusatory sentence and not the rest of the boilerplate, in which case I’d probably point out to them that if they snip, they should indicate it with ‘[snip]”. But it would still not be a huge deal, except if for some reason it should make the OP look bad, and I can’t really think of a scenario where that would be the case.

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*

      From what OP wrote they’re not concerned about the lack of credit. They’re concerned that Coworker is going to make OP look incompetent by making it look as if OP forgot to send over the information. That’s a threat to job security, not a question of praise.

      1. Sean*

        Exactly. The co-worker is basically altering the historical record and then presenting it as if their version is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but.

        It’s too bad that emails don’t have a facility for tracked changes, similar to what MS Word offers.

        1. BethDH*

          Presumably if it got to that level OP has the original sent email (or IT could pull it). It doesn’t sound like OP expects to have trouble being believed.

        2. Pursed lips not duck face*

          OP just needs to go to the sent file to look for the original. Sounds like her coworker is over 40 and doesn’t know how to use email. /s

        3. Just Your Everyday Crone*

          Well, the LW probably has the email she sent in her sent mail folder, right?

        4. tamarack and fireweed*

          Yabbut, the information is right in the meeting agenda.

          And email responses aren’t beholden to a historical record – IT keeps this, if there needs to be an audit. So I’m not sure that this is as severe as the OP says, or at least I wish they’d made it clearer what the actual problem is.

          1. cee*

            tamarack and fireweed
            Many people do consider email responses a type of historical record. If for example a third (cc’ed) coworker read an entire email chain for context on the issue being discussed, removing pieces of email responses alters that context. It doesn’t need to be an official record for unauthorized edits to cause problems or change the way people view or act on a certain issue. Anyone reading a chain just needs the full context.

            Editing out pieces of an email without noting that you did that for some reason is very weird, thats why the OP feels strange about it.

    2. Mo*

      I’m surprised it wasn’t mentioned that it’s illegal to discriminate against candidates over 40 in hiring. If OP wants to default to preferring younger candidates, that breaks federal law.

  11. John Smith*

    #2, My manager does this. I’d say that, unless or until you see a pattern, give the benefit of the doubt.

    After 5 emails asking for a response se to the original email I sent, my manager eventually replied, deleting all the chase up emails. In another, he deleted all emails where I referred to errors, omissions, follow ups etc that he made (such as “But last week you said we must do X first, not Y). This only happens where there is anything critical of him – he never deletes or edits emails in other circumstances.

    Another tactic is for him to telephone or come see me in person rather than reply by email, which is almost exclusively when he would prefer there to be no evidence of his incompetence.

    Once you’ve established a pattern, then see your boss.

    1. Luna*

      Do those in-person or telephone meetings get responses by you sending an email, mentioning what you discussed and ensuring that you understood the instructions well? =)

    2. Plumbum*

      Removing entire emails from the chain is a much lesser offense, if it even is an offense (context-depending). Replying to an earlier email or removing irrelevant back-and-forth to put question and answer closer together can be perfectly appropriate. I can’t think of a scenario where altering someone else’s words without explicitly mentioning it can be appropriate.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        When internal quality auditors send me feedback for our vendors, I take out anything that would identify the auditors before I forward it along because my job is to interface with the vendors and we don’t want them contacting the auditors directly. I also take out any stray “Why can’t they get this right, it’s not rocket science and we’ve explained it twelve times” that may sneak in and rephrase the sentiment in my “cover letter”. But the factual feedback itself comes from the auditors, and they know I’m passing through the relevant parts verbatim.

        1. Anon in IL*

          I do something similar. My boss often forwards me client e-mails with a brief instruction to me to respond to the client. Sometimes his tone is terse and he might say something about how busy he is. I feel the client doesn’t need to see that so I delete it.

          1. tamarack and fireweed*

            Indeed. And on the flip side, our internal list serv sometimes forwards, say, funding or training opportunities, and the person who does it leaves the subject (“Please forward that to all STEM department listserves”) and the 5 level of boilerplate (“Can you please send this to the department listserve?”) , signatures, “FYI”, “Nicks’s on vacation so could you get this sent around?”, “Has this still not been posted yet? It should have been posted last week – deadline is Friday!!!”, greetings and all, and I have to dig down 5 levels of indents and quotes to figure out if it’s relevant to me.

            I think that in most business correspondence, some editing out of irrelevant paragraphs is perfectly fine. Before coming down like a hammer on the new employee I’d like to make sure that’s not what they are doing – even IF it makes them look better. “

        2. NLSSMC*

          I’m from a country with a very “open” democracy where freedom of information and transparency into government is valued very highly, and editing records, even just like this, is potentially problematic within the public sector. (Both yours and the LW’s)

          But that’s a special case. Hopefully, this was a onetime thing with the LW’s coworker too!

  12. Yellow+Flotsam*

    LW1 I think you have a very valid point, not that older employees can’t be awesome at modern marketing – but more that the push towards lengthy time in industry could be removing many great candidates who have ample relevant experience.

    Your company needs to stop looking at years of experience and instead focus on relevance of experience. Networks are important, but a small network including highly successful influencers sounds more useful than a large network of print focused people. Amazing success with print marketing campaigns but no success with digital sounds of less value than small (but strong) success in digital from someone with less experience overall but all of it in the target approach.

    It’s important to remember age isn’t the issue here. Many top marketing people will be older (longer to get experience), and will have stayed at the top of the industry by learning new things and knowing how to move between approaches. But “years experience” is rarely actually a good indicator of relevance.

  13. Irish Teacher.*

    LW1, as a teacher, I am going to add that just because young people almost certainly use tech regularly in their daily life (and frankly, so do people in their 40s and older; it’s no longer something people over 30 are likely to be new to), that doesn’t necessarily mean they are all experienced in using it for professional purposes. I am constantly surprised at how many of my teenage boy students do not know how to access their e-mail or how to do basic word things like copy and paste. They use computers for gaming and watching videos and that’s it. Obviously, I also have students who are brilliant with computers, but again, I also know people in their 40s and 50s who are brilliant.

    1. Billy Jean*

      Ooh yeah, I’ve got middle school students who will type out a class code written in my document of relevant links one letter at a time rather that double-clicking the text to highlight it and then using ctrl+c and ctrl+v. They can navigate their preferred apps perfectly but that doesn’t translate to technical ease with the general feature of a computer.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        I have a couple who were allowed the use of a computer in their exams (to type their answers) so tested their typing skills to see if they could type fast enough and found some typed at…maybe 10 or 12 words a minute. When I think about it, it’s not that surprising if they are used to using say a smartphone rather than a computer, but I had initially assumed they would be so used to typing that they would be way faster than I am. Not the case for all students.

        So yeah, you can’t assume based on age. Especially when you are looking for specific skills. I have a lot of students who know everything about Fortnight, Tiktok and Youtube, but that is the extent of their technology use and they would not have a clue about how to create a powerpoint or write a formal e-mail or create a social media campaign or possibly even create a word document.

        I also know people my age – early 40s – who are shockingly bad, considering technology has been a thing since we entered the workforce.

        And then of course, there are people in all age groups who are amazing.

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      Yep. I have a sixth grader who knew how to embed a YouTube video into a learning app to get around the class filter/block but also accidentally created like 100 unnecessary tabs and couldn’t delete them.

      Growing up immersed in tech just means people are really good at what they’ve wanted/needed to do so far, not that they’re inherently better suited to computers in general (which means a 40+ year old’s past decade of tech experience is likely to be more useful than a 20-something’s!)

    3. goddessoftransitory*

      Yep. Media is for consumption, not manipulation, a lot of the time. It would be like telling someone “you need to teach your TV to dance.”

  14. Luna*

    LW1, focusing on only a certain demographic based on age in your candidacy pool is also getting really close to age discrimination. The belief that anyone over the age of 40 or older won’t know about social media? I am in my 30s right now, I ‘know’ social media, but that doesn’t mean I would be capable of using it effectively for work. I don’t even like the hype around social media some places seem to have. Don’t count on age having anything to do with potential fitting to the job.

    LW3, good lord, this is a job with adults, I presume. Not highschool or even kindergarten. I didn’t even like it when I was 21 and my cosmetics school spent at least one day in every class doing the introductions thing. I ended up becoming super snarky as they went on. “My name is Luna, and I am emotionally instable.” (Not really a lie. I was suffering from very bad depression at the time, I just didn’t know it. It wasn’t until a few years later that I finally had a name for ‘why’ I felt so angry and lethargic)

    1. amoeba*

      But it appears like what’s currently happening is actually the opposite (nobody under 40 even gets considered)? In that case, I’d definitely agree that that’s a problem. Not that older people cannot have tech skills or know how to use social media – but young people do as well (obviously) and I’d argue that it makes a lot of sense to have a diverse team – at least some of which have actually been active on the relevant platforms and have an idea of what content on there generally looks like. (I’m youngish and have some social media experience but would definitely need somebody to help me navigate Tiktok, for instance!)
      Doesn’t have to be about age at all, just ask them about their experience. But yes, not hiring anybody under 40 out of principle sounds quite inefficient, unless of course there are other parts of the job that require that kind of long experience…

      1. snarkfox*

        Yeah, everyone’s jumping on LW1 for being “discriminatory” while ignoring the fact that their company’s policy of only hiring people over 40 to also be an issue!

    2. snarkfox*

      I guess the crowd here tends to be older, which is why everyone is jumping on LW1 for being discriminatory.

      But… that’s exactly what the company is doing by refusing to hire people under 40, and slashing the salary when they have to hire a younger person because they couldn’t find an older person to take the job (per LW1’s comments).

  15. Definitely Incognito Magneto*

    Hey, OP #1, you didn’t provide your own age, but what the hey.

    I’m in the homestretch toward retirement and mostly function as an admin. Constantly have to fix basic computer errors made by folks in their 20s. Irks me, too, since my title is just Teapot Team Support and they’re Teapot Specialists and Representatives.

