my assigned mentor is younger and less experienced, I don’t want to do a department overnight, and more

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

1. I turned down another job because my company promised me a raise … and now they’re not giving it to me

I have been with the same company for five years. I have steadily worked my way up and been given more and more responsibility. However, due Covid and the “Great Resignation,” my company experienced significant staffing changes. I have always been fairly flexible and tried to adapt to any changes that came my way.

Due to staffing issues and various clients coming and going, my workload has fluctuated much more than anyone else’s on the team. Not only am I the least experienced, I am now being asked to clean up other files that were not in the best shape. As a result, I feel like I haven’t been able to get the training or experience I need to keep up with some of the other coworkers who have much more experience. In spite of this, I meet my goals and have had very good performance reviews.

Due to burnout and exhaustion from not having a solid caseload and always having to be the “clean up person,” I found and accepted another job. As soon as my employer found out, they offered me a significant pay raise which exceeded the already very generous offer from the new company. They promised to make some changes and adjust my caseload to make things more manageable. I happily agreed to this and told the new company that I was thankful for their offer but I would be staying where I am.

Barely a week later, my current supervisor advised that I am no longer getting the raise due to a company-wide hiring freeze.

I didn’t feel like it would have been professional to turn right around to the new company and ask for the job I had just turned down. So I am now out the raise from the current company, but I am also unable to accept the new job.

I understand that business is business and I hold no ill will towards my supervisor as I know she was just the messenger (she did her best and I appreciate her trying). However, what little motivation I did have is gone. Any advice would be appreciated! I don’t like not giving my best effort, but it’s also difficult not to feel resentful for the opportunities I’ve now lost out on.

This isn’t “business is business” — your company significantly screwed you over. They made a promise that you acted on to your detriment — and they knew that. This wasn’t a raise they offered out of the blue and then had to backtrack on; they offered you a raise specifically to prevent you from leaving when you’d announced you had taken another job, and they know that you were relying on their word when you turned down the other offer, and that you’re now left without the raise or the other job. They acted in bad faith; it’s a serious breach of trust.

You don’t have much to lose by going back to the other company now and seeing if the offer is still open — it might not be, but you might as well try. If it’s not, you should be actively job-searching, because your company has treated you incredibly poorly.

my company made a counter-offer to keep me — and now is attaching strings to it

2. My assigned mentor is younger and less experienced in our field

A few months ago, my company shifted me to a newly formed team. The transition has been difficult for many reasons, most important probably being that I don’t feel qualified/well suited for the position.

To aid with this, my new manager has proposed finding me a mentor, to help me navigate challenges (more on the approach/mentality side than strictly task-related). I was initially very excited by the prospect of having someone in the know to seek guidance from, and was mentally compiling a list of questions to start off with. However, I recently found out that the person they found is a few years younger than me and has less work experience than me in our field (but a higher position) and all my enthusiasm deflated.

This has me stumped. Is it wrong of me to see it as a faux pas to give someone a younger mentor? Especially since some of the issues we want to work on are my impostor syndrome and lack of faith in my own abilities. Frankly, I can hardly imagine a less suitable scenario for me to be able to do that.

I know I should try to keep an open mind and at least give it a try (which is what my manager suggested when I communicated my apprehension), but in my head, the dynamic has completely shifted, from aspirational to self flagellating. I can only picture myself with defenses fully up, instead of being able to be open and vulnerable.

Did your manager explain why they thought this particular person would be a good mentor? That’s what I’d want to know. But assuming they’re not right out of school, a few years younger is such a minor age difference that it’s basically non-existent. And they’re in a higher level position so it’s very possible they have useful skills or insights to impart.

So why not go into it with a spirit of inquiry? Your boss thinks this person has something to offer, so you might as well get curious about what that thing is and try to figure it out. If you meet with them a couple of times and don’t find it useful, you can go back to your boss at that point, but you’ll be better positioned to do that if you’ve given it a good-faith effort first.

3. I don’t want to do a department overnight

I work for a university auxiliary (think Housing, Dining, Recreation etc.). Our director, my immediate boss, has been here for two years. He’s … not excellent. There’s a lot of talk about transparency and respect and actions that don’t reflect those values.

He is big into assigning leadership books and management jargon and the like. He’s also instituted retreats, which we haven’t had before. At a meeting planning the retreat for employees at my level, we were discussing activities and he asked the group if anybody didn’t want to do an overnight portion. Silence.

I very much don’t want to have an overnight retreat. I like most of my coworkers and am warm and professional but am definitely an introvert. A day thing of bonding and activities would be okay. I know once a year won’t kill me, but I deeply don’t want to have a sleepover with these folks. It occurs during my busiest time of year, I have two small children, and frankly I just don’t wanna.

This will come up next year and I wonder if I should speak up if asked and be honest. I’m worried it will go poorly for me because this is very much my boss’s thing and he’s not great about pushback. But I can’t possibly be the only person who doesn’t want an overnight and maybe it would encourage other folks to speak up and we can get out of it. I raised the issue of my workload at the time and that was dismissed because most other folks aren’t busy then.

Yeah, you’re going to need to be more direct than citing your workload, because workload is a problem your boss will think he can solve for you. But it’s totally reasonable to say, “It’s not possible for me because of childcare responsibilities.” If you didn’t have that excuse, you could be vaguer: “It’s not possible for me because of commitments I have at home in the evenings” or “It would be very difficult, if not impossible, for me to do an overnight because of some family obligations I have right now” or so forth.

And getting coworkers to push back should help as well. It’s highly likely that you’re not the only one who’s unenthused about the idea.

(To be clear, there are jobs where occasional overnight travel is part of the job. But this sounds like unnecessary fluff and he’s directly asking if anyone dislikes the overnight portion — so you might as well speak up and say you do.)

Read an update to this letter. 

4. Using the word “cool” in a cover letter

Does using the word “cool” in a cover letter make me sound 12? I’ve attached my cover letter for a job I’m really, really hoping to get, and one line references doing work “telling people about cool things.” My thinking was that if the rest of the letter is very professional, that one word would convey enthusiasm, rather than immaturity. But the person I was talking to (giving a seminar on all parts of applying to jobs) suggested wording that sounded very formal and polysyllabic for that sentence, and said to not use “cool” because “you’re not 12.”

Don’t take any advice from that person. Using “cool” the way you’ve used it in your letter is fine. People use the word in offices every day, and they are in fact adults. “Cool” is a pretty unremarkable part of the language at this point. You shouldn’t write, like, “fucking badass,” but  “cool” in this context is completely fine.

5. Can I ask if a job is still open before I apply?

I am currently employed, but I’ve been doing some on and off job hunting over the past year. I’d probably say out of all the applications I have submitted, at least 25% of the job postings are removed within a day or two after submitting. While I understand this could mean many things, at the end of the day it is frustrating to invest time into a cover letter and resume for what is essentially a false lead. All of my resumes are tailored to be specific to the posting and I have a range of experience, so applications may be for different industries where some of my previous roles are not necessarily relevant. A templated resume is a good start, but it will always require at least some time investment to get it to final submission status. Lately it seems like when I’m in application mode, I typically work on 2-3 cover letters/resumes a week in between a full-time job and general life stuff.

Would it look out of touch for me to contact the company to ask if they are still looking to fill the position before I spend time working on a resume? Especially for jobs that have been posted for a while (and don’t have a closing date listed)? I get that it may just be timing as to when it was posted and they found a hire, but with multiple instances of almost immediate removal after I send in my application, it’s hard not to think that some of the websites just aren’t being updated in a timely manner.

It won’t look out of touch, but it also might not get you answers. A lot of employers just don’t respond to that kind of inquiry, or don’t respond until after the point when the answer would be useful to you. (And if jobs are closing quickly, there’s a good chance of them closing while you’re waiting to hear an answer back, thus making you miss the window when you could have applied.)

I think you’re worried that by the time you see the job, it’s already closed and when you submit an application, that’s what triggers them to remember they need to remove the post … but I’m skeptical about that accounting for most of it. It’s more likely that you’re seeing jobs that are only open for fairly short windows — not that your application is the thing that spurs them to take down the post.

I’d also look at how much tailoring you’re doing for each resume you submit. It sounds like you have a master resume that you delete things from that won’t be relevant — which is good — but that should be a fairly short project for each job. If you’re investing a lot of time in that for each application, you’re forgoing a lot of the benefits of keeping that kind of master resume, and that’s where I’d look for efficiencies.

{ 462 comments… read them below }

  1. Viki*

    #2 Age, and years of experience in one industry doesn’t mean that someone who is younger, but in a higher position are inexperienced.

    I became a director (two steps below VP) when I was twenty-eight, something I had earned and worked hard for, and was put in a position of managing a team of people who spanned from early twenties, to the age of my father.

    Being so much younger than my direct reports had me dealing with my own imposter syndrome, and faith of my own abilities, especially being a woman in tech, and not white. It was a very hard battle to remember that all this work I had done, had made me incredibly qualified for this position, which I’ve excelled at over the years and built out an incredibly successful department.

    That mentor might know a lot more about imposter syndrome than you can think of.

    1. allathian*


      I suggest approaching this with an open mind and a willingness to learn from a younger person.

      1. Random Dice*


        Someone who’s younger but at a higher position will likely have more to impart… especially if not a white man.

        1. kittybutton*

          Yes!! I came here to say this. I’m guessing from the fact that a few years age difference is noted by the OP that they are probably in their 20s or 30s. That means this mentor is someone who has risen through the ranks more quickly than average and probably has a lot to contribute. I would take this opportunity to learn from her!

    2. New Mom*

      I second this, but from the opposite end. I worked abroad, went to graduate school and then didn’t return to the US and start my first full-time domestic role until I was 29. That meant that the people in similar roles to me were all 22-27, and six months after I turned 30 my bosses boss mentioned he was about to turn 30. I learned so much from him, and my peers and boss. We had very different work experiences, and I was newer to the type of work that they had been doing for a long time.

      I also signed up for a mentoring program through an external organization and the first mentor I had was a lot older than me and literally spent every session just talking about themselves and complaining about their company, and I didn’t learn much. My second mentor was probably 2-3 years younger than me but had more experience in the field and was so helpful, and connected me with lots of resources.

      I think the only way this is a mismatch is if you are underdeveloped in X-skill, and they pair you with a mentor that is even less apt in X-skill. It’s one of those situations where it’ll only be weird if you make it weird.

      1. allathian*

        Definitely. Don’t let the age difference stand in your way of learning from this mentor, LW.

        I suspect that younger mentors are becoming more common, especially among career switchers.

      2. Jackalope*

        This is an important point. If you have more experience in area J, but the mentor is experienced in area K, then they may be well-poised to teach you about area K.

        I get the weirdness with having someone younger and with fewer years in your area of expertise. I’ve decided that I don’t want to go into management, which means that I will have people younger than me managing me. I’m in fact slightly weirded out by the fact that a new manager in my office is someone I mentored years ago when they were new and I’d been around for awhile back in another office. It’s been quite awhile and we’ve gone different directions with our careers, and I’m happy for her that she got this position (and have done my best to support her), but it’s still a bit odd. But that’s part of work life, and I definitely did NOT want her job so I’m happy that she has it instead.

        1. Jay (no, the other one)*

          I had a phone interview with the boss for my last job. I’m a doc and I was in my 50s, recovering from burnout, and looking for a job where I could do only clinical work until I retired. I thought the boss’s name sounded familiar and figured it was just a common name (it kind of is). Then the voice was also familiar, and about five minutes in I said “I know this is a weird question, but do I know you?” Turned out I was his supervisor for part of his residency. He hired me and when I started he told the team I had been his teacher. It clearly weirded him out for a while. Didn’t bug me at all – he knew the company and the team and had more experience with this type of practice. It took a month or so for the weirdness to evaporate, and then it was great. Turned out he was the best boss I’ve ever had.

        2. Jessica*

          My teammates recommend mentors for *specific things* and I love that. It’s not “here, this person knows everything about everything and you should learn at their feet!” It’s “hey, this person knows a lot about working with X team and can help you navigate their byzantine processes.”

          None of us are experts on everything.

          But LW2 mentions that the transition to this team has been difficult for them, so I suspect that their mentor was assigned to them because the mentor *understands the team well*, which doesn’t have much to do with age or experience, as opposed to people skills.

          If you can accept that everyone has something to teach you, and that doesn’t say anything about your own value or intelligence or wisdom or whatever, I think you’ll be a lot happier. Choose curiosity.

      3. Hannah Lee*

        I’m wondering if OP could benefit from reframing the relationship.
        Yes, mentor-mentee implies that the first has a pool of wisdom, experience the second could learn from. But if LW approaches the relationship with the idea that this person could be a sounding board, someone that LW can seek guidance from, but also discuss work, career things as peers they may find they get more out of it. Because even if this other person doesn’t technically have *more* experience than OP, they may just have *different* experience that OP could draw on. And conversely, OP may have experience this mentor doesn’t have that they might find useful.