  16. Billy Jean*

    OP#1 – based on the (admittedly few) indicators in your letter, my assumption is that your organisation is trying to hire for more than they can afford. Aka they have “champagne taste on a beer budget” and instead of looking for a really nice artisanal craft beer (less experienced person willing to work for less money in order to advance their career) they’re settling for bargain bin champagne (person with more on-paper experience who is willing to work for substandard pay in a supposedly hot job market).

  17. Sunnyside*

    I’m confused when does OP1 think computers were invented? They’ve been part of office life for many decades and the vast, vast majority of ppl working today have worked through mass shifts in technology.

    But mostly when I read things like this, I feel the need to point out that most of our tech was invented by ppl who didn’t grow up with it. And yet somehow managed to invent it!

    This idea about youth and their natural understanding of tech is the same fallacy that leads my kids to being taught nothing about actually using tech tools in school – everyone assumes they’re just born knowing it. As a result, they can’t compose a polite email to save their lives, and don’t know that ctrl-s saves a document.

    1. Plumbum*

      There was an article on The Verge a few weeks ago about how professors of unrelated courses are finding they have to give introductory computing classes to college students who grew up with smartphones and tablets so don’t understand a computer’s filesystem. They’re used to apps that restrict their view to what they’re looking for, autosaving to the cloud, and using search bars instead of folders. It’s a completely alien approach to me (age 30) but illustrative of how improved UI/UX leads to less understanding of the underlying technology, not more.

      1. xl*

        I’m starting to see more of this in my career (air traffic control).

        The computer systems that we use are antiquated and all text-based with a single line for entering text commands. Picture an Apple II or DOS. When I got into the career decades ago it wasn’t a big issue, but I find that a lot of my newer trainees don’t find it to be intuitive because they’ve grown up accustomed to iPads and being able to drag and drop things, etc.

        1. TiredButHappy*

          xl, I was the only person at my last job save one who knew how to navigate the DOS interface of one of our ancient pieces of lab equipment and I was by far not the oldest person in the lab.

          It used floppy disks for backups which were becoming corrupted due to humidity and no matter how much we communicated that we (support and myself) simply could not get the disks (I had to navigate to format some random disks they sent me to use), someone kept moving them from the box because ‘it didn’t look nice

          cue shrug emoji.

          Anyway, I’m elsewhere and have had conversations with our tech person about how computers are not new and we both just don’t understand how people who have worked with them their entire careers can still not know how to perform basic windows functions that have not changed since windows 3.1.

        2. OyHiOh*

          In my current role, I use two databases. SalesForce, reasonably modern and, I find to be fairly intuitive, although one of our team members struggles with its organizational logic sometimes. We also use a database designed for business fraternal organizations (business alliances, chambers of commerce, similar). To me – having learned to navigate software and internet in the mid 90’s – this program feels like something originally built in DOS, that was eventually grafted onto a web platform to modernize it. One of my colleagues described the beast as a Cadillac in a Chevy body. It’s clunky. Unless you know how DOS logic worked, it doesn’t entirely make sense. I don’t love it (I wish we’d be like a few forward facing sister orgs we know of and migrate this database onto SalesForce) but I understand it and can make it work.

          I do sympathize with people who are generally reluctant to try things out in software and just see if it works: This DOS/web hybrid sometimes feels like it will shatter and explode the internet if you click the wrong thing

      2. bamcheeks*

        Aargh, but it’s NOT improved UI/UX! I loathe and hate not being able to build a proper file structure.

        I have to say, I think this is where age does come in– I am 43 and there are definitely places where I’m getting into my curmudgeon era. Sharepoint may be easier to access from varied locations than a shared N-drive, but it’s way less usable than Windows Explorer! Outlook’s and Teams’ search facility is rubbish and it doesn’t work to search for documents in your email / chats instead of having them saved somewhere logical! this is not an improvement!

        1. Plumbum*

          Improved is subjective, and I completely agree with you on this example. I was thinking more broadly, like the general trend away from having to spend time tinkering to set up a new device/peripheral/anything, you just plug it in/turn it on and far more often than not it magically works. Like a new smartphone, if you’re fully in the Apple or Google ecosystem you just log in to your account and there are your contacts, your photos, your calendar without having to do anything. It’s hard to argue that that isn’t a positive user experience, even if it’s one I personally don’t want.

      3. BethDH*

        That last point is really important. I teach stuff related to data literacy and students don’t know how searching and sorting work in relation to what’s in the system. Also I’m finding that people of all ages assume that all searches work like google where you can spell things wrong or use synonyms and still find what you’re looking for.

      4. NotAnotherManager!*

        I loved that article! I’m tail-end GenX, and I am a huge proponent of file system folders for organization, but don’t folder/label anything in my mailbox and just use search (including field-restricted searches) for that.

        The other thing I find is that a lot of modern system don’t give me near the freedom that a basic file/folder system does. Our cloud-based document management system has some advantages, but I can’t bulk rename files in it or do other handy things I can in a file/fileshare.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      My kids both use a lot of coding, but check with me for where to put the stamp on the physical envelope. Because they have to do that so rarely that it has never sunk in.

      If you have never had a reason to do a mail merge, you probably don’t know how.

      “Being good at learning things as needed” is a valued skill, and not just today. Back in the 60s people who had never seen a computer were learning how to program one with punch cards.

      1. Observer*

        “Being good at learning things as needed” is a valued skill,

        For a huge swath of jobs, it’s not just valued, it’s crucial.

        As in your example of the people who invented computers :)

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          “Being good at learning things as needed” is a valued skill,

          It should be, but most HR departments and hiring managers get stuck on finding someone with THE exact skills that they want, and then wonder why they don’t get any “qualified” candidates. Worse, they want a level 9 or 10 proficiency in the software or tools, but they only use any of it to a level 3 or 4!

          My number one skill is being able to learn on the fly. Yes, initially I’m slower than someone who has used it every day for the last five years. But if you only need it once a month, hiring the super proficient person is a waste of money. Too many people get hung up on hiring a specialist when what they need most is a generalist in their area who has learned and done a lot of different things. Worse, most HR departments don’t know how to screen for a generalist, so you get impossible laundry list of skills all demanding “expert” proficiency, or five years experience in a software package that has only been available for three!

          If you you want to hire a person who can quickly learn what they need, look for keywords like “learned”, “added … skill”, “self taught”, etc in the resume. Also, ask in the interview what skills or software packages they have learned (or even relearned/improved) in the last year, and listen to the answer carefully. “Taught myself X”, “took a training course in Y” or even “learned and document Z” are the types of things you want to hear. The learned/improved item need not have been on the job, but should be relevant to their field.

    3. Alex (they/them)*

      I’m 23 and can confirm I didn’t have much formal computer education because “kids these days know all about computers! we don’t need to teach them anything!!”. As a result my computer knowledge is mostly fine, but I have a lot of gaps- I didn’t know ctrl+s saves a document!

      1. bamcheeks*

        Ctrl+s and Ctrl+P are ones I know about but never use. Whereas my fingers do Ctrl+X, Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V, Ctrl+Z and Ctrl+Y without my brain even noticing I’ve thought about it.

        My 7yo has (limited) access my old laptop, which is a Lenovo Yoga with both a touchscreen and a keyboard. It’s very weird trying to work out what she needs to know– like, do I teach her keyboard shortcuts? Or assume they’ll all be obsolete by the time she is using a computer intensively? does she need to understand file structures, since most systems seem to be moving away from them? is now the right age to start introducing that or should I wait until she’s using a computer for school work? Do I ever still look up a web address and type “” in the address bar, or do I just type the name of the website and let either Google or Chrome auto-complete find it for me? I mean, I guess every generation is always trying to figure out what is anachronistic knowledge and what is emerging, but that feels like the biggest and most acute area for this age-group.

    4. Paris Geller*

      As a librarian who spends a lot of my day helping people with technology, can confirm. Age has nothing to do with it. We have senior citizens who come in and need help, yes, but also I help a large amount of early 20’s something every day as well. A lot of them have very little experience using actual desktop computers and not just their phones/tablet. The amount of people who don’t realize that their email is web-based and can be checked on one of our computers just like their phone is very high (of course then we often run into the issue they do not know their password & if they’re using Gmail, often have changed phone numbers so google’s whole reset password process is useless to them and they get upset when we can’t help them at that point)

    5. Ellis Bell*

      Hmm, schools (or at least people on the ground floor of the educational system) are fairly well aware that kids are not magically tech literate. They simply don’t teach tech because it’s not mandated that they do. There’s still an emphasis on paper exams and handwriting (in the UK at least). There’s also the eyewatering cost of providing computers to be abused at the careless hands of schoolchildren every day. They do some IT weekly but it’s nowhere near as much as they do on paper. I try to champion tech skills in my small area, but I don’t get any acknowledgement for it, quite the opposite.

  18. Blooming Callowlily*

    Digital natives – in general – are worse at, not better at, using technology than older generations.

    Growing up with readily available and better technology makes younger generations more dependent on things working and less able to investigate and fix tech issues, and more significantly, less able to solve their own problems. Again, in general terms.

    Someone told me this about 10 years ago and I happened to be visiting an art college that day for my company. When I walked into a classroom as students were leaving, one of them asked me for help getting a printer online. Even when I told him I didn’t work at the school, he wanted my help. He hadn’t really tried to solve the problem. He didn’t know where to begin. He just wanted it to work for him

    More info:

    1. Dragon*

      I’ve seen this with login credentials for various work-related business systems, like government agencies. More digital natives than one might think, are as bad at keeping track of those as anyone in the previous generation.

      In my industry, people do often have to share those credentials with others in their firm. As often as not the sharer doesn’t know their own password, their assistant isn’t available and the actual user has to set a new pw in order to get the job done.