        Depending on OP’s age, there may be some carry over from when they were younger, in school, where others are authorities imparting wisdom, knowledge, guidance and OP receiving. But if the mentor is bright, communicative and has some experience they might be a valuable collegial resource for a mutually rewarding professional relationship. At the very least, they may have access to more information on company strategy, upcoming projects and changes, given their higher position and they and OP may have completely different networks of contacts, resources, which could benefit both of them.

        As New Mom says, if there is a particular skill OP’s looking to build that this other person is also week in, it might not work. But otherwise, it may be worth giving it a try.

        1. D'Arcy*

          I disagree with this idea of “reframing” because it validates the OP’s irrational belief that someone younger *can’t possibly* have wisdom and experience to contribute, even though that younger person has *already* demonstrated dramatically superior job performance to have earned their way into a position of higher rank. Moreover, their their boss specifically selected this person as a mentor on the basis of the very wisdom and experience that OP believes they can’t have.

          1. PandaPia*

            I agree, the idea that a younger person doesn’t have wisdom to share seems flawed. This person has grown in the company and has some measure of success that can be shared. And they have some knowledge that OP’s boss thinks is important.

    3. Heidi*

      I’ve been having some trouble pinning down why the OP thinks a younger mentor would not be able to help with their imposter syndrome and faith in their abilities. Is it because the OP doesn’t think the prospective mentor has the knowledge/experience to judge if the OP is really lacking in ability or not? Does it undermine their faith in themselves more because they aren’t as high up in their career despite being older? Or is it something else?

      1. takeachip*

        OP may find it awkward to be vulnerable to a younger person in a more senior role. I know we “shouldn’t” feel this way but when disclosing highly personal information, the shoulds kind of go out the window. I’ve referred a few employees to our Employee Assistance Program and the ones over 50 sometimes want to make sure they’re getting a counselor their age or older. It’s like the first time you go to a doctor and they’re younger than you; sure they went to med school and may very well be more up to date with certain types of information & procedures than an older doctor, but it still feels weird. It’s counter to our social programming where we assume authority and age are correlated.

        1. Pogo*

          I felt this way as an early 30-something, mostly because I myself felt really young! Now that I’m well into my 40’s I accept the fact that there are people much younger than me fully functioning as adults, and it’s actually easier as I embrace middle age. Like “I am still a child how is this person younger than me a dr?” I kind of felt that way watching sports too! Like as a kid all these athletes seem so old, but…I’m at the age where everyone is glued to their sets watching younger people. And also, up until you are about 25, everyone IS always older than you. Of course authority seems to match up with age, but once everyone is an adult, that changes.

          1. New Mom*

            I relate to this so much! I was a teacher until 27 and the corporate world seemed so grownup and intimidating to me. When I entered it I had my mind blown that 21/22 year olds could enter the corporate world and were fully competent.

            I was in a meeting in my first few months and I was really struggling to keep up with all the new concepts, jargon, and moving deliverables and there was a guy younger than me who referenced his “five years in the industry” and I did a double-take.

      2. Allonge*

        To be honest – while the fact that the mentorship should be about approach is fine, the planned focus on impostor syndrome and lack of faith in abilities surprised me. Is this even a proper and/or realistic thing for a mentor/mentee relationship to be about?

        But if it is, why would the mentor being younger be an issue? If they are a known quantity, approach to work and a healthy perception of abilities is even less connected to age than technical skills.

        1. Sloanicota*

          I agree that tackling imposter syndrome and confidence might be better for a therapist than an office mentor. And if your therapist is younger than you, OP, that’s okay too.

        2. HR Development*

          “Is this even a proper and/or realistic thing for a mentor/mentee relationship to be about?”

          Absolutely. Mentorships are great for career development and interpersonal navigation, this falls under both of those umbrellas.

        3. Claire*

          I would absolutely expect a mentor to help with mindset issues like imposter syndrome. This is such a common issue that arises in professional settings, especially among women. It can absolutely get in the way of things like asking for promotions. I would actually be hesitant to have a mentor who didn’t understand this stuff.

          1. Allonge*

            I agree that it would be important for mentors to be aware of imposter syndrome, but it’s a bit too much to expect – in general! – that all mentors should be. Obviously for a personal choice it’s perfectly reasonable.

            But I would not expect even trained therapists to be necessarily in-depth familiar with imposter syndrome, let alone random teapot engineers.

      3. Irish Teacher.*

        I interpreted it as a younger person being in a higher position and giving them advice contributed to their feeling that they were not good enough and wouldn’t help them feel competent because a part of them would be thinking, “well, if you’re right that I’m good at my job, how come I need mentoring from somebody younger than me,” which wouldn’t be really rational, but then imposter syndrome isn’t.

      4. Rachel*

        It’s at least possible the contributor is falling back on a the “age means wisdom” link that is…well, unfortunately, not really true at all.

        But it is a common form of “ism” that is socially acceptable.

      5. LW#2*

        You hit the nail on the head.

        Part of my concern is that they don’t have enough life experience to be able to advise me and offer me perspective. That part might’ve been presumptuous, but it has certainly proven to be correct so far.

        The other part is that I had hoped to feel inspired and motivated by my mentor’s achievements. To see it as “look where you can be when you get to their age and experience level”. But instead it’s more like “look where you could’ve been by now if you’d been/done more x/y/z”, which is not particularly helpful or motivating. It’s a reminder of the fact that I have not progressed in my career as fast as I had hoped.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          With the caveat that I don’t know your industry, I’m not sure these statements about age +actions = status by a certain year are at all true. They are true when we are in school and there are defined markers and concrete actions to fulfil by each year or you get “held back” but the same thinking doesn’t apply to most jobs. In the working world no one is paying attention to your age (if it’s a healthy workplace) and the filling of positions is always unique and down to all sorts of random factors. I don’t think the aim of a mentor was ever about “look where you can be by their age/experience level” but “this is someone familiar with your chosen path and any problems you might encounter”. Also it’s unlikely to be a case of “look where you could be now if you had done x, y and z” because there is no set x, y, z formula which is going to guarantee you a role usually. I think it’s accepted that career paths aren’t linear and each post is so unique that sometimes they want a personality as opposed to skills, sometimes you want outside the industry experience, or the complete opposite. Though maybe paths are linear with dated targets in your industry? The fact you want to progress higher and faster is an absolutely valid desire – I just don’t think anyone else is looking at it that way.

          1. Lady Danbury*

            This is all great advice. There as so many variables that are beyond our control that can contribute to career advancement, especially in the early stages. For examples, having a manager who is committed to your development and actively promoting you to those of greater power/influence can make a HUGE difference in your career. And having that kind of manager is something that you have no control over, no matter how great you are.

        2. AlsoADHD*

          It sounds like mentorship won’t really help those issues you have, though. I mean, it might help if you opened your mind to varied perspectives with the first but the second is a weird ask for mentorship, I think. A mentor isn’t usually a potential example of you a few years down the road (which seems to be what you’re looking for?) — they are someone with a specific skill set you need support in or general professional knowledge (here, seems more specific) to support and help you for free and informally. I’d say in terms of mindset, it sounds like this person has advanced well and that demonstrates they can cope with changing roles and even challenges to their expertise (they have “only” X experience, they’re young, etc, and they likely withstand those challenges externally and any self doubt related internally) and could be a model for you in that.

          1. The Shenanigans*

            Yes reading what the OP said, I’m wondering if they have had a conversation with their manager about the purpose of this. It may be that the manager has a completely different idea of what mentorship within the company means, and that the goals are actually completely in line with things the OP can learn right now.

            That is, if they can let go of the idea that younger and more accomplished is a threat vs a help. That will need a different, professional therapy sort of relationship to deal with. Imposter syndrome is a horrible feeling that can poison all kinds of things, including relationships with others when it turns outward in judgment. I don’t know that any mentor relationship, with someone older or younger, will work well right now because of that, tbh.

        3. Jade*

          This won’t work for you because you’ve already decided this person has nothing to offer.

          1. Lydia*

            Based on what the LP said in their comment, this isn’t fair nor is it helpful. In addition, the LP states that one of their worries was the mentor’s potential lack of life experience, which has, in fact, been an issue. Having a mentor who doesn’t have any of your same experiences isn’t very helpful, which is why mentorship programs need to be careful about who they match.

            1. Spero*

              You’re making the same assumption as the LW – just because the person is a few years younger does not mean they don’t have life experience! It may mean they didn’t have it AT THE SAME TIME as the LW or typical age but it doesn’t mean they don’t have it. Ex by the time I was 35 I’d already had the life experiences of losing a child and my parents – I have coworkers in their 50s who just went through those things and came to me for guidance. Another coworker who is in her 60s just graduated from the same program I did 12 years ago so when my intern had questions about grad school I sent her to the coworker because her experience was more recent even though she’s older. Another coworker is several years younger but has a child several years older, so I go to her for ‘parenting x age’ life experience all the time. Life experiences are not on a linear timeline.

            2. The Shenanigans*

              I disagree that a mentor needs to have the same experiences. I tend to learn more from people very different to myself, in fact.

              1. Lydia*

                There’s a reason we want women to mentor women and BIPOC people to mentor BIPOC people. They don’t have to have the same exact experience as you, but you have to be able to start somewhere that overlaps. The LW has said in the very comment thread you’re in that they don’t.

            3. Pierrot*

              I think it’s a bit presumptuous to assume that a younger mentor would inherently have less “life experience,” depending on how you define that phrase. I’ve known and worked with people of a range of ages and I’ve found that age does not necessarily correlate with relevant life experience and that I probably won’t know much about a person’s life experience until I have gotten to know them (and even then, it depends on what they share).
              Even outside of work contexts, my assumptions about peoples’ life experiences haven’t always been accurate. Also, we don’t know how much younger this colleague actual is. If it’s 5 years younger, that doesn’t seem like a tremendous difference to me. I just started a new job and my predecessor who trained me was 24 and got the job right out of college but she had a lot of great advice to share with me beyond the training materials. Ultimately with LW’s mentor, I think it will come down to the mentor’s actual personality and approach to mentoring rather than age.

        4. Catwhisperer*

          Maybe instead of “look where you could’ve been by now if you’d been/done more x/y/z”, you should think of it as “hey this person has skills that let them take a shortcut that I didn’t know about. knowing that information will be helpful to speed up progressing in the future.”

          It seems like right now you’re being dismissive of someone else’s strengths just because they’re not the same as yours. Learning from people more successful than you is an important factor in actually being successful and there’s really not a lot of difference in, say, a 40 year old saying “I did X by the time I was 25” and a 29 years old saying “I did X by the time I was 25.” Both people accomplished something by a young age, the explanation of how they did that shouldn’t bear more weight from the 40 year old just because they’re older.

          And sure, maybe this person is giving you generic information because they don’t know what you need, but it’s on you to explain what you’re looking for. No one can read your mind, regardless of their age, and it’s only until everyone in this situation has all the information they need that a true determination can be made about whether this will be helpful or not.

          Don’t let your insecurities shoot you in the foot.

        5. metadata minion*

          Are there any professional organizations in your area where you might be able to find a mentor that fits your needs better in terms of an aspirational figure? Then you can focus on getting the very real advice that this younger person almost certainly has. I understand the discomfort that can come from seeing someone who has achieved the things you want and done it faster than you’ve been able to, I really do. But maybe interacting with your new mentor can be a way to get past that discomfort?

        6. Colette*

          Would you change what they have (i.e. their job) if you had to take their entire life, including the challenges you don’t know about?

          Life – and careers – are not a race; not everyone is going to the same destination, and even those who are will get there by different paths.

          And fundamentally, I don’t think it’s a mentor’s job to motivate or inspire you; their job is to help you navigate work challenges, so I wonder if your expectations were out of step with what is reasonable to expect from a mentoring relationship.

        7. Well...*

          I think this is a good time to highlight that mentorship involves a degree of personality match, and sometimes people just don’t click. If you feel like the vibe is off, I don’t know if it’s worth your time to force it. If you feel like you gave it an honest try and it’s not helpful, move on. Your time is valuable, invest it in resources that actually work for you.

          And don’t listen to noise in the comments blaming your attitude or whatever. Judge for yourself whether you’ve been sincere in your attempt to make this work, and whether you think more sincere engagement is going to yield better results.

          1. Observer*

            I think this is a good time to highlight that mentorship involves a degree of personality match, and sometimes people just don’t click. If you feel like the vibe is off, I don’t know if it’s worth your time to force it.

            That’s true regardless of why this is the case. But it might be useful to the OP to think about what the problem really is so that when they talk to their manager about finding another mentor, they can come up with something more useful and concrete.

            Judge for yourself whether you’ve been sincere in your attempt to make this work, and whether you think more sincere engagement is going to yield better results.

            The thing is that sincerity is not the issue here. If the OP has unrealistic expectations of a mentorship, they are unlikely to get what they need from any mentorship. And even more reasonable expectations are unlikely to be met if they prejudge people on non-relevant criteria. So, it’s really important for them to think this through.

            1. Well...*

              I don’t know, I feel like no mentor is better than a bad mentor. I hold mentors to a pretty high standard, one that some people might say is unrealistic. But I am happy not to waste my time having to sit through and then navigate the fallout when people with more power than me give me bad advice (and take it personally if I don’t follow it). I have built my career on hanging on tightly to my good collaborators/mentors and aggressively distancing myself from the bad ones.

              I also think you’re jumping on ageism as if it’s coloring LW’s judgement far more than it actually is.

              1. Allonge*

                I totally agree that OP should not hang on to this relationship just to prove a point, but they literally decided that it will not work – that it’s inappropriate even – based on the age of the person. At least that is what the letter is about.

                Which I have some issues with, but I am an internet stranger, it’s no skin off my nose. Nobody needs a mentor like we need oxygen or food, OP can totally make that call.

                But if OP wants a mentoring relationship, it might not be a bad idea to think about it realistically. And that includes the fact that people younger than us can teach us things and people older than us are not necessarily better advisors.

                And that this attitude may not reflect well on OP at work.

              2. Observer*

                I don’t know, I feel like no mentor is better than a bad mentor.

                That’s true. And I’m not suggesting that the OP stick with a mentor that isn’t going to help them. I’m suggesting that they think this through and adjust how they talk about it as well, to improve their chances of getting a mentor who will be useful to them. Also, to figure out if the choice(s) they get offered are actually worth it.

                I don’t know how much it’s coloring their judgement, but it is having some effect if that’s the main thing they complained about when they first sent their letter in. Regardless, if it’s coloring their judgement at all, it’s not serving them well (as well as being unfair). And even if it’s not coloring their judgement, it IS coloring how they speak about it, and that is also certainly not going to serve them well. Not in regards to the mentorship issue, but also in how they interact in the workplace.

        8. Lizard on a Chair*

          To me that sounds more life coaching than professional mentoring. I don’t think a company mentor is primarily meant to inspire and impart wisdom. They’re there to help you learn about the work, perhaps improving soft skills, navigating office politics, etc. Is it possible your expectations are misaligned with your boss’s, leading to the perceived mismatch here?

          1. Bookmark*

            Yeah, when I was really struggling with imposter syndrome at a job, I didn’t need a mentor (even though I had some informal ones) to overcome it. I needed a therapist to work through why I’m so relentlessly self-critical and come up with some different strategies. It wouldn’t have been appropriate to ask that of a professional mentor, but it has ended up being hugely helpful in advancing my career. Something else for the OP to consider.

        9. Observer*

          The other part is that I had hoped to feel inspired and motivated by my mentor’s achievements. To see it as “look where you can be when you get to their age and experience level”.

          What does that have to do with mentorship? The role of a mentor is not to “inspire” although there are mentors who happen to accomplish that. If you want inspiration, you need to find someone yourself, not expect your boss to assign someone to you.

          Part of my concern is that they don’t have enough life experience to be able to advise me and offer me perspective. That part might’ve been presumptuous, but it has certainly proven to be correct so far.

          I have two thoughts on this. Firstly, as others have noted, there seems to be a real possibility of a self fulfilling prophecy. You went into this relationship with the assumption that your assigned mentor couldn’t be useful to you, so it’s not surprising that you aren’t getting anything useful. Now it could be that this person is actually not good mentor material, but I have to wonder. Because the other piece is that you are talking about their life experience providing context. Which I’m not sure is where you should be going with this, anyway. This mentorship is almost certainly not about your general development, or even your general career development, but development in this role and company. Does your mentor really have nothing to give you in that respect?

          1. Well...*

            This is so speculative though! You’re imagining all these qualities in LW’s assigned mentor that we have no idea are actually present. If it’s not working out for LW, I say they move on. Sure, maybe on some micro level bias is changing the scales a bit, but should LW force a bad fit mentorship relationship just to unlearn their own biases? I’d be annoyed if I was wasting my time mentoring someone who was only doing it to prove a point to themselves about how not discriminatory they are. It’s not like mentorship is a high-value thing to put on your resume… I don’t know if this is the hill to die on for equality.

            Also like… if someone says a mentor has nothing to offer, or whatever they offer isn’t worth the time investment, that’s more often true than false in my experience. Don’t waste your time.

            1. PandaPia*

              If the mentorship has some focus on imposter syndrome then possibly? LWs internal bias could also be influencing their imposter syndrome, and confronting(internally) why they think this younger mentor cannot offer advice and really listening(with a critical ear) to what the mentor says might help with the root causes of the imposter syndrome.

              But also maybe not!

        10. Totally Minnie*

          Gently, LW, I think you’re being a little unfair here, both to your potential mentor and to yourself. You’re really focused on comparing your own career trajectory to that of your potential mentor, and that’s not particularly healthy. I spent years on the “reach X achievement by 30, Y achievement by 35” track, because that’s what other people in the industry I was in seemed to do. And it burned me out in a way I haven’t yet recovered from. Career paths aren’t one size fits all. You don’t need someone to emulate in deciding what your future will be, you need to take stock of what you want for yourself and make a plan that fits who you are and what you want, and that’s going to be outside the scope of a professional mentorship.

          I would recommend taking a couple of meetings with the mentor to see what they think would be useful for you to know. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out, but don’t dismiss them out if hand because their experience is different from yours; that’s the whole point of having a mentor in the first place.

        11. Eldritch Office Worker*

          “Part of my concern is that they don’t have enough life experience to be able to advise me and offer me perspective. That part might’ve been presumptuous, but it has certainly proven to be correct so far.”

          It is presumptuous, and the fact that you haven’t found their advice or guidance to be personally helpful doesn’t mean that they “don’t have enough life experience to advise you or offer you perspective”.

          OP this is cleanest case of confirmation bias I’ve read on this website in a really long time. This mentorship may not be a good match for you, that’s fine, but you are basing the reasons for that on factors you decided would be an issue before you ever gave it a chance.

          You ask if your company committed a faux pas by assigning you a younger mentor – no. They didn’t.

        12. Qwerty*

          It sounds like you need a trained therapist more than a mentor for the types of issues that you want to work through. A work mentor is there to give some advice and guidance, hence why the initial plan was for this mentor to teach you about how to approach challenges. Right now it sounds like your approach has been to make up your mind that this mentor has nothing to offer you, therefore it will likely become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

          You are trying to have it both ways – you say this mentor does not have enough experience despite achieiving a higher rank in less time, BUT they also fail as a mentor because you find their achievements at a younger age demoralizing and they somehow reflect badly on you.

          I was a team lead/manager in my early 20s and a director at 30. There was a high correlation in employees older than me on who could accept my leadership/mentorship and who did well in the department. The people who focused on my age often had other performance issues and used the age argument as an excuse. I have successful mentored people who had 10-20yrs more experience than. I’ve had direct reports (at least a decade older) turn down being transferred to much more prestigious/accomplished VPs because they said I was the best mentor they had. I’ve had two-way mentorship relationships with CEOs and VPs because they felt we could be helpful to each other. If a CEO thinks he can learn from a woman less than half his age, can you not learn something from someone a few years younger than you?

          Re-examine your claim that it is wrong to give someone a mentor who is younger than them and think about how that could be implemented. By that logic, your workplace should engage in age discrimination. Do you really support that? Mentoring is a part of most experienced roles like senior contributors, manager, director, etc. For a company to always give an older mentor, they would need to also have both lower and upper age limits on roles.

          1. Elsewise*

            There was a high correlation in employees older than me on who could accept my leadership/mentorship and who did well in the department. The people who focused on my age often had other performance issues and used the age argument as an excuse.

            I’ve seen this too! I was an assistant director at 24. I managed several people older than me who were a little taken aback by my age (I also look much older than I am), but were willing to accept my leadership- and yes, mentorship. They were, by and large, great employees. There were others who had a problem with my age, and typically they also had a problem with their performance.

            I even interviewed a woman once who took time to complain about those darn millennials and talk openly about how she refused to work with anyone in their 20s, with a big wink wink nudge nudge “you get it, right”. She did not get the job.

          2. Greg*

            I came in at 31 as the GM of a business that had a broad spectrum of ages and experience levels. I was brought in because the hard skills of the organization (product knowledge, delivery efficiency, etc) were fantastic, but the soft skills (people management and development in particular) left a lot to be desired. I had a few team members who did not respond well and dug their heels in. “Who is this young kid and what does he have to offer me?” They…didn’t last long.

            On the other hand, I had a few very long tenured people who actively sat back and learned from me while also asking for the respect their age and experience deserved. I learned a ton from them and they learned a lot from me. My #2 guy had been in the business longer than I had been alive and could have been incredibly bitter that he got passed over. Instead, he stayed open to me and when I moved to a different organization within the business he stayed and became the new GM…and is killing it!

        13. Pogo*

          You really don’t know that though. You have no idea what people’s experiences are, and, even if you don’t have a particular experience, some people are just more inciteful, have better self awareness, and are extremely good socially.
          I’ve honestly had some of the worst employees who were older. Sure, they had “years of experience” but it wasn’t good enough. it didn’t matter their age, it was them.

        14. Just a thought*

          Keep in mind, by being in a higher position they might have a lot more exposure work related situations than you get by age or just own personal experience. They also might have been part of different committees or working groups that might provide valuable insight.

          You don’t necessarily need them to have their own first hand experience to share. In fact a lot of times, those first hand experiences also come with very specific situational experiences that might make it impossible for your to replicated. Whereas someone who has experience seeing the results for 4-8 people in a similar role as you might be able to provide feedback that is more applicable.

        15. Jessica*

          “The other part is that I had hoped to feel inspired and motivated by my mentor’s achievements. To see it as “look where you can be when you get to their age and experience level”. But instead it’s more like “look where you could’ve been by now if you’d been/done more x/y/z”, which is not particularly helpful or motivating. It’s a reminder of the fact that I have not progressed in my career as fast as I had hoped.”

          That’s something you might want to take to therapy, because it’s absolutely not the fault or failing of your mentor. It is very much a prejudice–and one that is maybe understandable, but not rational–on your part. It’s completely possible to be inspired by the success of people who are younger than you are!

          Other people aren’t having their success *at* you. Other people’s success isn’t a referendum on your achievements or qualifications or whatever. It’s not about you at all.

          And, you know, if you stopped framing this as a problem with your mentor, I’d be sympathetic to “I already have imposter syndrome, and seeing a younger person who’s already achieved more than I have is making it worse.”

          But you’re framing your own insecurity and jealousy as somehow a failing on the part of your mentor, and you’re right in that your prejudice against them is probably not something they can help you overcome, nor should they be put in the position of having to deal with it. This is the sort of problem therapy was made for.

          1. LW#2*

            I agree that my prejudices are not the mentor’s responsibility to navigate, which is what I’m trying to avoid.
            I will, however, clarify that at no point did I blame the mentor for the pairing mismatch, and people are definitely projecting their own experiences onto my supposed treatment or opinion of them.

      6. Roeslein*

        For the first couple of years after my PhD and leaving academia for big consulting I was working alongside people 4-5 years younger (I eventually “caught up”) and being 27 in an entry-level job and reporting to people who were 25 or so (this was the UK so not unusual) definitely undermined my confidence, like I had somehow failed to progress to a more “appropriate” level for my age. It’s not rational.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          It makes sense that that might pop up after leaving academia*, because so many academic programs are tracked, meaning peer groups move up and progress together within programs at roughly the same pace, so someone who is older than those around them might be seen as slower or having missed a milestone their age-peers had hit.

          *and moving from academia to big consulting might make that worse, because IME, that was a very “up or out” environment. People who come in new might do a couple of tours at a junior or analyst level, but it’s expected that they will move up to project manager or other senior position after a few rounds. And those who don’t aren’t celebrated and kept on as the best darn analyst ever, even if they love the work and are great at it … they are encouraged to move along.

        2. I have RBF*

          I changed fields radically in my mid-30s. To tech, which doesn’t trust anyone over 30. I regularly ended up working with and for people much younger than I am. But often they had more experience in the field than I do. It’s evening out a little bit – but only because I’ve been in my current career for over 25 years!

    4. GythaOgden*

      Yup. My boss once had to ask someone for assistance because he couldn’t rent a van until he was 25. He was amazing in every other respect and really kind and helpful — he helped me through a number of tough times, understood neurodivergence a lot more than my older colleagues did (he disclosed his own anxiety in order to reassure me he understood what I was going through, and I pretty much relied on him to get me through the period during and after my husband’s battle with cancer) and is just one of those people who make those kind of waves when they’re young. He was just enthusiastic about his job, in the right place at the right time and able to take on much more responsibility than his age suggested. He stayed with our previous organisation when things shifted around in public healthcare facilities, but as we diverged, he offered me a job back with the ‘mothership’. I didn’t apply — wrong fit — but I was honoured when he was proactive at helping smooth the transition and thoughtful enough to understand our frustration at having to shift organisations.

      I also now have a mentor who is my own age but far above me in the hierarchy. I’m not particularly ambitious but I need a bit of help being seen as something other than a receptionist to get something less soul-crushingly boring. The senior recruitment guy I spoke to the other day looked relatively young, certainly 40 or under. At my age, I have to understand that my bosses might well be a bit younger — and it doesn’t bother me at all because everyone I’ve seen promoted is worthy of the job or grown into it, and I chose to stay in the crawler lane because of my health issues.