      I know of at least two government agencies that have two-factor authentication in their online systems. So the account owner has three options: (1) do the task themselves, (2) be available to forward the authentication code to the colleague who’s doing the task on their behalf, or (3) their assistant has to have access to their email and be available to forward if needed.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      My working theory on this is that you used to have to learn HOW the computer worked to make it do what you wanted, and knowing how it worked made it easier to troubleshoot.

      The most tech-savvy person on my team is in their late 50s/early 60s and has grandchildren. You want someone to use technology to streamline your business process and whip something out in half the time, they can do that in their sleep. We had to tell people to stop calling them rather than the helpdesk because they had their own job to do.

      1. Nina*

        I’m fairly competent at using basic MS Office and most of the field-specific software I need for work. I’m not a coder (self-taught just enough html to make a blog really pretty) but I’m slowly learning VBA and js by googling hard and sitting next to the most tech-savvy person on the team to take advantage of his inbuilt need to come and fix any bad code he sees.

    3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Yes, this is indeed the case. Back in the 80s I used to write snippets of code to get things to work the way I wanted them, I had all sorts of macros to implement on files etc. Nowadays, Word and Excel do all that for me, much better.

      It’s the same process as with cars. Back in the 19th century, you needed a basic understanding of how the car worked just to get it started, and most drivers took a crash (sorry) course in car mechanics just breaking the car in. Then car technology gradually improved to the point that now all you need is a driving licence, and the number of your insurance policy if you do break down.

  19. IT helpdesk*

    LW1, speaking as someone who works an IT helpdesk: trust me, the young people are the worst because they think they know tech better than they do (having grown up with it and all). I usually compare “digital natives” to native speakers: unless they specifically study the why, at best they can only tell you how.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      The LW’s problem is that they’re generalizing about an age group. Generalizing about a different age group isn’t helpful.

    2. AthenaC*

      I recall Admiral Kirk pointing this out in Star Trek II as he looked through his spectacles while troubleshooting technology while working around the (much younger) ensign.

    3. Might Be Spam*

      I used to teach computer literacy to seniors that morphed into a side gig doing in-home repairs and training.

      At least half of the repair jobs were caused by younger relatives who didn’t know as much as they thought they did, and who made things much worse. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between incompetence and malice, when you are looking at the results.

      It reminds me of a plumber who got a lot of jobs from DIYers who made things worse.

  20. CCs*

    #2, Omg the angriest I’ve ever been in my professional life was when I person I was having a somewhat fraught email back-and-forth with edited my email (to make me look much worse) and then cc’d his higher ups into his response.

    Thank goodness I had a wonderful team leader who accepted my absolute refusal to continue dealing with this person and stepping in on my behalf for future correspondence (until the matter was sorted).
    He also very deftly lightened the mood when he interrupted me mid-temper tantrum to say “I’m sorry to interrupt but did you just honest-to-god stomp your foot right now?” And we basically dissolved laughing.

    Not my finest moment I admit but my blood ran cold all over again reading this LW2- argh!

    1. Artemesia*

      You can assume that any edit that makes the editor look better in the email exchange is intentional. If it doesn’t rise to the have a fit now level, then it can be the sort of thing casually dropped into conversation with the boss when the moment presents itself. In my experience this sort of informal information sharing is the most effective whether bragging on our accomplishments or giving a heads up about worrisome behavior by a colleague.

      1. Empress Matilda*

        Oh, it was definitely intentional. And I guarantee the email was sent to others as well – otherwise, what would be the point of the edit?

        Don’t forget about the BC field – even if OP2 can’t see anyone else’s name in the To or CC fields, that doesn’t mean they’re the only one receiving the email.

        OP2, I would raise this with your boss now. Not in a giant foot-stomping way, but in a “hey, this concerned me and I wanted to give you a heads up” kind of way. Normally I’m all for assuming good intentions, but even Alison’s very generous plausible deniability scenario is stretching things pretty far.

        1. LW2*

          This is exactly what I did. During the next weekly check-in meeting I had with my boss, I showed her the emails and let her know what happened. I decided I needed to flag it now in case something became an issue in the future.

        2. Salsa Verde*

          Oooh, this is such a good point – even if you only saw the email was addressed to you, that doesn’t mean your colleague didn’t BCC others!

    2. Fishsticks*

      I had a similar situation in the past that got so bad I BCC’d a supervisor so she could see the original email communications – and then see how they changed then the person ‘forwarded’ things that she edited to make herself look better.

      She did get in some trouble for that, and her response was to never communicate with me via email again. It worked out just fine for both of us.

  21. Roland*

    > This would give me the chance to wrap some things up

    OP4, this would give THEM the chance to have you wrap some work up for them. It sounds like you are a conscientious person but don’t let them frame this as something that’s a benefit to you beyond what they’d be paying you.

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*


      I ran the knowledge base for our library reference desk. I left detailed instructions and had the chance to “clear things up.” And many coworkers depended on it for daily use annd for training and were very worried it would disappear when I left.

      Guess what, it did disappear, or no one was assigned to update it. And despite wanting it, coworkers did without.

      Companies/organizations move on all the time. You can too!

    2. Sloanicota*

      Yep! And that’s why OP should almost certainly increase the rate it would take for them to agree to this, if they are interested. I freelance and the common suggestion is at least twice what you make as an hourly rate in a w2 job – I’d say more if the hours are wildly inconsistent or very low. Also, I thought there were rules against companies hiring someone as a contractor to do essentially the same work they used to do full time for the company. Perhaps I’m wrong about that.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Also, I thought there were rules against companies hiring someone as a contractor to do essentially the same work they used to do full time for the company.

        Not really. Lots of shady companies try this all the time – they’ll lay off workers, then “generously” offer to let them contact, at the same rate of pay on a 1099, for their old job. A lot of people get suckered by this, only to find out come tax time that they are losing money on the deal because they have to cover all of the employment taxes themselves. That’s if they don’t notice that their health insurance payments are now eating them alive. When the person wises up and finds a regular job, they’ll just outsource it overseas anyway.

        It should be illegal, but IIRC it actually isn’t. However, IANAL.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Microsoft did this soooooo much. One year contracts endlessly renewed instead of just hiring the person.

    3. goddessoftransitory*

      Exactly. If they NEEDED the stuff wrapped up they wouldn’t have laid you off on your vacation! (I can’t get over that. Such a dick move.)

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yes, exactly. They would get zero favours from me for ruining the holiday. No freelance work for them unless they pay a stiff fee.

  22. Keymaster*

    OP1: if you’re hiring for technical skills you need to have a test or a proof of the skills at interview.

    Age, gender, race, disability etc. doesn’t matter – those traits are not tied into operating a computer.

    I’m in my late 40s, female and I worked my way up the ranks in IT to head a department. The amount of times I have encountered people at interviews claim they are the best person for the job because they are young is too many. My father is in his 70s and still enjoys programming and learning new code tricks.

    Don’t judge by age. Don’t judge by appearance. Judge by what they can do or show an aptitude for (I can teach someone SQL Server Admin Studio but I can’t teach a genuine desire to learn new stuff quickly)

  23. T.*

    #1, sounds like you need a job description review and to vet candidates for the right skills. Look at how you market the job and discuss with your panel how much experience in what areas of the work are needed. I will say though in your defense for younger hiring, my co is on the hunt for younger candidates to diversify the age in our co. We have a longevity issue where most of the 135 people have more than 25 years tenure and we have retired off 50 people in the last 2.5 years. It’s creating a turnover issue and therefore a production issue. This is a case where age helps. I need a burst of people not ready to retire. We still hire plenty over 55. and hire the best person for the job but we definitely have an age diversity issue so I’m mostly marketing to co-op programs to get high school and college kids interested in our industry.

  24. Nikki*

    LW4: I’m a bit surprised at how angry you are that your layoff was effective immediately. That’s a very common way for layoffs to happen. I’ve been laid off three times in my career. Two of them were effective immediately and the third was more like the situation you describe, where they gave me the option of staying on for a short time as a contract worker to help transition my work to a different team. It is rough that it happened when you were on vacation. I’m sure the rest of the vacation was a lot less fun! But don’t get worked up about the lack of transition period because most people don’t get one in layoff situations.

    1. CharlieBrown*

      They have a right to their anger. It’s absolutely ridiculous that they were let go in the middle of their vacation. That’s a pretty big F-you from the company.

      1. Nikki*

        The LW seems a lot more angry about the lack of transition period than they do about the vacation. I can also see situations where it would make sense for the company to do it this way. If it’s a large layoff involving a lot of people, there might not have been a time where everyone is working the same day. They wouldn’t want to lay off everyone but the LW and wait until they get back because they might hear about the layoff from other people and piece together that they’ll be laid off too once they return.

      2. bamcheeks*

        If they were doing multiple layoffs, you’ve got to weigh up “LW will find out whilst they’re on vacation” against “we layoff 20 people on Wednesday and the 21st when he’s back on Monday and hope that he doesn’t talk to the other 20 in the meantime”. It’s a really shitty situation, but “I got back from my holiday and found my whole team had been laid off but they didn’t even tell me” is ALSO a shitty situation. There is no guaranteed non-shitty way to do it.

        1. Lady_Lessa*

          I agree about no good way to handle it. A co-worker and I were both laid off. He wanted to know before a vacation and I was glad that they waited until I had come back. (It may have also been due to the types of vacation. Mine was a cruise to Alaska, which I had already paid for)

          What steamed me about the situation is that the company wanted me to sign an agreement (to get my severance) that I was leaving voluntarily. I lawyered up, and won.

        2. The Original K.*

          Yeah, I was laid off the day I got back from vacation. That sucked too. Layoffs just suck.

      3. KRM*

        Not really though! If the company plans layoffs, they can’t say “oh, we have to wait a week to do this because one person is on vacation”. They say “okay this will happen the 12th and it sucks that one person is out of office, but that’s how it goes”. It’s not like the LW was called in the middle of vacation and told “we’re laying you off for gross incompetence, so don’t bother coming back”. The company was having (anticipated!) layoffs! Timings suck sometimes!

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          But it made no sense for OP to be laid off right then since they now need her to wrap stuff up.

      4. Hydrangea*

        Those layoffs were likely planned well before LWs vacation was. It’s unfortunate when things line up that way, but it probably wasn’t aimed at LW.

        LW says they don’t bear a grudge. They sound like they have feelings about being laid off, but they don’t sound all that angry to me. Good for them. I still have a grudge against the place that laid me off nearly 20 years ago :).

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          oooh I won’t ever ever forgive my former toxic boss for the nasty way he tried to force me to resign and forgo unemployment benefit instead of just making me redundant as per labour law here.
          Even though I won hands down and got full severance and everything. He put me through far too much stress and worry.

    2. snarkfox*

      “The way this has happened doesn’t sit well with me, but I understand their reasoning and I don’t bear a grudge.”

      Maybe “angry” is a poor choice of words, because they don’t seem particularly angry to me? They sound frustrated, sure, that they weren’t able to wrap up their projects since they were laid off immediately… and are now being “offered” the “opportunity” to continue the same job for less pay….

    3. LW4*

      ‘Angry’ is a bit strong for what I’m feeling, but I can understand if my frustration at other factors (which weren’t relevant to my question for Alison so I didn’t include them in my letter) seeped out a bit.

      This is just one part of the bigger picture, but people leaving the organization in the past have given months long noticed periods and followed up with later contract work, so being laid off with immediate effect was a significant departure from the way the organization has acted in the recent past. But all those other unmentioned factors have led to a rapid culture shift at the organization recently, and I’m just the first departure in the new regime, so you’re absolutely right in spotting some underlying disappointment.

    4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      It may be a common way to lay people off, but they could have waited for her to get back from her holiday and they could also have given her a notice period so that she could wrap their stuff up.

  25. Kara Danvers*

    Tangential to LW1, the interesting thing is that incoming college students in computer science classes seem to be getting less competent at computers over time, rather than more. Google “Gen Z file system”.

    This is a generation of students for whom everything is easily searchable by keyword, who spend a lot of time on mobile OSes. They tend not to organize their data into files and folders, so many have no idea what a file system is, even though that’s how everything operates under the hood.

    Of course, abstraction layers can all be taught! Society is always shifting paradigms, and people always have some default set of understanding. It’s just that “file systems” are no longer natively understood by younger tech users.

    1. Academic Fibro Warrior*

      I’m not a younger user, learned basic a (sp? been a long time) in high school and coding, worked with 2es in middle school, and didn’t understand file architecture until a tech writing course where we had a deep dive into it. I hadn’t needed it until I had a lot of files to keep up with….25 years ago. We learn what is necessary to what is going on right now and don’t transfer well to other contexts. I do an overview of digital skills in all my classes to ensure my students can do what they need to do. thankfully I no longer need to teach email etiquette so I know who is emailing me and for what class (a real issue with a previous demographic I taught), but navigating and organizing things, sharing files, wash and repeat I’ve always had to teach and my students have ranged from 16 to 75.

      Unless comp Sci classes went through a period where they taught programs actually necessary I’m not sure they’re getting less competent rather than still being taught skills most people won’t need. my required comp Sci classes were not windows based, using programs that were being discontinued, well after Windows 93 came on the scene. Total waste of time and money. They didn’t teach me anything I didn’t know (I’d been learning basic DOS commands for years at that point) and taught me nothing that I used in work. maaaaybe if I’d going into programming it might have been a good start and it probably helped students from schools that didn’t have computers for a little bit. But it was not widely useful and focused on using old, non Microsoft programs. (i.e. this is how you open WordPerfect when you don’t have Windows….) with very little on higher order meta knowledge. from my understanding they were still doing that in the early 2000s after I graduated at a major school.

      1. Mockingjay*

        It’s the “why” that’s missing. Example: Folders and file trees are used for information management. Info management is how the company stores and retains data essential for business areas: technical, financial, purchasing, etc. Data retention (how long a file is kept) is determined by tax statute, business policy…

        Doesn’t matter what technical system is used (although screen/train for that), the underlying principles need to be taught or explained.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Yep, agreed. I think for those of us that had computers before cloud storage, these things are a lot more intuitive. File trees are the only way to know where everything is…or you used to use deep files to hide things…it was something we needed to learn to manage our own computers (of course to varying success, but there was exposure to the concept).

          I’m only 30 but I see a huge gap between what I knew about data management at 22-25 and what new hires know intrinsically. They need the curtain of “user friendly UI” taken away, especially if they’re apple users (no shade! that’s apple’s whole thing).

          It’s jarring because they think of themselves as tech savvy but then don’t understand why companies might make you…remember a password instead of saving it or have really strict naming and sharing conventions for their files. I find a lot of pushback from younger people who don’t understand data management and security.

          1. Antilles*

            I’m only 30 but I see a huge gap between what I knew about data management at 22-25 and what new hires know intrinsically.
            I would guess that’s because most people who grew up pre-cloud sharing learned a harsh lesson about data management somewhere along the line.
            If you put a file in the wrong folder or forgot where it was, you either had to painstakingly swap through folders manually trying to find it or watch the search function slowly chug along for several minutes (or maybe longer!) looking for it. Oh, and most of those early search functions weren’t able to reliably search information within files so if you didn’t use descriptive file names, you’d then have to open a bunch of files to figure out what’s what.
            So you’d make that mistake a couple times and quickly learn that file organization/naming is pretty useful.

            1. Might Be Spam*

              I remember being limited to 8 character names. Try to be descriptive with that. Lol

              When my dad worked for IBM he wrote a program called Calculate Reproduce And Punch (CRAP). It got through a couple of levels of approval before someone noticed and they made him change it.

            2. bamcheeks*

              I don’t know, I am 43 and I work with a lot of people ten years younger than me and ten years older, and nearly everyone can cope with creating a file structure that *they* understand and can use personally, but I feel like I am in a minority for thinking that it’s good and important to have a file structure that *other people* can use, that gets tidied up regularly so it doesn’t get too messy, or that if you want things in date order you need to use YYYY-MM not “22nd jan”. I’ve never worked anywhere where shared drives didn’t have a half life of about six years before they become so sprawling and messy that they are unusable.

              Using file structures might be a common skill in the 30-55yo crowd, but using them *well* is not.

  26. WellRed*

    OP most comments are addressing the contract rate you should set. But your question was more about your responsibility to your former coworkers as well as how it would look. You owe them nothing and to the outside world, none of this is visible. No one cares. I suspect it’s just that it’s understandably loooming large and all consuming to you right now and you feel a bright blinking arrow pointing out you saying “laid off!” Turn down any contracting and focus on your job search. Make. The. Break,

      1. Becca*

        Yes!! As I mentioned in some previous comments, im currently on the other side, having survived layoffs (it’s horrible all around but obviously worst by far for those impacted) and have been negotiating contract work with former employees (for double their previous rate). some people are happy to contract and milk the company for as much money as they can get. Some people only want very specific projects that aren’t as related to their previous core work. Some people want a clean break. All are totally fine and valid!! You do you. Your former coworkers probably just feels terribly for you and wants you to do what’s best for you. Even if they don’t, it’s not on you! You’re free!

  27. Beth*

    #5 – Consider asking some of your professional connections to give you recommendations on LinkedIn (there is a function that allows you to send requests to connections)and list the URL to your LinkedIn profile in your contact info block on your resume. As a hiring manager I do look at candidates’ LinkedIn profiles to see if there are recommendations. While people will only publish recommendations that are positive, it gives me some useful color commentary about what that person is like to work with.

  28. Corporate Lady*

    I don’t think anything in what LW 1 wrote even indicated the hire wasn’t qualified. Maybe that nonprofit has a gifting plan that isn’t focused on social media. Achieving social media success is not easy. Plenty of nonprofits try and fail because it takes entire teams to keep a social media game strong. One marketing person (no matter who) isn’t going to be able to do every aspect of marketing. Additionally, retired ties help too – especially if they are in the funding or government space. If they can get you the meeting or know how to secure the funding, that’s all that matters for that contact. In my experience in the private sector we pay retired contacts big bucks to get us conversations with the right people. Finally, some of the largest nonprofits still do mail campaigns.

    So is the op salty because they have a strong grasp of everything that it takes to execute in marketing for a nonprofit in their community of their size and the new hire doesn’t? I don’t know, but they do come off as pretty small minded. The marketing person might indeed be bad, but messing up an email signature and not knowing how to launch a social media campaign really doesn’t warrant the way that the op (who doesn’t have marketing experince) is acting about them and their age.

    1. RagingADHD*

      I agree. I’ve done social media for a regional nonprofit. It boosted small donations enough to cover my fee with a little bit of margin left over. Not much better than break-even, but the executive director wanted it because it helped the board and junior board boost our messaging, made it easier for people to RSVP to events, etc. If I hadn’t also been writing email/snail mail copy, event scripts, and grants, it would have been hard to justify financially.

      The email list got some medium-sized money.

      The big money-I mean, the “here is a new building and how to spell my name on the plaque” money — came from in-person visits, live events, and yes indeedy, snail mail. Because rich people like personal attention and tangible things they can hold in their hands. And because in general the richer someone is, the less time they are likely to spend on social media.

      Having also been an admin in the past, I think there may be some confusion about what LW’s job duties actually entail. In very admin position I’ve had, supporting leadership/management/individual contributors with stuff like fixing their email signature and proofreading documents for typos, or whatever other kinds of “mistakes” the LW refers to, were explicitly part of the job description. Paying attention to routine matters like that is exactly what administration entails.

  29. allornone*

    My boyfriend is a major techie; he even has a side hustle doing freelance IT work (while his day job is decidedly techie as well). His brother, on the other hand, doesn’t even know how to use email. Both are millennials with only a two-year age difference between them. So yeah, it’s not age.