      Age is just a number. Some people move through the ranks very quickly. Others like me take the scenic route. Bristling at it will only ever hurt you rather than them.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, I’m 50+ and both my current manager and her predecessor are about a decade younger than I am, and they’re tied for the best boss I’ve ever had. But both of them knew at a fairly early stage in their respective careers that they wanted to go into management, whereas I knew that I didn’t.

    5. Striped Badger*

      The problem is that the OP is judging their mentor based on years worked, rather than considering the experience those years have brought.

      I would hope that that mentality is a part of the OP’s imposter syndrome. But I think that by everyone focusing on the fact this mentor can advise on imposter syndrome specifically, rather than the technical details of their field, the skills and experiences of positions like this one, and even in adapting to the new team… – well, everyone’s falling into the same mindtrap as OP2.

      And that does this mentor a great disservice.

      Imposter syndrome is certainly something I think the OP2 can use help with. I don’t believe that just because their mentor is younger and has fewer years in this specific field, that it’s the only thing they offer.

      1. Wings*

        This is so important. If a person has (let’s say) twenty years of experience, it does make a difference whether those twenty years were progressive experience or whether they just repeated (essentially) one year twenty times over. It seems that a slightly younger person with slightly less experience (measured in years) but in a more senior position might still have relevant experience for LW to draw upon. Or they might not but the relevant age and years worked won’t be a factor on that.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          I’ve been learning a ton from a colleague who is very junior to me age-wise and in years-of-experience, and has been given a position higher than mine, because her experience is completely different to anyone else in our field. Since Covid, we have had more contact with her field of expertise than ours, so it made a kind of sense – but I didn’t think she could improve my core skills or perspective about our main field that much. I was dead wrong about that and some of my takes on key matters have done a 180. The things you can learn from surprising quarters will never fail to amaze me.

        2. Helewise*

          This is really important. Some people pack a lot of life experience into very few years – and vice versa.

      2. Lady Danbury*

        I don’t think that people are saying that imposter syndrome is the only thing that the mentor can help with. We’re focusing on it because it’s something that OP raised as an issue that she’d like to work through. I’m sure this mentor has a wealth of experience/expertise that OP can benefit from.

      3. Lydia*

        The LW also specifically calls out life experience. There are a lot of comments on what a mentor is supposed to be and not be, and strangely enough, the comments here contradict a lot of previous comments on what a mentor is supposed to be and not be. This is only an example, but if you are a person with children and had to delay your career by a few years, being mentored by someone who doesn’t have any children and doesn’t understand that experience doesn’t feel like it would be very helpful. That doesn’t mean the LW can’t learn anything from the other person, but it also doesn’t mean the LW has to make it work if they don’t feel like it’s a good match.

        1. Lucky Meas*

          “if you are a person with children and had to delay your career by a few years, being mentored by someone who doesn’t have any children and doesn’t understand that experience doesn’t feel like it would be very helpful”

          This is bizarre to me. If you want mentoring about balancing work and childcare then sure. But if you want mentoring in literally any other aspect of your job, why would the mentor have to have your exact same experience? Isn’t the point of a mentor to learn from someone else’s perspective?

          A mentor isn’t you-in-10-years time traveling to today to give you advice!

    6. Earlk*

      The person who helped me most in my career was about 4 years younger than me (and we were both in our 20s!)

    7. Your Local Password Resetter*

      In addition, LW themselves said that they are in a new role and struggling to perform. They don’t feel qualified or suited to their role.
      The mentor is an expert in your current role, which means they can help you adjust and grow into it. You may have a lot of experience, but if that experience was all you needed then you wouldn’t be struggling right now.

      1. KateM*

        And in addition to your addition, OP themselves said “more on the approach/mentality side than strictly task-related”, which makes perfect sense to be mentored about after joing a new team, and that even if the mentor would be junior in task-related side.

    8. LW#2*

      I hear you and absolutely agree that a manager can be younger than the people they supervise, and that has no impact on their ability to do so successfully.

      Maybe I should’ve added a bit more context to my situation.

      The person they assigned to me has no managerial background, they’re another technical person, so we have the same job title, but they’re a senior. They have about 5 years of experience and I have around 10. They have no mentorship experience, and were chosen because they offered, not because my manager thought them particularly suited to help me.

      Knowing that the person I would be talking to would have no people managing experience, I was left banking on their life experience. That’s why I was dismayed to get someone in their 20s.

      We had an initial meeting and, as I suspected, their advice was very generic and focused more on the technical side. I tried my hardest not to feel patronized, but I do not feel like I had much to gain from the interaction. I will however, give it some more time until I go back to my manager.

      1. Rachel*

        The detail that they were selected because they offered is significantly more important than their age.

        1. Observer*

          Yes. And if / when you talk to your manager, *that* is what you should be bringing up. Also, that their advice was too generic and didn’t address your specific issues. Although it your issue was “inspiration” you need to look elsewhere than a mentor from within your company.

          Don’t even mention the age. It really is not relevant.

        2. KateM*

          I imagine it was asked in a team chat “hey we are getting this new guy, who wants to mentor them?” and this person volunteered. That’s how it seem to happen where I work.

        3. Bookmark*

          yep. This just doesn’t seem to be a very well thought through mentorship program on your company/manager’s part. Being a mentor is a career development thing for mid-career people, so I’m not surprised that your coworker jumped on the opportunity when it was presented. But mentorships are most functional when either there’s a really good match between the person’s experience and the insight/etc the mentee is looking for, or when the mentorship is a more nuts and bolts thing (a former company had an onboarding buddy system that was more about having someone out of your chain of command you could ask questions about how things worked at the org, and someone else to help make connections and make sure onboarding tasks didn’t fall through the cracks). I think it makes sense to give it a little longer try and then approach your manager. One face saving option is to frame it as something like appreciating their time and advice, and that you’ve learned what you can from them in this formal mentorship setting. I would echo the other suggestions here that I’d look outside the workplace for better support on imposter syndrome. Is there a professional association or local chapter you could join? The best conversations I’ve had about imposter syndrome have been with a small group of people in my field who are going through similar things where we can all be vulnerable together.

      2. Catwhisperer*

        Since this is the case, I wouldn’t frame your concerns around their age. Instead, I would frame it around the mismatch of experience in the areas you’re looking for mentorship in. You could have a similar experience with someone 20 years your senior who’s never been in a managerial role or experienced imposter syndrome, life experience does not equate to knowledge on all topics.

        1. LW#2*

          I am not upset. I simply decided to provide more context, in order to get more insight from people’s comments.

          I am, however, a bit baffled at calling this ageism. I am in no position of power over this person. I am not interviewing them nor denying them a promotion based on their age. I do, however, get to seek a mentor that suits my specific needs, however biased that might be.

          1. AlsoADHD*

            Is age actually the need though? It seems like you’re misunderstanding age for wisdom?

          2. Emily*

            It’s not ageism in the legal definition of the word (which, among other things, requires the person to be 40 +), but it’s definitely ageism in the general sense of the word. Before you even interacted with this person you had already decided that they could not be a good mentor to you because they were a “few years” younger than you. You were making judgments about the person based soley on their age. As another commentator said, age does not necessarily equal wisdom, which I’ve definitely found to be true. It sounds like you have some legititmate concerns after meeting with the person, and if you still have those same concerns after meeting with them again, then you can bring those up to your supervisor, but leave the person’s age out of it.

          3. Well...*

            Yea I think people mean ageism as in the implicit bias, individual discrimination sense. Not ageism as in the structural sense (power dynamics, etc.). You’re not participating in the latter, and the latter is the more concerning one. But, to be fair, the latter is partially built and maintained by thousands of instances of the former, so best for society to try and interrupt the thought processes as much as you can.

            Maybe I’m biased coming from academia, but IMO as a mentee you’re not in a position of power, and your first priority should be finding a mentor that works for you. Let the mentors largely handle dismantling of social systems of oppression.

            1. Observer*

              True enough. But there are to issues.

              One is that being unfair is a bad idea, even if you don’t have the power to actually act on your unfair assumptions. The OP’s moral obligation here is not to dismantle systems of oppression, but to be fair to the people they deal with.

              The other is that this kind of prejudice can actually harm the OP. This mentor could be good for them, but they will never know because they came in to the situation with an assumption that was strongly rooted in their prejudice, ie ageism. Now, it sounds like the mentor may actually not be a good fit, but the OP is going to have a hard time getting something that fits better because they are so focused on the age part, which is NOT relevant that they are missing the message on the relevant part. And if they lead with age, even when they bring up the substantive issues, eg the generic and non-tailored advice, their boss is not going to have the necessary information to find a good replacement, and may not care enough to try. Because “Why bother trying to find a mentor for someone who is going to blow people off for no good reason.”

              your first priority should be finding a mentor that works for you

              Agreed. And to that end, the OP should take their focus off of age. They should go into their next meeting with an open mind. And if it turns out that the “mentor” really doesn’t have anything to offer, the OP should go back to their boss and ask for a new mentor. But age should absolutely not be on the table. Stick to the substantive issues. If the OP needs someone who can help them as much with the political / cultural aspects of the job as much as the technical, they should say so. If they see that the technical advice isn’t relevant, they can say so. etc.

              1. bamcheeks*

                The OP’s moral obligation here is not to dismantle systems of oppression, but to be fair to the people they deal with

                And to be fair to themself! It sounds to me like a lot of LW’s issues are “I am not where I feel I *should* be at this age, and being assigned a younger mentor is really rubbing that in”. To me, this is less about what LW owes the mentor and more about the fact that if they can recognise and dismantle that internalised idea that specific achievements and qualities align with specific ages they can give *themself* a break. And I suspect that might go some way towards helping with the imposter syndrome and lack of confidence.

          4. Observer*

            I am, however, a bit baffled at calling this ageism.

            It’s ageism because you are focusing on age as the problem when it’s not relevant. The only complaint you mentioned in your letter is the person’s age. And even now, you are “expanding” and “providing more context” but you are still centering age.

            The fact that you are not in the position to ACT on your prejudice (ie ageism) does not make your *attitude* any less prejudiced.

      3. Ellis Bell*

        This explains it all! Can’t you go back to the person who offered you a mentor and say: “We had an initial meeting and, their advice was very generic and focused more on the technical side.” If you need x advice, then it is okay to ask for someone who has x advice.

      4. AlsoADHD*

        You are focused on the wrong issue then: the person is a technical expert and you wanted a people manager viewpoint for specific soft skills mentorship sounds like. Wouldn’t matter how many years experience or what age they were, that might not be a good for no matter what!

        1. TechWorker*

          Right, I don’t think ‘life experience’ automatically makes you a good mentor for soft skills. You might get someone in their 20s who is very good at it or (and I know a lot of them..) someone technical in their 40s or 50s who will never be suited to management or soft skills stuff even if technically they’re great.

      5. Cordelia*

        A mentor doesn’t really operate by “life experience” though, I don’t think – the role is about your work life. It’s not surprising that your first meeting was fairly generic and focused on technical skills, particularly as you seem to be saying (by your use of “imposter syndrome”) that you don’t feel confident in your skills and abilities, so the mentor is trying to help you with these. Set aside the person’s age, as that isn’t relevant. Somehow they have used their experience, which quantitatively is less than yours, to progress more quickly than you have done – you might get something useful from them by finding out how, rather than immediately writing them off.

      6. Expiring Cat Memes*

        I can’t help but wonder if your manager deliberately assigned you this mentor as a means of quietly debunking your imposter syndrome…

      7. fine tipped pen aficionado*

        Thanks for adding this detail, LW. It can be hard to know what and how much detail to include when you write in, but I think this is the info we actually needed. And like everyone else has said, when you speak to your manager about this leave age out of it and focus on these concerns. Something like:

        “I was hoping to get X out of a mentorship, but this person can only offer Y. Did something about my work give you the impression that Y is something I need? Is it possible to find a mentor with experience and expertise in X?”

    9. AlsoADHD*

      Age particularly shouldn’t be factor. If the person wasn’t in a higher role, I could see “less years of experience in field” being an issue but age is generally irrelevant to whether someone can mentor.

      I get being wary of low experience in some cases, but it depends on the goal of the mentoring too. The fact that they made it to a higher role with less experience and the mentorship is mostly mindset makes this person seem like a good fit to me! I do find it odd LW2 focused on age at all, that seems really bizarre.

      1. LW#2*

        I guess I conflated age and years of experience in the field into the same concern.
        The reason why I focused on it is because it’s the main thing that differentiates us. If they were on a different career path than me, one with people managing focus for example, I don’t think it would matter to me, but because we need the same set of skills to do our jobs, me needing to take advice from them is serving as a sort of confirmation that I am in fact behind on my professional development.
        I know this is not an entirely rational feeling, but I also do not think it makes for a good mentor/mentee relationship to go into it already feeling defensive or defeated. I will if I have to, but I feel like it entirely defeats the purpose of the mentorship, and will end up wasting both of our time.