    1. Might Be Spam*

      It’s interest and need, not age. My son and I built a couple of computers while his sister got out the popcorn and watched. We had Opinions on instructions and labels written by people unfamiliar with English and/or logical task flow.
      She also has a mug at work that says “My Mom Is My Tech Support” to keep certain people from trying to get her to do their work.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      I am eight years older than my next sibling and can run circles around them on any office productivity app, database queries/reporting, and basic coding. It 100% is not about age and all about a poorly-defined hiring process and not recruiting for the right skillset.

    1. allornone*

      This comment is why I wish we could upvote comments.

      (if Alison sees this: I completely understand the non-voting system of comments and respect your right to run your site’s comments section as you see fit, I just chuckled at this comment).

  30. MuseumChick*

    OP 1, I am well under the age of 40. The only social media I have is Facebook, and I work in a museum where keeping hard-copy paper records is still the way things are done. A friend of mine who is the same age and works in marketing…she has every social media platform you could imagine and shakes her head at me when I talk about my paper records.

    Your company seems to be bad at hiring, not because they hire slightly older people but because they hire people who are not performing the job they need to do.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Yes. “Tech savvy” is such a misnomer, you need different tools to do different jobs. A lot of museums do require digital archiving skills, for instance, but that is a whole different skillset than running a successful marketing campaign via Twitter and Instagram. There is…a lot of technology. Very few people are good at all of it.

      1. MuseumChick*

        Exactly. There is a very common database used in the museum world called PastPerfect. It is very frustrating to learn and even those with a lot of experience with it can still struggle with certain things. It’s wildly different from being able to google-key-word-search something. You need to really know the system to know how to find things in it. I’m very good at working with in but I only have a vague idea of how Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok work.

  31. Marketing Unicorn Ninja*

    LW #1, I’m going to gently push back on some of this:

    “But, as it turns out, most of those connections have since retired and her idea of marketing is snail mail and print ads, and she doesn’t seem to know social media!”

    Only two out of the three of those complaints are inherently bad — it’s not great her connections have retired and her not knowing social media should have been a non-starter for your organization.

    But print ads and snail mail aren’t, in and of themselves, bad ways to market — in a lot of industries, in a lot of areas, for a lot of Things, those are still viable marketing strategies. I’m running an ad campaign now that has some of those components, and it’s doing really well for us. I ran one a few months ago, entirely print, that cost me $1,500 and netted a $75,000 ROI. Marketing is situational.

    “Or am I just salty that as the admin I have to fix a lot of her mistakes but get paid a fraction of what she does?”

    Yes, and that’s fair. You should not be fixing mistakes at the level it seems you are, and *that* is worth bringing up to your boss, saying, ‘Jane seems to struggle a lot with X, Y, and Z, and I spend about X hours per week fixing her mistakes, which means I have less time to devote to A, B, and C.’ Highlight it to your manager as a work problem, not a problem of you thinking this person is too old to do the job.

    Also, FWIW, at a former job (which I left on great terms), my boss was mid-sixties, the person hired to replace me was early forties, and she can’t figure out how to share a photo to FB without but he’s running a fundraiser that’s raised >$150K, using a mix of SM, digital, and print.

    1. London Calling*

      *her idea of marketing is snail mail and print ads*

      I get flyers through the door every day for local businesses, some of them very glossy and well presented. They bring the business to my immediate attention (mostly because I have to pick them up) in a way that advertising on SM wouldn’t, but I do read them and keep the ones like restaurant flyers that I want to use.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        For some of us old people (with disposable income and an inclination to support nonprofits of missions that speak to us), too, the snail mail marketing is the only way to reach us because we don’t use the social media. :)

  32. Erie*

    I’m sorry, but frankly there is a correlation between age and tech ability. It would be really nice if there weren’t, but there is. Plus, young people tend to have more energy and be more willing to upend their lives for work. It’s one of the reasons age discrimination laws need to exist – employers aren’t totally irrational for preferring younger candidates. OP1’s company is going to have better luck with a younger pool.

      1. Fishsticks*

        I’m not the commenter you replied to, but I did start clicking around to see what I could find, and it DID suggest a correlation, but the studies I found were from 2003. Considering that that’s almost 20 years ago, I don’t consider that a reliable source any longer – tech changes too quickly and what counts as ‘older’ has changed a lot, too.

    1. Dinwar*

      “I’m sorry, but frankly there is a correlation between age and tech ability.”

      Possibly true, but statistics are meaningless to the individual. And remember, “tech ability” isn’t one thing. My sons can use a tablet–because tablets were built to be intuitive and user-friendly. This doesn’t mean that they’d be able to do software debugging. On the flip side, my mother (before she retired) was debugging insurance programs for her company. My sons learned to use computers via a system that allows for intuitive interaction and which all but forbids anything else; Mom learned on punch cards, and kept up with technology through the years, and thus has a deep understanding of how computers actually work.

      “Plus, young people tend to have more energy and be more willing to upend their lives for work.”

      Not more energy. Fewer ties. At 25 I was able to move across the country because it was just my wife, me, and my dog. Now I’ve got three kids in school, and moving would destroy their entire social network and have major implications for their schoolwork. My wife is involved in a few local groups as well, and moving would mean re-starting that.

      That said, some folks don’t have such ties. I know folks older than me that have different lifestyles and can simply drop everything and move to another part of the world on a month’s notice. It depends on the individual.

      “It’s one of the reasons age discrimination laws need to exist – employers aren’t totally irrational for preferring younger candidates.”

      What you’re saying is that we need these laws to ensure that companies harm themselves. No. These laws are useful because people like you perpetuate stereotypes that do serious harm to older (and, sometimes, younger) people, rather than evaluating people as individuals.

    2. Chilipepper Attitude*

      Lol! Have you read any of the comments here!?

      I’m in my 60s and I teach tech skills; previously in the public library, now at an academic library.

      I could tell you stories about every age group and what they don’t know about very basic tech skills that would curl your hair! It is a big problem on campus that (many, not all) student computer skills are so poor.

      As others have said, even people in their 70s have been using computers for a long time, but not everyone used all the things so skill sets are different, it’s more about willingness to learn and ability to google what you don’t know. And it sounds like the hiring process is not working because they are not looking for the skills they need.

    3. SJ (they/them)*

      Re: correlation there’s a possibility this might have been true 10-20 years ago, but I think it’s actually the reverse now because the tech systems used by corporations etc are slower to change than e.g. which social media apps are popular, so there’s actually MORE of a gap between what Gen Z’ers are used to in their tech vs what their offices are using. This has been mentioned upthread!

      “young people tend to have more energy” I’m not going to touch with a 10 foot pole.

    4. The Silver Surfer*

      • Apple computers was founded in 1976 (the Atari 2600 game console was also introduced in 1976).
      • The IBM PC was introduced in 1984.

      Anyone under 50 grew up with personal computers and they’ve used them most of their working life.

      It’s a misnomer to say older people don’t know anything about technology.

    5. Eldritch Office Worker*

      You are demonstrating why age discrimination laws need to exist, but not in the way you think you are.

    6. London Calling*

      *be more willing to upend their lives for work*

      Or put another way, older workers pace themselves, prize their work/life balance and don’t live to work or buy into corporate bullshit, having suffered from it earlier in their careers.

      I’m 68. A few years ago I went into a company to sort out a finance function that had been so comprehensively f’ed up by a ‘younger person’ (in his 30s) that it took 6 months to clear up.

    7. lost academic*

      But that’s not really what we’re talking about at work. At work, tech is more specifically a set of functional tools to do your job – in my case, it’s email, it’s office applications, it’s specific software for the technical side, it’s productivity tools within the general applications, it’s effective use of collaboration and scheduling apps, and it’s at times the hardware associated with doing that work in an office – projectors, phones, monitors, etc. You learn those by doing, and there’s a general correlation to learning that stuff if it’s something you do a lot (so thus, a ‘digital native’) but that same exposure and practice comes from doing that in the workplace when your workplace evolves with changing tools. It’s an outlook on learning something new that matters, as opposed to just wanting to use what you know so that you don’t have to for whatever reason. In my personal experience I’ve noticed that there are plenty of people that fall onto both sides of this coin throughout the age groups. Ask the right questions about this when you’re hiring, which are questions about problem solving at the end of the day.

    8. Seconds*

      “Young people have more energy.”

      True, often. But whether that energy is used in ways that are productive for their employer is a different matter.

      The young people I know (like the young person I once was) will become much more productive as they age, not only because they will gain knowledge and experience, but also because they currently have getting-adjusted sorts of anxieties that siphon off a lot of their energy.

      I don’t know what the statistics are on this, but I suspect that any differences between generations or ages are insignificant beside the differences between individuals. Checking age is not a short cut for good hiring practices.

    9. NotAnotherManager!*


      Nope, sorry, this has not been my experience at all, and 1/3 of my team is bright, wonderful, motivated young people. They are a joy to have on the team, but they are not displacing the experienced people who can use their skills and expertise to outperform “energy” on nearly every task. And their office tech skills are borderline awful. I, who am apparently old, lethargic, and in need of the protection of antidiscrimination laws, spend a considerable amount of time training them to be productive contributors.

      1. Dinwar*

        There’s a type of fight in the SCA (Medieval re-enactment group) that’s described as “Youth and Exuberance vs Age and Experience”. You line the new kids on one side, and the old geezers on the other, and have a full-force, full-speed small-unit melee, last person standing wins. The young kids always think they’ll win. As far as I have been able to determine, they never have. Most of the time it’s not even close; the young kids lose in embarrassing and (to the spectators) hilarious ways and extents. Turns out training, experience, and years of working together trump any advantages due to youth.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Heh, the SCA guys I hung with in college called it “Old Age and Treachery” vs. “Youth and Skill.”

    10. Observer*

      I’m sorry, but frankly there is a correlation between age and tech ability.

      Your basis for that assertion? And your definition of “tech ability”? And how that relates to what businesses actually need?

      Plus, young people tend to have more energy and be more willing to upend their lives for work.

      And how does that relate to businesses actually filling their needs? Like in this case, how much good is it going to be to the OP’s employer to have a young person with tons of energy, who is willing to not only uproot their life, but live on energy drinks, if that person can’t run effective fundraising / marketing campaigns? If they can’t run the analytics to figure out what works and what doesn’t? If they don’t have the understanding of the regulatory and social issues, including data privacy, disclosure and transparency, that are crucial to success and keeping organizations out of trouble.

      To be clear, I am NOT saying that young people would not have these qualifications. I *am* saying that a company should be focusing on THESE things, which actually provide value to the company, rather than “energy” and “willingness to give up their lives to the company” which doesn’t necessarily add much value.

    11. Ginger Pet Lady*

      “I’m sorry, but…” is the beginning that tells me this is your biased opinion and not reality. You’re full of crap, and it’s not okay to say that sort of thing.
      Next time you decide to say something that needs that kind of intro, just…don’t.

  33. That_guy*

    I’m 53 (ugh) and I’m the most tech savvy person at my workplace. I have a 40 something colleague who can’t do a “save as” to save his life. My 70 year-old coworker is much better because he actually put in the effort to learn how to do things. He’s not fast and if things don’t work the way he learned how for some reason he needs to ask me for help, which I’m glad to give.
    We have had some people come in who are in their 20s and think because they can use their phones that they know how to do everything. Their arrogance has caused me to re-do a ton of work after they have broken and/or deleted data.

  34. Fishsticks*

    I appreciate your response to LW1, Allison! I used to harbor similar thoughts to them, until I worked in a small, local government history and museum. One of my bosses, an incredible, driven woman who worked full time as a museum curator as her ‘retirement’ job, was in her late sixties when I first worked for her and 100% had incredible ideas, knowledge, and understanding of how to utilize new marketing techniques to turn our off-site historical working grain mill (the oldest still-functional mill in about half our state) into The Place To Be, managed to gain us a bigger budget, brought in the crowds… she was amazing.

    It really just comes down to how open to new ideas and techniques someone is, and that correlates with age but isn’t decided by it.

    I also worked for a digital marketing agency in which all the younger marketing folks 100% fell head over heels for a ‘new’ trend that never worked, and refused to acknowledge that the evidence proved repeatedly that it didn’t (if anyone in digital marketing remembers the fiasco of Facebook full on lying about video marketing to try and get everyone to pay them more to use videos on their site… well… my boss was one of those who fell for that and just ignored any evidence to the contrary).

    It’s all about discernment and openness to new ideas. I don’t think your employer needs to hire ‘younger’, but it could be useful for them to add in some interview questions that touch on social media marketing experience, or if they really want to rely on those personal connections, look into hiring a freelance social media marketing person part-time to take care of that aspect and free up the main person for networking/person-to-person marketing.

    1. Sylvan*

      if anyone in digital marketing remembers the fiasco of Facebook full on lying about video marketing

      Oh, yeah, although I wasn’t in digital marketing yet. This was also a problem for newspaper employees. Of course nobody who writes for a print newspaper thinks their readers want videos, but our managers did.

      1. Fishsticks*

        It was genuinely bizarre to talk to my boss at the time and flat-out say, “Look, people read our blogs, they read our emails, but they DON’T watch videos. Evidence proves over and over no one is watching our videos, this is a huge waste of resources and time” and have him come back with basically “but facebook says they work”.

        Okay, but FB is the one trying to sell you the video hosting.

        1. Too Many Tabs Open*

          On sites that have a video and a transcript, I routinely skip the video and go straight to the transcript. If you want me me to spend twice as long listening to it as I’d spend reading the transcript, the video has to have something more than someone’s voice and a couple images.

  35. Erin*

    #1 I am 44 and I do a ton of content creation for my gigantic tech company. You have most likely made purchases based on my content curation. I also used to onboard new employees in my org, and I was surprised at how much age did not play into a person’s technical aptitude. My org is considered non-tech.

    My husband is a senior technical manager for a totally different org within the company, and he is consistently surprised at how the younger new hires in technical roles do not know pretty basic technical things.

    So, skills are skills! They can be honed (or not!) at any age.

  36. Troublemaker*

    #2: Consider embarrassing your coworkers. I’ve had several bosses who like to gaslight and misinform, withholding important information and frustrating our collaborative abilities. A reasonable solution is to remind them, during meetings with most of the team present, of what has happened historically. Don’t make it about them; instead, show basic facts which contradict their narrative, and let the rest of the team observe their waffling and information-hiding.

    1. Dr. Rebecca*

      I’m with you here. It’s what a few of the relationship advice columnists call “return awkward to sender.”

    2. Khatul Madame*

      I am glad you said “consider”, because the satisfaction of doing this comes with a cost, especially if a higher-up is the lying party.
      I’ve had this happen with a client. While exposing the lies was the right thing to do and earned me sizable cred with my team (not that they hadn’t respected me before), it was not great for the client relationship.
      You do come away with valuable knowledge, just as the Crone said below.

  37. Just Your Everyday Crone*

    For LW2, I have a pretty dim view of that co-worker. Editing someone else’s email in that way is dishonest. It’s super shady if other people were copied, but even if not, they’re willing to suck up excessive amounts of time from you and then pretend they’re not doing that. This individual is abusing the LW’s goodwill. If possible, I’d draw way back from supporting the newbie, and answer everything with, check your notes, check the procedures, that kind of thing. If he’s going to fail, let him.

    1. NotRealAnonforThis*

      If nothing else, this coworker has provided insight into “who they are”.

      Keep an eye on it, I’m okay with believing that it could be incompetence instead of malice, but at some point (and its widely different depending on the topic) there is no way to be a certain level of incompetent without malicious intent.

    2. ferrina*

      Totally agree. This is a red flag. Definitely keep records of your interactions with this person.

  38. My 2 cents*

    LW #4 – Not sure if you are applying for unemployment due to your layoff, but if you are in the US and are collecting unemployment, you could be affecting your ability to collect or the amount you collect if you do contract work for them. If this is the case, check with your state to be sure.

    LW #3 – We will typically do intros only for those who have not been to the meeting previously – maybe this is something you can suggest.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      What I did, in a situation similar to LW4’s, was agreeing to work for a certain per day (I knew that it would only take a day or so to straighten things out, but not tell Unemployment until I got paid. I didn’t trust my former boss, and it was a good thing that I didn’t. Never got the money, and so my unemployment payment was unaffected.

    2. Irish Teacher*

      While I very much doubt they are in Ireland, if only due to demographics (we’re a pretty small country), I’ll just add that here, any money made as a contractor would have to be declared if also collection social welfare and would reduce the amount you make. Now, here, it is likely that contract work would pay more than unemployment benefit and if you work less than 4 days a week and earn less than a certain amount, you can still get some benefit, but just to add that while the specifics will differ, your point about it possibly affecting benefits is relevant outside the US too.

      1. LHOI*

        Came here to say this–in most states unemployment costs the employer $$, so I cynically wonder if this is a way for them to get out of paying the unemployment costs.

        Personally, I’d take it as a clean break and move on.

    3. LW4*

      I’m neither American nor Irish (as Irish Teacher rightly assumed below), but you’re both right about the substance of your concerns, if not the details. These are definitely things I’ve considered, and will be taking into account if (a big if) I decide to accept contract work.

      I’m so glad my letter got answered here, I’m learning and being reminded of so many good points in Alison’s response and the comments!

  39. Ask A Manatee*

    LW1, I think it’s worth the repetition here that youth is not an indicator of job suitability or tech savvy. I’m a 55 year old developer and I’m still explaining to 25 year old colleagues that the web isn’t 8.5 X 11, just like I was 20 years ago. If you ever find yourself in a position make hiring decisions, do yourself a favor and forget about age.

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      The number of young and old folk who would zoom the screen on our public library computers and expect the print to be bigger was amazing!

  40. Rachel*

    #1 – I am a geriatric millennial and I am finding that younger people are actually not so great at technology when it comes to anything that is not smartphone-based or related to the particular social media they prefer (e.g. Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat). When I was 36, I hired a graduate student intern for a semester, and she was 25. She could not use Outlook, the desk phone, or the copier/scanner. Teaching her those things was probably the most valuable professional education she received in the internship!

    Two of my kids are young teenagers and I had to force them to learn typing at home; many schools think kids just intuitively know how to do that, but that really makes no sense when you consider that most kids are using nothing but touchscreens.

    We’re at the point where there is practically no one in the professional workforce that does not, or should not, have computer literacy. There was a time that social media responsibilities were automatically given to the youngest person in the office, but that decision should no longer be automatic. If you have a work-related Facebook page, you may struggle to find a younger person who is familiar with Facebook. Businesses just need to evaluate the merits of the candidates and select the best one for the job, regardless of age. That’s why ageism is illegal in hiring.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      Mostly agree but “We’re at the point where there is practically no one in the professional workforce that does not, or should not, have computer literacy.”

      Arguably should if the world was equitable, ut its not.

      There’s a lot of people who don’t have computer literacy for a variety of reasons, most of which are socio-economic disadvantages but also simply not everyone’s brain works that way not is everyone afforded the same education.

      Literacy itself (not computer literacy, literal ability to read and comprehend) is an issue. If you cannot read, you are not going to be able to do a lot of other things. I’m not going to include the link because of moderation but a search on literacy stats will get you the info if interested in more.

      21% of adults in the US are illiterate in 2022
      54% of adults have a literacy below 6th grade level
      (average) 66% of 4th grade children in the U.S. could not read proficiently in 2013

      Humans tend to have a habit of assuming people are like us or should be like us and if not its a personal failing. Sometimes we all need to step back and challenge our assumptions of “reality”. This is especially valuable in hiring and working with others.