        1. Seahorse*

          After wading through several comments accusing you of ageism, I went back and reread the letter where it looks like
          1. the mentorship was your manager’s idea in the first place and
          2. Someone with less experience in your field was chosen to teach you how to handle your concerns over *insufficient experience.*

          I’d be frustrated too.
          You’re allowed to have an emotional reaction to something that didn’t go as you hoped or envisioned. Maybe this person does have something to offer, but you’re also allowed to opt out.

          And maybe I’m paranoid thanks to some bad experiences, but I’d be reluctant to bring up things like imposter syndrome or lack of confidence to anyone at work, regardless of age. Is there an EAP that could refer you to an outside person who has the specific knowledge/ experience you’d like? That might be a better option here.

          1. Lizard on a Chair*

            I don’t think you’re paranoid at all! If LW struggling, and their boss is reasonable, it’s a good idea to own it and give some reason. But I would be wary of digging deep on lack of confidence, impostor syndrome, etc. with their boss (or a company-provided mentor). That is going to color people’s perceptions of LW and potentially undermine their progress within the company. If they need more intensive support, better to get it outside of work and let the boss see the results, not the messy effort. A mentor to help you grow in your job duties is different than a mentor to help you tackle impostor syndrome.

          2. Well...*

            This. Not sure how the discussion of ageism is helping LW, and it seems to apply only in a tangential/technical sense.

            LW, you’re not obligated to waste your time on a bad fit mentorship relationship just to battle the forces of inequality.

            1. Observer*

              No, they aren’t.

              Which leads to the conclusion that it’s quite probable that a mentorship in the company is not what they need.

              The suggestion of accessing an EAP if the company has one is solid. If the company doesn’t have one an executive coach sounds like a much better bet than a workplace mentor.

          3. Totally Minnie*

            I think the EAP is probably a good idea. It sounds like a lot of the things LW wants guidance on are the social/emotional components, which may be better served outside of an official company mentor relationship.

          4. LW#2*

            haha yes, the choice definitely felt on the nose, that’s why I was trying to get some outside perspective on the appropriate reaction. In hindsight, I do think it was just a matter of availability (but I also think my manager should’ve kept looking until he found someone with more focus and expertise on soft skills).

            To be fair, I was not the one to bring up impostor syndrome. I just expressed that I did not feel suited for the position and didn’t know how to tackle my tasks (and fully expecting to be let go for underperforming). My manager was convinced that I have a confidence problem, rather than an ability one. He was very understanding, linked me some resources and proposed finding me a mentor, which is why I was very hopeful (and perhaps idealistic) about it.

            I was definitely having a very emotional response when I wrote the letter, and ended up generalizing my particular situation. It was wrong to suggest that younger people could never be successful mentors or managers.

            1. Elsewise*

              That adds a lot of context. I think what might be happening is your boss doesn’t understand what you need. If someone came to me and said “I don’t feel suited for the position and I don’t know how to tackle my tasks,” I’d probably want to give them a technical mentor, because that sounds like their problem is the technical skills. (Even if I thought they were great!)

              My advice would be to write down the problems you’re having at work and come up with a list of things you need help with. It sounds like confidence is a big one, which could come from a lot of places (your manager giving better feedback, getting more experience and being in your position longer, a therapist, a mentor, a change in thinking), but what else? Do you need help with strategizing, time management, people skills? If so, you could go back to your boss and say, “hey, Jane is great, but meeting with her made me realize I don’t really need mentorship in the technical skills as much as I need someone who’s good at XYZ. Who do you think would be a good match for that?”

            2. Just a thought*

              I think you need to shift your thinking about this specific mentoring relationship and focus on what you think your boss wants you to get out of it and how it might help you improve at your job, even if it’s not what you hoped for.

              Use it for what it can be offered and there might be some bits of help that you can apply to your experience and improve.

              1. Lydia*

                The boss didn’t think anything. The person volunteered and the boss jumped on it.

            3. Hillary*

              I’m not sure if this will resonate, but here goes…

              In terms of framing, it sounds like you were hoping for more of a teacher/student relationship. Have you considered thinking of this person as a sounding board, ally, and potential friend? They sound a lot like a peer with valuable information to share with you. They’ve been at the company longer and have been dealing with the people and political nonsense that new people often face (I wanted to say women but realized I’m not sure if that’s true, but it’s even more of a thing for women in technical roles). You’ve also got valuable knowledge to bring to the table with your longer experience.

              A lot of what a good mentor does is help the mentee articulate what they’re thinking, then reassure them. The first couple meetings are usually awkward, once they know each other better it loosens up. They can be a person to ask the questions that feel stupid but aren’t. It sounds like your mentor didn’t know how to draw out what you want, but you can direct the conversation too.

              The other thing I’ll mention, it’s very normal to have a crisis of confidence a couple months in. My partner’s company is developing a formal program for newish employees because people struggle right around their six month anniversary. It feels like they should be productive because they’re experienced professionals and they’ve learned enough to be somewhat independent. Then they mess something up and figure out how weird things are and how much they have to learn.

              Your manager is demonstrating that they think you’re qualified by putting you with this mentor – they obviously think your technical/task skills are just fine.

            4. Qwerty*

              I have a personal theory that most cases of “imposter syndrome” are really just inadequate manager feedback. Any chance you are a woman and your manager is a man?

              Let’s boil down the conversation with your manager to one I see a lot:
              1. You think you are doing poorly and don’t know how to do some of your tasks
              2. Manager responds that it’s all in your head and everything is fine

              I wish it was your manager writing in. I find most cases of imposter syndrome disappear when a report is given specific actional feedback and praise includes tangible items related to the core of the job (think “solid dependable code” not “takes notes in meetings” for a programmer)

              I think you have to take more ownership in finding what you need – you are in the driver’s seat of your career and are way more motivated than your manager.
              – Drive the conversation with your current mentor – they probably were not given an accurate picture of where you are struggling.
              – Talk to your boss about specific items and don’t let him sweep it away with generalizations.
              – Look for some sort of network opportunity like a meetup or professional group – if you want help with the non-technical stuff, talking to a peer outside the company might be more helpful. Depending on how generic the soft skills are, talking to people in multiple other industries might helpful.
              – Based on some of your other comments, it sounds like you might be a new manager? If so, “Making of a Manager” is a great book for new managers that talks about feeling overwhelmed and drowning – I only read a couple chapters but they were super relatable.

              1. LW#2*

                wow, spot on assessment, thank you for your insight!

                I also resonated with your other comment, where you said “I have had so many managers write me off with “imposter syndrome” when I ask for help on a specific skillset or say I that I don’t have the tech skill required for a project.”

                I do genuinely think I don’t possess all the required technical skills to be on this team, and it’s not all “in my head”. The team has been pitched to me as being “focused on expertise”, but how are you going to be in a group of experts without.. being an expert in the first place?? it’s like being inducted into a superhero team without having any superpowers!

                I did express my concerns with lacking the particular skills required (and also gently pointed out that my particular areas of interest lie elsewhere), but because we are currently understaffed, there’s not a whole lot that can be done about it (I’ve also asked to be reassigned a while back and it did not pan out), so maybe this was my manager’s way of slapping a bandaid on the problem.

                I do agree that I might benefit more from outside help on the non-technical stuff, while also trying to fill in the gaps on the technical side (this I could probably find help with internally).

    10. Shirley You’re Joking*

      While I agree not to get caught up on the age thing, I disagree that a mentor is there to help tackle a psychological issue like imposter syndrome. The person might be helpful, sure, but these kinds of issues are usually better tackled with a trained therapist or coach.

    11. Lady Danbury*

      That’s exactly what I was thinking. Someone who has a high level of achievement at a young age is far more likely to have dealt with imposter syndrome at some point. She sounds like a great choice of mentor, regardless of age.

    12. ferrina*

      Yep. I’m a younger mentor for someone older than me. I definitely feel a bit awkward about it, but I realized that what I bring to the table is very different skills than her. She’s built her career on technical skills; I’m well known for my soft skills. The questions that she brings are often things that require soft skills, so I’m in a great position to address them.

    13. Pogo*

      As you get older, more and more people at work will be younger. To think that no one younger will ever be your manager or mentor or you can’t learn from them because you’re simply older so have more years, is a weird thing.

      1. M. from P.*

        But that’s not what the letter writer said.
        It looks like the “younger” description was a shorthand for “less professionally experienced in the same area of expertise”. Being in a more senior position might not translate into them being a good resource especially if the reason they are senior has more to do with their seniority in the organization.

        1. Pogo*

          Mostly people who are less experienced will be younger. That doesn’t mean they have LESS expertise though. I was a recognized leader in my field at 32, but obviously I had only had “experience” of 8 years. I understood what the OP meant.

      2. Master Procrastinator*

        As someone who has line managed and provided executive coaching for people older than me, I have some thoughts.

        1. OP, This does sound like a bad match, because what’s being offered (generic technical support) and what you want (essentially confidence building by the sound of things) don’t seem aligned. Though I also feel there’s a self-fulfilling prophecy element in assuming someone can’t help you because of their age/years in a specific role.

        2. I think what you’d benefit from might be more like a coaching relationship than a mentorship. Yes, that goes against “look where I could be by x age if I follow this person’s advice”, but I think a reflective space to unpack beliefs like this might have a deeper impact than someone with an impressive career telling you what they think you should do. Of course I would say that as a coach but these issues feel very familiar in the coaching world. (I promise I’m not soliciting for work!)

        3. I relate to the comments from people who have experienced imposter syndrome when their direct reports/mentees have been older than them. I am 40 now, which is not an unusual age to be in a senior or coaching role, but I started in these roles around 30 and I look young for my age. I’ve done a lot of reflective work to address my anxiety when faced with older and very experienced staff/clients, which helped a lot. But it didn’t stop a few people taking one look at me and feeling offended that this “kid” had been assigned to them. Usually we got over that as long as I had a chance to show them why I’m good at what I do, though the more insecure the person was about their skills/career trajectory, the longer it took to get past this.

        4. It seems like there might be a communication issue between you and your manager, as well as with the mentor. Do you trust your manager enough to sit down together and problem solve what it is that you really need and to outline why there’s a potential mismatch with the mentor? (Not including the age thing, that’s not the real issue here). And if not, can you take accessing the right support into your own hands and find something that feels like a good fit?

    14. WantonSeedStitch*

      So true! My last boss was a couple years younger than me, and had been working in our field for less time. That said, they had held positions of higher responsibility than I had done, and had also been responsible for more areas of work, rather than just the one field on which I focused. They had a LOT to teach me! They left the organization a while ago, but we still keep in touch, and I would absolutely ask them for their advice on a number of work situations.

    15. Prospect gone bad*

      As someone who climbed the corporate ladder very slowly, I’m going to push back on your opinion, which is very popular online.

      I have a whole bunch more experience than people that climbs the ladder more quickly. In fact it’s a problem for one of my coworkers because he needs to keep pretending to know what people are talking about even though he only has a superficial understanding of things. The truth is, that sometimes you just can’t out of work a lack of years of experience.

      I was around when we used older technologies and lived through the implementation of new technology and also new laws in the industry. I was around when we signed up a new customers or made contract with new change partners and software providers, and just understand their needs and priorities in a way that somebody being added on these accounts after the fact is never gonna truly grasp

      I think the larger problem is that things overcorrected. People used to write off young people and assume they couldn’t fill higher level roles. I understand people want to change it, but now people have gone too far in the other direction and that a 30 year old in a time is exactly the same as a 45-year-old person with 15 more years experience. It’s not

    16. MC*

      I had exactly same thought – someone younger in a more senior role is likely to be a great example of how to fight with Impostor syndrome

      1. Prospect Gone Bad*

        Not knowing things is not “imposter syndrome.” I’ve noticed the term getting overused on the internet over the past few years. I think it stems from sort of misguided stigma, where people think it’s bad to admit they lack a huge depth of experience. Everyone is young and/or inexperienced at some time, you just need to live through it. I’ve absolutely worked with people who were promoted too quick and lived through all of the problems. Many of them would self-describe as “imposter syndrome” even though that wasn’t the issue. They had stellar soft skills but you can’t fake technical skills or knowledge of things that happened before your short tenure. And despite what the internet says, many technical skills take time, or there is a difference between somebody who did a type of project once versus someone who was in a role dedicated to it for three years.

        1. tired*

          In my somewhat cynical experience, people who have advanced a lot faster than me often turn out to be great at ‘selling themselves’ and ‘being extravert full time’ but not in any way special at actually doing the work – and I don’t want to try to sell myself or fake extraversion, others always seem to see through it (I’m a highly introverted neurodivergent middle-aged fat female and I just can’t fake being that kind of appealing, energetic, social human well – at this point in my life I don’t want to even try, it’s tiring and makes me sad AND takes time away from doing what I can do well, so it feels like a total waste).

          Which isn’t to say I can’t learn things from younger or “fewer years served” colleagues, and frequently do! But it’s worth making sure that what I want help with is something the person potentially helping actually does well – even if they do it well in a neurotypical extravert way I can still learn from that, what I can’t learn from is someone very unlike me not doing the thing I want to learn about that well…

          This probably makes no sense!

        2. Qwerty*


          My experience is that the stigma is more gender related than unable to admit not knowing something. I’m in a male dominated field and I’ve never heard the label applied to a guy, but almost every woman supposedly has it. Anytime I introduce my professional history, the first question I am asked is how I overcame imposter syndrome (never had it!)

          I feel like it has been turned into a way to silence women. I have had so many managers write me off with “imposter syndrome” when I ask for help on a specific skillset or say I that I don’t have the tech skill required for a project. I’ve “cured” almost every case of imposter syndrome I’ve managed/mentored by just believing the person and giving them specifics on what went well / didn’t go well. The only person I have met that I believe truly has imposter syndrome also has the type of anxiety that makes one believe all their friends secretly hate them. The rest just seemed like typical people worried about doing a good job and being very aware of where they wanted to improve.

    17. L'étrangère*

      If the mentor is at a higher level, it’s likely they do know more about the job than you do. Or at least that they have a wider perspective on it, and can impart useful views on what would make you more successful in your position, what management is really looking for. If they’re at a higher level while being younger, that’s all doubly true as you can add talent to their likely qualifications. So resisting this setup is not in your best interest, and you might instead consider it an opportunity to shed some harmful prejudices while working on being more open to learning. Progress in a career is not a linear or mandatory thing, your grandparents’ model of advancement by seniority alone has been discarded long ago.

    18. Quinalla*

      I’m 43 and my boss is 28 (I think, mid to late 20s for sure) – this is in a technical role too where it is MORE unusual. I learn a lot from him as a boss and mentor and I try to return what I can when he comes to me with questions, etc. There can be an initial wait-a-second when a boss or mentor is younger than you, normal initial reaction/feeling, but you can learn a LOT from someone even if they are younger with less experience. In fact, for imposter syndrome younger folks in higher positions usually have dealt with this a TON, great resource for it most likely. And the older you get, the more likely that someone in a leadership, etc. role is going to be younger than you. Best to try and get used to it :)

    19. There You Are*

      I’m 56 and on my third career. Everyone on my team, except for our VP, is younger than I am. I am a senior / team lead, but not a manager.

      I missed out on learning a ton of professional norms and good self-directed behavior in my teens and 20’s, and just kind of… floundered.

      So now I study those people younger than I am who are higher on the corporate ladder to see what I can copy-and-paste into my own work ethic and work behaviors.

    20. Anonymousaurus Rex*

      Definitely this. My current boss is about 5 years younger than me (I’m 40, she’s 35), and she has taught me SO much. She rose up the ranks quickly and is an excellent leader, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to work under her. It’s definitely not a slight to be assigned a mentor who is a few years younger than you.

    21. Chirpy*

      I really wish the older people at my first job after college had been willing to listen to people with more specialized experience but who were younger. I had a degree in the field (and was the only one with that degree working there) but all my coworkers and the volunteers ranged from 15+ years older to the age of my grandparents, and everything I tried to suggest was shot down because of my age, and because some of them had been volunteers since before I was born. It was a field where best practices had changed a lot since the 1960s, and the organization had just paid a LOT of money to fix the damage of some of those previous practices.

    22. Nina*

      In my field it’s quite common to have very young people in very responsible positions – there are a lot of startups in the field, and it’s not at all unusual for someone to have been hired as ‘general dogsbody engineer’ at a startup straight out of uni and done some extremely impressive work in an extremely short time.

      At my last company, the… let’s say chief tea-server, the one who uses the company teapots to serve tea to the Queen on live TV and webcast… was 27.

    23. A person*

      I agree! I’ve also successfully managed teams where I was actually the youngest person and the only female. Age and years shouldn’t discount what insights this person might have. If they’ve managed to move up the ladder faster, that doesn’t mean you’ve failed, but they may have valuable insight to aspects of your job or industry that you are missing. I am frequently asked by people “more experienced” than I am to offer input and advice on various topics because I happen to have experience in those areas and those people recognize that my experience may have value beyond what they’ve experienced even if they’ve been at it longer than I have.

      You can almost always learn stuff from other people if you keep an open attitude about it! Give it a try!

  2. Suggestion*

    Any raise should be written in a contract by the company, signed by them, dated. Next time that’s the first thing I would ask for.

    1. Emac*

      Except if OP is in an at will state in the US, there really aren’t employment contracts (not going to say never since IANAL, but I wouldn’t trust that something was ironclad even if it were written down in my state, in a non-union job).

      1. rudster*

        The entire United States is “at-will”, except for Montana, in which an employer must demonstrate cause for dismissal after a probationary period. However, certain states have carved out one or more exceptions to the at-will doctrine, even though it generally still prevails. Generally these involve the dismissal being contrary to the interests of public policy (mostly protection against retaliation), the existence of an implied contract, or bad faith by the employer.

        1. Long Time First Time*

          Does offering a raise to keep someone and then pulling it once they’re staying count as bad faith?

          (I’d like the answer to be yes. But I doubt it.)

          1. DJ Abbott*

            It wouldn’t hurt for OP to consult a lawyer about this… but first, find out if the previous offer is still open and whether they can still get that job.

          2. Snow Globe*

            Alison mentioned that the LW relied on the employer’s promise to their detriment. “Detrimental reliance” is a legal concept that could allow someone to sue for what was lost, in this case the difference between what they would have earned at the job they turned down and the pay going forward at the current employer. Realistically, the chances of actually winning that in court are probably not great, but if there was something in writing, that could help prove the detrimental reliance.

          3. Ash*

            It’s possible LW1 would have a case for civil damages under promissory estoppel. Those cases are hard to win, but they do exist–typically when a job offer is rescinded and someone used that offer to resign from their existing job or relocate, etc.

          4. Not Tom, Just Petty*

            I think that’s the dictionary definition! What’s most telling about this work place is OP’s mentality, “it’s business.”
            Yes, bad business.
            This company treats its employees like crap and makes no apologies for it.
            “Yeah, no, sorry.” instead of 1) keeping their commitments; 2) if they really can’t, they do as much as they can to make it right.

      2. MK*

        At will does not mean any contract between employer and employee is binding. Even if you don’t have a general employment contract, you can have a specific one about a raise you give up another offer for, specifying your pay for a specifictime period. As for it being ironclad, even if there are loopholes, a company is less likely to go back on a written agreement than a verbal promise, especially if the possibility of litigation is there. And their willingness (or not) to sign one will probably be very telling.

      3. Waiting on the bus*

        How do raises work in places without contracts or the sort? Are they all verbal agreements and at some payday in the future the paid salary is suddenly higher? Is it all based on trust that the company will do as (verbally) promised? Simce job offers are usually in writing too from what I understand, I would have expected raises to be given in writing as well.

        My raises are usually a single page stating that my salary will be X starting on Y date, which does give me a more secure feeling than having to trust a verbal agreement with my manager, tbh.

        1. Random Dice*

          At my companies – small to large companies – get formal written raises, and bonuses if applicable, via an HR system.

          The manager reviews it with the employee, who can request a higher review, then once everyone signs off it is emailed from the company to the employee.

          I’ve never dealt with this kind of breach of faith, but I’m guessing a lawyer would change the company’s tune.

          (Though of course LW should flee this hive of villains like her tail is on fire.)

          1. Waiting on the bus*

            This is what I would have expected and sounds reasonable to me. Even just an email means you get *something* in writing and in a breach of trust like OP is experiencing, have something concrete to show a lawyer. I’m not sure I’d trust a company with only a verbal promise, exactly because of bad actors like OP’s company. What’s stopping them from acting as if the verbal promise never existed?
            Is employment law usually in favour of the employee when a they said/she said situation arises from something like this?

        2. KatieKat*

          I have typically seen an offer letter for every promotion/title change, which would always have the new salary listed in it and be signed by both employee and employer. Often, though, the offer letter comes after the verbal agreement, and it would be a little weird to wait to accept a promotion until seeing the offer letter — different etiquette than a new job offer, since you already know all the other stuff (benefits, PTO, etc.).

          For raises without title change it depends on the company practice; most commonly my experience has been verbal only and no written notice or new offer letter in that situation. It’s just a verbal – “your salary will increase to $X starting immediately. You won’t see it on Friday’s paycheck because payroll processing already started, but you’ll see the retroactive pay for the increase back to today on the following check.” I guess this works based on good faith in the employer. I would have no reason to mistrust a verbal offer from my existing manager and it would be a very, very big deal if they pulled it back like in the letter today.

          (Tech industry, USA)

          1. Waiting on the bus*

            That’s really interesting to me. Coming from a place where employment contracts are normal and raises/title changes are done via amendments to said contract (but just as simple one pagers saying the new salary/title will be X starting on Y), the idea of only getting a verbal promise and having to trust in the good faith of the company instantly gets my hackles up and makes me think that the company is doing something shady. Because here, the only places that would do things like that *are* acting shady.

            I’d be fine with an email as explained above. But the idea of getting nothing in writing at all makes me really uncomfortable. I’ve always had “unless it’s in writing it doesn’t exist” drilled into my head.

            1. Zombeyonce*

              It makes people without contracts uneasy, too. But the US has a long history of doing anything it can to keep people from unionizing and makes a lot of laws that are beneficial to companies, not workers. We’ve been fighting against it for many, many years, but to no avail.

      4. Random Dice*

        A “contract,” lol, what’s that?

        At best she might have an email that said the promised raise and could talk to a lawyer.

        1. Grumpy Lawyer*

          Lawyer here – not all contracts have to be in writing, and an agreement for her to stay in her position in exchange for a raise could be a contract even if she doesn’t have a formal employment contract. There’s also a thing called promissory estoppel, which isn’t the same as breach of contract but something like it. If you promise someone something and they rely on it to their detriment, and their reliance was reasonable under the circumstances, you can be liable for going back on your promise (i.e., you’re “estopped” from changing your position). I do think she should talk to a lawyer. It might not be worth the cost of litigation, but a strongly worded letter on law firm letterhead could have an effect . . .

        2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          I find it absolutely amazing that in the lawyer-heavy US, people do not have employment contracts. I mean, here I was once hired without a written contract and I asked the trade union to help me get one. They told me that if I had three consecutive payslips for the same hours and salary, that counted as my contract, and so much the better, because it only stated the job title, number of hours worked and amount earned. That meant the boss couldn’t force me to do things that weren’t part of the usual remit for that job title, and had no right to make me do anything in fact except be at work for the required hours.

          1. Lynn Whitehat*

            I mean, the fact that employment contracts are uncommon in the US comes up on this blog very frequently. TBH I’m surprised that people are still surprised.

            1. Nina*

              I’m not surprised like, ‘oh wow they don’t have contracts I just learned this how weird’, I’m surprised like ‘they have more lawyers per capita than any other country and sue over anything, surely making employment contracts normal would save a lot of businesses a lot of litigation, it seems odd in the context of their culture that this kind of paperwork isn’t normal’.

              In my country there’s a government agency for compensating people for physical injuries (yes, they can and do go after the party at fault if there is one, but they’ll pay you out even if there isn’t), and most people would never know anyone who had ever brought a lawsuit. We’re also really contract-heavy, which seems to save on the suing.

              1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

                Thank you yes, I’ve read it several times here, doesn’t make me any less surprised that this is the case. I mean, you can put all sorts of stuff in a contract, an NDA, and an “including but not limited” clause listing duties and all sorts of other clauses to make your employee’s life a misery/make sure the business can be run smoothly. I would have said it was an astonishing lack of foresight on the employer’s side.
                I suppose this is why there are so many references to handbooks and company policy, dress code etc. Here in France the dress code and other policies affecting employee behaviour would be included in the contract, everyone would have the same clause copied in.

          2. Grits McGee*

            I mean, that’s why there are so many lawyers- because so much of US employment law is reactive (sue for compensation/restitution) vs proactive (have regulations/contracts in place that delineate workers’ rights and employers’ responsibilities).

          3. Zombeyonce*

            The US is lawyer-heavy because big companies have giant teams of lawyers that stop the little guy from getting what’s owed (and the little guy can rarely afford a lawyer), along with a side of union busting.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      You can ask for it, but you can’t force the company to do it.

      1. WellRed*

        Yes and I have hunk the relationship is already soured, or will be once OP realizes how badly they’ve been treated all around, not just over the raise.

        1. EPLawyer*

          How badly they have been treated all around is the key here.

          OP — you cannot care more about the company than they do. You said there were a lot of changes and you went with them because you are flexible. This led to you basically being dumped on. You were busy being a team player and the company was all hey let’s just make OP do all the dirty work. Then when they saw they would lose th eperson willing to do the scut work, they lied to you to get you to stay.

          Time ti bail. If the job you turned down is not open, keep looking. This company is not in your long term future. They have showed you who they are — repeatedly — believe them.