      1. Me Again*

        Agree with you Fluffy Fish. There’s a lot of unrecognized privilege in what Rachel said. My parents house is in a rural area so remote it STILL cannot get wired internet and satellite/mobile are spotty too – when I go there I have no choice but to unplug. The US and other developed nations still have strides that can be made to increase tech literacy (and basic literacy) in general.

        1. Rachel*

          I didn’t intend to take a privileged viewpoint, and when I said “professional,” I meant professional, as in white-collar and many blue-collar job roles. I agree with you that the U.S. needs to do better with literacy, technology literacy, internet availability, and many other things – especially generational poverty, which is at the root of many of these issues. But I don’t think that changes that fact that computer literacy is an expectation in professional roles in most developed nations. OP #1 was describing a job search for a marketing professional for a non-profit association. There is no way that computer literacy would not be an expectation for that role, and I intended to express that I believe that anybody who would realistically be applying for that role could be assumed to have a basic level of computer literacy. Thus, their age should not be a deciding factor.

  41. Fluffy Fish*

    OP1 – I can’t help but laugh. I’m in my 40’s and I assure you I’m not a dinosaur.

    The internet became a widely available thing when I was in middle school. We had the first computer labs in elementary school. Social media was quite literally invented during my youth.

    I manage multiple technologies and software at my job AND…I’m responsible for managing social media, outreach and public information.

    Please check your age bias. Feel free to check back in when you are over 40 – I look forward to your shock that it’s not “old” at all :)

  42. Hiring Mgr*

    I guess it depends who’s defining “cutting edge” at the non profit and what that means. It could mean super tech/social media savvy OR it could be a case of zagging when everyone else is zigging and going back to old school direct mail..

  43. Doctor X*

    #1: I agree it’s really about skills rather than age, but as a 30-something college professor, I can tell you that *on average* Gen Z are not as savvy as my own age group when it comes to anything involving desktop/laptop computers. Phone-based stuff, on the other hand, they can run circles around people my age. Which makes sense, when you think about the tech environment each cohort grew up in.

    1. Margaret Snow*

      My GenZ child teaches me how to use my phone and I (GenX) teach her how to organize crap on her laptop. It’s a win/win.

  44. Observer*

    #1- To use a concept from Reddit, “esh” at hiring.

    Your bosses apparently don’t know how to do the most basic checking for appropriate competency and actual USEFUL information / skills / connections. You, on the other hand seem to be stuck in stupid and fact free generalizations.

    If I needed to have someone who could hit the ground running, or a situation where I’m going to need one person to be the primary “department” and get up to speed quickly, I would ABSOLUTELY want someone with experience!

    For one thing, you would be surprised at how many folks fresh out of school have zero clue about some of the technical stuff you are talking about (I’m still struggling to get some of my recent graduate employees to USE THEIR OUTLOOK CALENDARS!) On the other hand, some of the people doing the most to move some of our technology forward are “over 50” (not just 40).

    Which is to say that being young gives you absolutely NO guarantee, or even higher than normal likelihood of basic technology assurance.

    The bigger issue with a marketing role (or any role that’s heavily communications related) is that it’s very, very easy to make a disastrous mis-step. *Especially* if you are used to just using social media any which way, and are still in the “social media is great and changing the world” OR “social media is horrible and makes people ill” phase.

    With marketing, you want someone who can learn quickly because the social media tactics that are useful today are very different than the ones that worked even 5 years ago and the ones that will work well in 5 years from now as well. It’s an ever shifting landscape and it’s not just about social media. So flexibility is the key thing you are looking for.

    But another key thing you are looking for is someone who is adept at reading not just the room but the zeitgeist AND who is adept at dealing with the various rules, regulations and stipulations that come with a job like this. Of course even people who have experience can make mistakes in this area, but experience generally does help people (especially the kind of person who is flexible and keeps on learning) avoid those mistakes.

    I get your frustration. But if you want your bosses to do better at hiring, you want them to move away from the focus on age and to a focus on skills. And you want to avoid using proxies (eg age means useful experience or youth means usable tech skills) and instead figure what what the baseline tech skill for any given job is, what skills and attributes are necessary or almost necessary for that job, and what things are genuinely useful but not deal breakers. Contacts would fall into the last category, although that only works if those contacts are usable. Understanding various types of media falls into category 2.Basic email, file sharing via email, etc. fall into category one. Your bosses seem to have prioritized the “nice to have” over the necessary items and then did a terrible job at that.

    Focus on that (just a bit more tactfully than I just laid out), and maybe you’ll have a shot at making some positive change. Of course it could be that your “cutting edge” management are unreasonable enough that it won’t help. But if you are going to have a chance, this is where you need to look.

  45. Sleepless KJ*

    Feeling salty to OP#1. As a 62 year old professional that is far more proficient in social media utilization and marketing than most of the “young” people in my life, I deeply resent this kind of ageist mindset.

    1. LaDiDa*

      Just because someone knows how to use social media for personal use doesn’t mean they understand the why and how of marketing with social media.

      1. sweeps*

        Which is why whenever administration says “just hire a student to run the social!” anyone who actually markets with social for their job dies a little inside.

  46. PinkCandyfloss*

    LW #5: in my industry LinkedIn is used heavily for recruiting but also for checking up for more information on applicants. Hiring managers will look at the type of content someone has posted to the LI feed but also people have the ability to make recommendations or rate your skills on your profile. If there are team members or former managers that you got on well with, you can ask them to repeat that kind of positive review on your LinkedIn page. “She is well respected and communicates well upward, downward and laterally.” is something I would be happy to read about a potential candidate on their profile. I have given and received reviews from multiple co-workers on my LI profile and it’s been helpful!

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I don’t know about recommendations but the skills rating thing is ridiculous and nobody takes any notice of it. Basically people will rate your skills in the hopes that you’ll return the favour, so you just have heaps of friends all telling the world that “my friend has skills”. I did it for my son, some people have done it for me.

      For recommendations, I have had some people ask me for one back in the days when I was a project manager and assigned work to people. Luckily the only people who asked were all very competent. I remember there was a form where you had to tick the qualities the person had. I ticked everything but “creativity” for one particular freelancer, then in the box where I could write some blurb I pointed out that I hadn’t ticked that because the work I used to send her required zero creativity (translation of documents recording lab results to be sent to the FDA). So that was a bit clunky.
      From what I see in her posts though, she’s doing very well for herself despite me not being able to credit her with creativity!

  47. danmei kid*

    Thank you for knocking down the ageism in LW #1. As a 53 year old Gen-Xer I often find myself having to teach basic skills to colleagues of various ages. It has little to do with age and everything to do with exposure to tech, familiarity with systems, as well as personal skill sets and comfort working with tech. My boomer father has worked in tech all his life and is a whiz with learning new skills at the tender age of 75. I’ll hire a person with the right kind of tech experience of any age, over someone of any age whose primary exposure to tech is having content passively fed to them by the TikTok algorithm, any day.

  48. LaDiDa*

    It is really important to keep our skills and knowledge up. We have that responsibility as professionals not to get stuck in our ways and rely on what worked 10,15, or 20 yrs ago. As Alison said, the hiring is the issue. Everyone should be focused on what skills are needed and someone’s knowledge of what is current practices, in whatever field they are in.

  49. ferrina*

    LW5, I second Alison that that quote is not strong enough for a cover letter. Especially coming from a performance review- review standards vary widely based on who your manager is, and how seriously your organization takes reviews (so many organizations just see them as a box to be checked with as little fuss as possible).

    The quote you cite could easily be tepid: “Is this employee respected among colleagues? Do they communicate well with colleagues from all levels?’ “Yes, she is well respected and communicates well upward, downward and laterally”. In that example, all the manager did was answer the question. As a hiring manager, all I see is someone who does her job. That’s not CL worthy. Remember, the hiring manager has no idea what the context was, so the quote needs to be powerful enough that context become irrelevant.

    What you need to do is say that you were praised for your abilities to communicate, then give examples of times when your extraordinary communication skills was critical for your team’s success.

  50. A Pound of Obscure*

    #1. I’m 57. Just yesterday I had to drive 180 miles round trip to deliver a presentation on a USB drive to a younger colleague who was scheduled to present to a large group and couldn’t figure out how to download the presentation from email to his laptop. At least it was a nice, sunny day for this totally unnecessary trip and the fall leaves were beautiful…

  51. The Wizard Rincewind*

    LW1: I’m in my mid-30s, so just old enough to have not quite grown up with computers but definitely got experience with them by high school, and I classify my knowledge base as “just enough to be dangerous.” I’m constantly surprised by how much more HTML knowledge I have than my coworkers of a similar age, and I consider my skills to be pretty rudimentary! On the other hand, one of our contractors is 10 years older than me and does most of our web development odd tasks and I turn to him when I’m outclassed in something. Age really isn’t always a good metric of technical skill.

  52. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

    Experience “ages out” when someone decides to stop learning. That can be at 24 or 104. I have been pulling my hair out with a much younger coworker who refuses to learn how to do even the most basic excel functions, prints out all of our online resources even though they change frequently so she always has to re-print them and is constantly losing electronic documents because she can’t figure out how to file anything on her computer.

  53. Betsy S*

    Hah. I’m 62 and I’m in a senior technical role. And many of the professors I learned from when I was in my 20’s and 30’s, men and women both, worked at places in the 1970’s and 1980’s like BBN (‘we put the @ in the Internet’) and Microsoft and Sun and Oracle and DEC. The first computer I ever touched used punched cards. These days I work with multiple flavors of server virtualization and am working on my third Cloud Architect certification. Don’t tell ME you have to be under a certain age to be technical!

    It does worry me a bit that so many people seem to think of 40-somethings or even 30-somethings as “old” – these days a 40-year-old is often less than halfway through their work career!

  54. ThursdaysGeek*

    I know OP1 has responded above, and their problem is not really with older employees, but rather low pay and poor hiring.