    3. Antilles*


      If you’re working for a company that’s generally reasonable, there’s nothing to worry about. I have worked for 15 years and never once have I gotten a “written contract” about a raise. Most of the time, it’s discussed and it just shows up in my paycheck shortly thereafter – even in cases where the raise can’t be applied for couple weeks to coincide with a fiscal quarter or HR paperwork timing or whatever, it’s never once been an issue.

      Alternatively, if you’re working for an *unreasonable* company who can’t be trusted (like OP’s), then what good does the contract do you? You’re still working for an unreasonable company who can’t be trusted and that’s the real answer. Maybe they’ll just ignore the contract and try to use the various escape clauses to justify not giving you the raise. Maybe they give you the raise but resent you for it / start quietly looking for your replacement. Frankly, even if they live up to the finances of contract perfectly, they’re definitely not living up to the unwritten stuff like adjusting your caseload or additional training for OP or etc. In all of these cases, the working relationship is going to be poisoned and OP would be job searching again soon anyways.

      Frankly, the lesson to be learned here isn’t about “raises should be in a written contract” and instead the lesson should be about the dangers of taking your company’s panicked counter-offers.

    4. The Person from the Resume*

      Generally companies don’t write legal contracts with employees so that’s out of touch with reality.

      1. FrivYeti*

        Canadian here.

        Is this really true in the United States? I’ve never worked *anywhere* that didn’t give me a one-page signed document at the time of my hiring with my salary, vacation days, and probation period on it, and another one when I got a raise, signed either by HR or the boss depending on my career.

        Even my *temp jobs* gave me written confirmation about my hourly rates for each of my positions as confirmation.

        Is this a thing where the American situation is *that* different?

        1. Zombeyonce*

          Yep. We generally (depending on the job) get an offer letter that may or may not need to be signed, but that isn’t a contract. Temp jobs are more likely to have those confirmations since they go through actual temp firms so have more robust HR (hopefully) but the huge majority of minimum wage jobs don’t get any paperwork except maybe an employee handbook and tax forms.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          I don’t think most Americans consider their offer letter to be a contract the same way that it’s used in other countries, but you are correct that most jobs in the US provide an offer letter that outlines the initial terms of employment that you describe (and it is a basic employment contract). Most will also provide written notice of changes of compensation and/or title (usually a one-page memo or letter).

        3. I AM a Lawyer*

          Employers in the US typically do everything they can to avoid having a contract for any term of employment to maintain their ability to enforce at will employment. An offer letter lets the employee know what their compensation and benefits are (and in California, employers have to provide a wage notice to employees), but the employer can legally reduce salary or benefits (except as otherwise required by law like minimum wage or FMLA leave) or terminate/lay off employees and the offer letter does not create any contractual obligations prohibiting them from doing so.

    5. The Shenanigans*

      The most they can do in the US is email them the raise agreed on with “This is what we talked about, right?” hope they get a confirmation back, then hope it holds in court if the company reneges. That’s really the only recourse they’d have in most states. I’d say the lesson is “Never accept a counteroffer.”.

  3. MEH Squared*

    I’m sorry, OP#1. That is truly awful of your company to do that. My immediate thought was to do what Alison suggested. Contact the new company and see if the position is still open and if they still want you. If not, then continue your job search and get the hell out of there as soon as you can. Your company has shown you that they will do you dirty at any turn.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, this. I’m sorry too, OP. It just goes to show that taking a counter-offer can very easily backfire.

    2. takeachip*

      This is the kind of thing people warn about so often–“don’t take a counter offer, they may not honor it”–and that I always think must be just a hypothetical, because what kind of shitty organization/manager would screw someone over so overtly? And here we are. I agree with the advice to call up the other company; there’s nothing to lose and I would be thrilled if my first choice person reached out and said they’d reconsidered. Honestly if I heard the story I’d keep the person in my “contact with future openings” file if the position was already filled, because I’d be motivated to help them get out of such a terrible place!

      1. Random Dice*

        It’s shocking. I have never heard of that actually happening!!

        I’m so sorry, LW. I can’t even imagine the betrayal you must be feeling right now.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        Usually they don’t just go back on their word with a blatant lie as lame as “pay freeze” – because obviously any retention amount would have been granted and agreed before the convenient pay freeze. When companies “fail to honour” the agreement, it’s usually in spirit – like they get snarky and bitter about how much you earn now, because they felt their hand was forced. Or, they say “you earn at the top of the range now, so no more pay raises for a while”. Or they pile on job duties to get their money’s worth. Because of how they operate, you also can’t expect a new pay rise until you get a new job offer which is a dumb way for them to do business and retain people; so say goodbye to your favourite colleagues. However, what they have done to OP is breathtakingly, immediately and unabashedly dishonest. They made her feel like the pay raise offer was formal and finalised enough to give up a job offer, and now they are behaving as though it was all theoretical. I’m not entirely sure about letting OP’s manager off the hook either – they are not “just the messenger”. There are things lower managers can’t avoid doing because of the higher ups, but how they deliver messages, and guide people is one thing they usually can control.

      3. blerg*

        In every thread on counteroffers, there’s always one or two stories where they turned out well. And dozens of horror stories that are exactly like the LW’s.

        1. Company shorts an employee on pay while loading up the work until they’re doing roughly 2-3X the work that they’re paid for.
        2. Employee burns out, finds other job. Either MUCH better pay for the same level of work or the same pay for MUCH easier work. Employee gives notice.
        3. Company knows they’re screwed because they cannot possibly hire someone else to do the same level of work without paying a LOT more. So they make a generous counteroffer, promise the moon.
        4. Employee turns down other job.
        5. Company immediately goes back on all of its promises. Nothing changes.

        And each time, it’s the employee who acts out of a sense of obligation to their employer or to their coworkers. Like they somehow owe it to their employer to save them from the consequences of their choices. Like the choice to overwork and underpay a crucial employee in the first place.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      Agreed. The OP has nothing to lose by contacting the company that made them the offer. Just tell them that you have reconsidered and realize that you really want the job. Odds are they are still in the process of looking for someone. You might have to convince them that you will really, really, definitely TAKE the job if offered it again, but it is definitely worth at least having the conversation with them about it.

      And if they have moved on, well, lesson learned, and I would put your job search into high gear.

      1. blerg*

        I think it’d be ok to describe what happened here. They’ll want to know. Just describing what happened in a matter-of-fact manner should be all the explanation needed. I think that’d be better than saying you’ve reconsidered. That would make you look like the source of flakiness when this situation is entirely on your employer. Tell them:

        “When I gave notice, my current employer made a generous counteroffer of a raise and reduced work so I turned down your offer. Then they chose to rescind the counteroffer and now expect me to remain in this position indefinitely at the current workload and pay. Is your offer still available?” And if it’s too late, don’t blame them or yourself (blame your current bosses who lied to you), accept it with grace and keep looking.

        You got one great offer, you’ll get another.

        Just give a factual account of what actually happened. No decent employer would hold that against you.

    4. RT*

      Yes and that is NOT “unprofessional” to ask the other company if the position is still open. Unless there are extreme extenuating circumstances, your current company sucks and doesn’t deserve your labor (and even then it’d still be acceptable to say “That doesn’t work for me, so I’ll be hopping along to this other company instead!”). As long as you give two weeks notice, you’ve met your professional obligation.

      Idk if I’m being too harsh but this letter made me MAD.

      1. Random Dice*

        2 weeks notice is a convention, not a requirement. She owes them nothing after this. Especially since if they fired her they wouldn’t give her 2 weeks. (And they might, now that they know she’s looking, and they are struggling financially.)

        1. Twix*

          Agreed. OP may want to give notice for any of a number of reasons, but at least in the US it’s a professional courtesy that they absolutely do not owe the employer at this point.

        2. BRR*

          I’d be very tempted to just say when I got a new job that I was leaving effective immediately citing the need to increase my income since my last raise was withdrawn.

          1. MsM*

            Or, “you’ve already gotten X additional weeks/months out of me since my original resignation; since the terms of our agreement never materialized, I think that’s more than generous.”

        3. RT*

          I don’t entirely disagree, but my concern would just be pragmatic – where it’s possible, she should avoid burning a bridge with at least her current manager (who sounded at least apologetic). At least the potential future reference call wouldn’t include that she left with no notice.

          1. Mister_L*

            English isn’t my first language, so I might have missed some nuance, but I didn’t get the impression that LW1’s manager was apologetic. I’d also avoid using that company as reference. Considering the stunt with the counteroffer, I’d treat their reference like a potential bomb.

    5. JSPA*

      #1, you can say, “they played on my sense of responsibility, as well as promising an immediate raise and title change that never materialized” if you want to make it not entirely about the money… but there’s nothing wrong with it being about money, either.

      1. Your Local Password Resetter*

        IMO that wording is a bit too emotional and accusatory. In a job interview it’s better be dispassionate and stick to the hard facts. You declined because your current job offered a large raise and additional help with your workload. They have now withdrawn that offer, so you’d like to accept this job offer after all.

        1. Twix*

          Agreed. Framing it that way risks reflecting badly on your judgment and muddies the waters on whether there’s reasons for the change of heart that you’re not being candid about. I would simply say “My current employer made me an extremely generous counteroffer and then rescinded it once I’d turned down your company’s offer.” It’s short, accurate, and anybody will understand both why you turned down the offer and why you’re suddenly open to taking it again.

        2. ferrina*

          Agree. The facts speak for themselves. “I declined because my current company had made me a very strong counteroffer; they’ve now withdrawn that offer in its entirety.”

          That’s enough to horrify any reasonable person.

      2. blerg*

        Leave your feelings and speculation about their motives out of it. Just describe what happened. Be matter of fact. “I accepted a counteroffer of significantly higher salary and a reduced workload. A week later they rescinded the counteroffer and said I would be expected to continue with the same workload at the same pay. Is your offer still available?”

        That’s all.

        The one true thing their current employer told them is that this is a business decision, it’s not a personal. So LW should frame it like that. Making it about anything but the money risks making it personal.

    6. Kevin Sours*

      There is a letter that using the word cool in that way from someone recounting his experiences at the siege of Vicksburg. It’s been in the language for a little while.

        1. Generic Username*

          My Dearest Martha,

          Thing have become so dire that our quartermaster, Captain Bob, has refused to supply us with guacamole. I fear that this war is lost.

          Your loving husband,

          1. Dances with Flax*

            My Dearest John,

            So now you won’t even have any guacamole to eat with those cheap-ass rolls that Captain Bob insists on giving you? That must be what Gen. Sherman meant when he said that war is hell!

            Your loving wife,

        2. Cmdrshpard*

          That would make for a fun post/read, instead of terrible bosses from media, people write in with fake historical workplace/boss letters?

          My boss wants to break into the hotel of a rival company and steal their secrets/plans to win a big project that will decide the fate of millions of people in the US?

          I am currently the head of a small local office of a stateside startup company that broke away from a large multinational company based in the UK. The multinational firm wants me to come back and join them but they want to leave my office open so they can come in and use the office as part of their bigger broader efforts to drive the startup into the ground.

          1. Modesty Poncho*

            Around christmas one year I sent Alison a letter from the perspective of Bob Cratchit as a joke that I hope was amusing.

            Dear AAM, my boss is usually super cold and stingy, but today he came in knowing a weird amount about my personal life and offered me a raise and to mentor my kid???

            1. Cmdrshpard*

              Alison has done/answered “fake” questions about terrible bosses from media (tv/movies/books etc…)
              I can’t find the link, but if I remember it was gilmore girls, devil wears prada and others.

              1. Hlao-roo*

                Links to a few of the media questions that have been answered in the past:






          2. Teapot, Groomer of Llamas*

            I’m assuming the first one is Watergate, but I’m not getting the second one.

            1. blerg*

              The War of 1812? LW is the US, large multinational is the British Empire?

              I got nothing.

    7. MK*

      Honestly, the first post made me so sad. OP1 is clearly trying so hard to be professional and loyal to her company and give everyone the benefit of doubt, and then her employer is using her good qualities to screw her over.

      1. ijustworkhere*

        This. My jaw dropped when I read that letter. It *might* (I say that with some hesitancy) be worth a strong pushback—-what you were promised should not be affected by a “hiring freeze” They are doing a salary adjustment. There is no “hiring” involved.

        Sometimes a strong, professional response can help knuckleheads see the light.

        I’d still reach out to the company you interviewed with–I’d love to hear a follow up that you got your salary raise and THEN left for an awesome new job. :)

        1. Kevin Sours*

          Even if they get the salary adjustment they were promised they still need to hit the eject button.

    8. AlwhoisThatAl*

      From now on you need to work to rule. They cheated you in the nastiest way possible. It’s now time for you to work normal hours 9-5. Any extra work or “cleaning up” just say you are too busy. You trusted them, they betrayed you. Don’t think they are normal, reasonable or being or that “Market Forces” are to blame, they are liars and cheats. Don’t worry about damaging your career within the company – they have shown how much much they value you, they don’t.
      You are have been far more understanding than me, my 2 weeks would have hit the desk as soon as they told me the raise was cancelled. Go straight back to the other company and tell them you were screwed over.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        Yeah, you may not be able to quit but absolutely start doing the minimum and only the minimum so you can focus your energy on job hunting.