    But I wanted to address the idea that some people have, that “old dogs can’t learn new tricks.” Some of those old dogs wrote the tricks, and have all the experience of a younger person, plus more. And some people are never curious, never learn about things, no matter their age. Don’t look at the age of a person and judge their abilities because of their age. Both young and old and middle can be very competent, or not.

  55. StarTrek Geek*

    #2 I had this happen where an HR employee altered my (accountant) portion of an email string which significantly changed my tone from strictly factual to accusatory. The entire string was being cc’d to my supervisor & accounting director. I was only reading the latest response throughout the exchange so had no idea she had changed my prior portion. So as I’m leaving at 5pm, my supervisor wants to have a word as she was ordered to do by the director – essentially a verbal reprimand regarding my portion. I was confused as was she because I was always very careful with emails. When she pulled up the latest, I quickly saw the alterations. As proof was the original (first) I had sent and cc’d to her and director.
    While aggravated by HR, I was beyond p*ssed and insulted that the director just assigned blame to me. She was IT literate so knew emails could be altered. I had worked there 10 years, only one in department to always get “exceeds” on annual reviews, streamlined a monthly billing process from 3 wks to 3 days, recovered over $2 million in underpayments, cleaned up deliberate Medicaid by another department, and managed to develop and maintain excellent relations with government agencies known to be adversarial. HR was known to be mostly incompetent (employees drove 3 hrs to HQ HR to deal with benefits, retirement, etc just to avoid her).
    So I said either the director apologized directly to me or I resigned immediately. Coincidentally the director called my supervisor at that moment and my supervisor relayed our entire conversation. The director must have thought I was bluffing, my supervisor knew I didn’t bluff. The result was me packing up and out the door 10 mins later. Moral: do stupid things, win stupid prices.
    Sorry, didn’t realize I needed to vent quite so much.

    1. LW2*

      Wow – I’m sorry this happened to you. This is exactly the kind of thing that I’m now worried about with this colleague. I said this in another thread, but I flagged the situation to my boss in an “FYI this happened” way in case something happens in the future.

  56. Emily*

    LW #1: From reading your letter, it sort of sounds like your actual frustration is that you’re having to fix someone else’s mistakes that they shouldn’t be making. If this is happening more than just every once in awhile and is affecting other work you need to get done, it is worth bringing up to your boss, just make sure you leave age out of it because as Alison said, age does not necessarily correlate to technology literacy, and there are age discrimination laws. I would also make sure to only mention to your boss the mistakes she is making that you have to fix and not your opinion of her doing print ads and snail mail, as it is for the higher ups in your organization to decide if they are happy with the way she is marketing the organization or not. It might be best to find humor in that aspect of it if you can. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time an organization has claimed to be or wanted to be cutting edge while continuing to do things that are outdated.

  57. Janeric*

    With regards to the issue in OP2, what are the boundaries on editing an email on a reply thread? I come from a toxic work environment, and I might need to calibrate.

    At my last job, I had a couple of supervisors who’d make personal comments about the difficulties of working with other people in emails that I needed to forward to those people, so I’d start editing out the personal attacks. (here begins the slippery slope)

    Sometimes, those supervisors would have highly specific requests or unrealistic timelines, and my ability to work with other departments was aided by making it clear that those requests hadn’t come through me — so I started sending those with edits to remove both personal attacks and references to other projects.*

    I also tend to edit emails that I’m forwarding as process documents — if it’s instructions on how to use the reimbursement software for a new employee, I take out all the references to other issues from the time — say, details on the hotel or small updates on other projects.

    ANYWAY. Is it OK to edit emails to save other people from embarrassment? Is it OK to remove details that are not relevant to the current project?

    * I DO have a different job now, and haven’t had to edit an email (or couch an email) for the entire time. I never felt the need to do it at previous jobs either. I feel like if my current supervisor wrote me an email authorizing me to do something while also insulting the other department, I’d write back “Thank you for letting me know about those issues! I need to forward your authorization to them, would you like to send me another authorization or edit this?” but. that. would have been an issue at my last job.

    1. StarTrek Geek*

      Maybe my view is skewed from decades of working for government, medical, or legal employers, but I don’t believe emails once. sent should ever be edited. Emails can be and are subpoenaed, so editing is problematic. Starting fresh may be prudent.

      If the writer, whether boss, colleague, customer, etc, writes something objectionable it is solely their problem and not a reflection on others in the string. Though in some cases, I might do as Janeric did and ask the writer for edits before forwarding. Of course, the original and edited versions are both discoverable or usable in CYA ways.

    2. JustaTech*

      For the second part I think it’s fine to take out the not relevant stuff, especially if you make it clear that you snipped out stuff, maybe by putting in the … to show that you removed stuff. Or you could say up front that the email you’re forwarding has been “edited for brevity”.

      As far as taking out the personal attacks, of course you don’t want to be forwarding that kind of stuff. Again, maybe you could quote the response from the supervisors so it’s clear to the person getting the email that they’re not seeing the whole thing?

      Or you could do the thing that I did when my Old Boss once asked me to send an email making an impossible request of people running a department I needed to stay on the good side of: I wrote the email (as the boss stood be hind me so I couldn’t slip in a note saying “I know this is nuts”) I watched the boss walk back to his office, and then I sprinted out the building and down the street to the other department’s office to beg forgiveness in person. (They were very kind and understood that *I* didn’t think this hairbrained scheme was a good idea.)

    3. Hydrangea*

      Think of it as only forwarding the relevant parts.

      There’s good reason to only forward on relevant information: It makes the email shorter (I frequently snip long email chains), so it’s more likely to be read all the way through; it makes clear which parts the recipient needs to act on, which makes it more likely that the recipient will actually act on them (see the first point about reading the whole thing); it keeps subsequent conversations focused; and lots of other reasons from good communication theory!

      The original is still around if it is ever needed for any reason.

      The original version is still around if it’s needed for any reason.

    4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I totally understand the need to edit in the situations you describe. I would edit before forwarding, but specify that I had edited out stuff that they didn’t need, for clarity.

  58. JHC*

    If LW#4 is responsible for her own payroll taxes, that means she would be paid for the part-time work as a 1099 contractor, where she had previously been a W2 employee. That smells to me like a ripe potential for misclassification. If her duties and tools post-layoff are essentially the same as they were pre-layoff, the DOL would undoubtedly look askance at the change of status. And if the company is still dictating her hours post-layoff, that seems to me an open-and-shut case of misclassification.

    It probably won’t bounce back on LW, but if she (or other ex-employees in the same situation) file for unemployment while working for the company as contractors, the company could get slapped with an audit and a nasty fine.

    1. LW4*

      I’m not in the US, so I don’t know if the repercussions would be the same as there, but I do get the feeling that the organization isn’t fully aware of all the implications of their offer. Or maybe they just don’t care much about what implications I face, it’s hard to say.

  59. LilPinkSock*

    #1, hiring managers should select the best candidate for the job, regardless of age. Suggesting otherwise is icky.

  60. Not Again!*

    #1: I wish Alison had taken the opportunity to correct the blatant ageism in this post. The implication that “older” people (40 and over according to the poster, not old at all really) are tech illiterate is simply false and offensive to us genuinely older folks (I’m over 60) who are very tech savvy. Heck, our IT Division Director is in his 60″s! Alison is correct that tech has been in the workplace for over thirty years so even older office workers have had to use it for a long time. It’s really ignorant to assume that an older person knows nothing of social media, come on already. There was one unsuitable candidate who was not unsuitable because of their age. That’s reductionist thinking. Not to mention that age discrimination is ILLEGAL.

    I enjoy AAM, but there is too much ageism here. Do better.

    1. EverythingIsInteresting*

      Amen! I’m pushing 65 and I’m by far the most technical person in my department. PCs hit the market in the early 1980s when I was in my 20s, and I’ve stayed current with tech ever since. I also know people in their 70s who have done the same, and people in their 80s who learned programming in the 1960s . Please do us all a favor and shelve the ageism. It seems that age is the only thing that’s still OK to marginalize and it isn’t. It’s rampant in the letters Alison receives, and it’s not called out enough. It’s enraging.

    2. Ginger Pet Lady*

      Yeah, my first thought was “Are they seriously asking if it is okay to commit wage discrimination?” and I was surprised Alison didn’t address that.
      And last week (in the open thread) someone asked how to get recruiters to leave them alone and the response from a commenter was “just tell them you’re over 50”
      Age discrimination is alive and well all around. Even here.

  61. Snail mail*

    LW2: I agree with the comments about your marketing manager, but would just add one more.

    Are you completely sure that snail mail/print ads are not the best marketing channels for your products?

    Because sometimes they still are.

    1. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

      Sometimes! Depends on your persona and target audience and they’re buyer journey.

      1. Snail mail*

        Exactly. Maybe the marketing manager actually does know what she’s on about.

        You can’t solve every marcomms problem with social media.

  62. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

    LW#1. I think you just got a hire who was poor fit for your needs overall and it has nothing to do with age. Either that, or the skills desired weren’t clearly articulated, or the person said they had experience they didn’t have. Not sure, but poor fit either way.

    I’m an older woman in marketing and I can assure you that I’m well versed in the latest marcom stack and social media platforms (though I don’t personally use all of them myself).

  63. AnonyMouse*

    OP1- As someone in the nonprofit industry, I feel like this is common, especially in marketing. Nonprofit (or a Board member or donor) suddenly wants Shiny New Trends. Nonprofit has NO idea what that actually entails. Then Nonprofit either (1) hires a trendy marketing expert from for-profit sector who doesn’t get the NGO world, or (2) looks for the same “connected”, 20+ years of experience Development-type leader who only knows traditional nonprofit marketing. Either way, often younger, poorly paid staff have to close the gaps – which is totally unfair. I feel like your real issue is with salary disparities and the fact that years of experience tend to be overvalued in this space. Push back on extra work given to you, and honestly, I’d try to get out.

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