    9. ferrina*

      And post on Glassdoor as soon as you are able to. If you feel you can safely do it now, great; if you want to wait until you are out, do that. But definitely post somewhere so that others can know what kind of company you are walking in to.

      If this happened to me, I would also be employing the gossip network very heavily. This is the kind of thing people really, really need to know about. They cannot trust this company and should not be basing any decision based on promises this company makes. This is a really big deal.

      1. Totally Minnie*

        Absolutely this. Post your experience here to Glassdoor and on the employee reviews section of Indeed, and honestly, if it was me, I’d find the office gossip on my last day and tell them exactly what happened to make sure word would spread. What this LW’s management has done is abhorrent and they do not owe this company any sort of protection from their own actions.

    10. New Mom*

      Hi OP, I’m so sorry your company did this HORRIBLE thing to you. Please don’t let them off the hook, this is truly not okay. I agree with MEH Squared, reach out to the company since they liked you and you have nothing to lose.

      But even if that job doesn’t pan out please get out of there, and if you are comfortable enough write about it on Glassdoor because really, I would never want to work at a place that did that to someone.

    11. DJ Hymnotic*

      Bingo. OP #1’s letter was yet another reminder to me of how short-sighted so many employers continue to be with their employees. In the case of this employer, reading between the lines of the letter (“burnout,” “exhaustion,” and the always vaguely ominous “staffing issues”), it sure sounds like OP’s company hasn’t been the best place to work for a while now, and this may be the (extremely sour-tasting) cherry on top.

      It also tells me that OP’s employer has not learned very much from the turnover it has already experienced. When unemployment is 3.4%, it is almost always going to be cheaper and easier to keep the talent you already have than to go out and find new talent, but OP’s employer’s response amid significant staff turnover is to institute a hiring freeze. That’s not fixable and is a bright yellow flag on its own before we even get to the red flag of reneging on a counteroffer.

    12. Raida*

      Worst case scenario is they know that the person they wanted is open to direct communication about other opportunities in the future.

      They’re definitely job hunting now they’ve been screwed in the payrise – although hopefully the role’s definition and management will still be dealt with – so having an up to date application with a business that’s interested in hiring them is perfect

      1. Gathering Moss*

        Just preferably don’t show the bad ass, unless you’re going for very specific jobs

      2. linger*

        Ditto the f__ing.
        And you’re under no obligation to provide doctors’ certificates in support of said diagnosis.

    1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      I’ve seen a few job descriptions drop in a f-bomb or two. I always assumed it was an attempt to seem cool and they were actually a terrible company. Maybe not, but I never took the chance and applied to one of those.

      1. Le Sigh*

        Yeah, the job postings that try to sound hip usually end up sounding a bit too try hard. Dropping “guru” and other buzzwords isn’t quite the hook they think it is.

        1. Ampersand*

          I assume it attracts a certain type of person—at the very least, someone who doesn’t cringe when they read the job description (so, not me).

    2. Dr. Rebecca*

      Regrettably it’s far more effective if someone else drops that into your file, rather than stating it yourself.

      1. Antilles*

        In my experience, people who call *themselves* bad-a are typically much less bad-a and much more jack-a.

        1. Raida*

          best response to someone going on and on about being bad-ass, from their long-suffering director:

          “Snake Pliskin is a bad-ass. You are a data analyst.”

      2. Ophelia*

        Yeah, I was going to say, this is what you want in a reference, not a cover letter, hah!

  4. takeachip*

    LW3, I was in a similar situation a few years ago where our out-of-touch, highly compensated male VP (90% of the staff were female) was gung-ho about an overnight retreat. No one spoke up against the idea in the meeting and I was horrified. I was a fish out of water in that org culture and was always pushing back on things, and it was clear this was not well received, so I also kept my mouth shut in the moment. However, I did go to a sympathetic female higher-up and voice my concerns. It turned out that other people were also annoyed, icked out, and worried and she was able to use her influence with him to explain why this could be a problem for people with caregiving responsibilities of all types, and how it also crossed boundaries that maybe we didn’t want to cross (this would definitely have been a room-sharing situation based on costs). Is there anyone you could go to who might be able to advocate on your behalf?

    1. takeachip*

      Oh I just noticed that this is your direct boss so you may not have an “advocate.” Maybe you could speak privately to other folks and approach him as a leadership group, without making him feel ganged up on? Just, “we’ve been considering this and on further reflection it seems like people may not have wanted to be the one wet blanket to speak up, but a few folks would have trouble with this.’

      1. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

        If you and others are not exempt, the university would have to pay overtime. They probably has not ocurred to him. Learning this could get it cancelled real quick. He probably doesn’t have the authority to add this l to the department budget mid-year.

        1. no worries*

          Yes, I have a feeling that this was him “thinking big” and “outside the box” and practicalities are going to shut it down very VERY quickly.

        2. Zombeyonce*

          Why do I get the feeling that he doesn’t even think people need to be paid for this in the first place, much less overtime?

    2. Random Dice*

      The power dynamic of doing a “shout out your concerns about this complex thing spur of the moment, to a boss” is really crappy.

      1. Sloanicota*

        I do see the power dynamic, but it also irks me that the boss explicitly asked if anyone didn’t want to do an overnight, and the OP thought “oh I definitely don’t want to” and said … nothing. Yes, it would have been better management for the boss to find another way to elicit feedback, but a lot of bosses don’t ask people’s input at all – this one handed everybody an opportunity. Speak up diplomatically, sure, but speak up!

        1. Lizard on a Chair*

          But it puts people on the spot, and creates a classic situation where everyone who is uncomfortable is waiting for someone else to speak up, and no one does. So they assume they’re the only one and now they’re outnumbered and definitely won’t speak up. Sure, the boss did more than nothing, but should the bar be that low? He definitely didn’t handle this properly.

          1. Zombeyonce*

            Exactly. If he had to ask in the moment, he should have asked for hand raises for people that wanted to, not the other way around. It should have been an enthusiastic opt-in.

          2. My Useless 2 Cents*

            In high school my dad joined a local search & rescue group that came with some training. One night he came home and was explaining what they taught and the one thing I’ve always remembered was this:
            If you are in a large group of people and there is an emergency, do not shout out a general “Call 911”, point to one person and tell them to “call 911” while looking straight at them. A general call out, everyone assumes someone else will call. By singling someone out, they feel responsible and will make the call.
            That memory pops into my head a lot when in large group meetings and a question is asked and everybody just sits there. Although, I totally understand just sitting there; I try really hard to speak up when I can. However sometimes a one-on-one after the meeting just works better.

        2. Silver Robin*

          yeah but people need a minute to collect their thoughts and speak up on complex issues. situations like this often have the boss only waiting a few seconds (feels like a minute, is not a minute). and if nobody else is obviously also against it, then you are speaking up against the group, which takes confidence and knowing you are not going to be retaliated against for doing so. not everyone has that.

          this way of soliciting feedback is really ineffective unless there is a strong culture to back it up. I do not blame LW for not saying anything in the moment.

        3. Observer*

          but a lot of bosses don’t ask people’s input at all – this one handed everybody an opportunity

          The thing is that it feels like this was not a genuine request for feedback. The OP says that he’s not great about handling push back, and the dead silence in response to the question is telling.

          1. Always a Corncob*

            This. Maybe people have spoken up and learned the hard way that it’s not worth it. Also, no one wants to be the party pooper who objects to an idea that everyone else in the room seems to be supporting. If the boss actually cared about feedback, he could ask people to come see him privately after the meeting.

          2. Aggretsuko*

            Yes, exactly, it’s Ask vs. Guess culture. I would bet money this is a culture where even if someone asks, it’s not okay to say no. There are reasons when nobody speaks up when asked.

        4. 2 Cents*

          Some bosses have a way of asking for feedback that implies they do not want any feedback.

          1. Aggretsuko*

            Exactly. You are obligated to ask for feedback, whether or not it’s actually wanted.

        5. I have RBF*

          IMO, I would have probably responded with “I don’t know, let me think about it for a bit.” Sure, it’s neither yes or no, but it would indicate that there was not instant enthusiasm for the prospect. Then I would follow up with my misgivings privately.

    3. Just*

      Good points. I would especially be concerned about sleeping arrangements (sharing a room, sharing a bed, no room at all just sleeping on the floor in sleeping bags and bathroom arrangements.

  5. Observer*

    #1- Company reneged on a raise.

    Firstly, there is nothing unprofessional about going back to the company that made an offer. If they turn you down, then start looking very actively. Because your company has just showed you that they are actively dishonest.

    Give the bare minimum notice, and if they give you a hard time, just walk. These guys don’t deserve the courtesy of notice – you do it only for your sake. Which means that if they make your life difficult, it’s an easy decision to cut it short.

    1. Bee Eye Ill*

      Or give the 2 weeks notice, then leave the next day anyway and say you changed your mind on the notice.

    2. Language Lover*

      I think if they’d like to keep this company as a reference, they shouldn’t necessarily pay fast and loose with the 2 weeks notice unless they feel an urgency from the other company.

      On the other hand, if the company who offered the job is still interested, I would absolutely consider the first day of my 2-weeks notice to be the day I initially gave it.

      1. AlwhoisThatAl*

        But what will this company be like as a reference? They treated them in the worst way possible over leaving before, will they give a glowing reference for OP? – doubt it. I wouldn’t care about burning this bridge

        1. ecnaseener*

          LW believes that their direct supervisor, the one most likely to be giving a reference, was just the messenger for a decision made by someone much higher up. So I don’t think we can assume the supervisor’s reference won’t be good even if LW preserves the relationship.

          (I also don’t think this is a binary choice between “glowing reference” and “not glowing so don’t bother” — lots of middle ground there, and a solidly-good reference is plenty useful.)

      2. Observer*

        they shouldn’t necessarily pay fast and loose with the 2 weeks notice unless they feel an urgency from the other company.

        I’m not suggesting “playing fast and loose”. I’m suggesting that the OP offer professional courtesy, with the understanding that this has to be a two way street. If the employer responds by being obnoxious or difficult, then the OP gets to rescind their professional courtesy. Keep in mind that this is not a place that the OP can trust to be honest as a reference anyway. And if they respond in an unprofessional manner to the OP’s notice, that’s a clear signal that they are not going to be a good reference no matter what the OP does.

    3. Skytext*

      I would feel no obligation to give them any more notice than the original final day. If she can still get the other job, she should tell them she can still make her original start date. If her company protests, tell them “I told you my last day is the 15th. I only withdrew my resignation due to a promised raise. You have now refused to honor that promise, therefore my withdrawal is null-and-void, so my original notice stands”.

      1. laser99*

        I’m normally not in favor of ghosting, but in this case it would serve them right, and then some. I’m outraged on behalf of the OP!

      2. Enai*

        Can I upvote this comment, please? Because I have nothing of substance to say besides nodding vigorously.

      3. Kevin Sours*

        I would feel no obligation to give them that. At this point OP should do whatever they need to do to land in a good position.

    4. GreenShoes*

      I sometimes cringe when I hear this advice. While I don’t necessarily think it’s wrong in all cases. In fact I did it once myself. There should be some caveats included for those that may not know.

      Not working out your notice could affect:
      References (as others have mentioned)
      Vacation/PTO payouts
      Rehire status (not necessarily a problem, but I’ve heard this question asked in an HR reference check along with employment dates and title)

      1. Observer*

        None of these things matter. If they are going to be obnoxious about the OP’s notice period / leaving, you can be sure that they are not going to give a good or honest referral down the line. They have already show that they are not honest. Misbehaving when the OP gives notice would prove that they are also *deeply* unreasonable. With people like that you can’t plan around insuring a good reference, because nothing you do is going to insure a good reference.

        As for re-hire, why would they ever want to be re-hired at a place that lied to them and then gave them a hard time about finding a better job?

        As for vacation / PTO pay outs, they are not so common. But if they exist in the OP’s company, what makes you think that the policy will be honored? Remember, they have already reneged on a commitment. But the OP is giving notice, so it should not be an issue anyway. If they decide to penalize the OP for not staying on to accept abuse, then you can be sure that they would have found another excuse to not pay out – or even just said “tough”.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          I don’t think it’s fair to say these things don’t matter — they can matter a great deal based on circumstances! OP should be aware of them and determine how much they matter in this particular situation.

          1. Observer*

            They don’t matter because if they don’t behave themselves, nothing the OP does is going to change their behavior.

            That’s why I suggested giving notice. That preserves whatever there is to preserve when dealing with a company with SOME sense and SOME decency. But if they kick back and make the OP’s life difficult, then they lack the faintest shred of sense or reasonableness. At which point, the OP needs to get out because there is nothing to preserve.

  6. Goldie*

    Great letters–

    for #1–You never know, as long as you were cordial in the process, they might be delighted to be able to hire you and not have to go back to searching. It is hard to find great candidates these days.

    #2–You said that you need help with attitude and imposter syndrome. A younger professional might be a great person to share what has worked for them. I have arranged a few professional networking relationships and often there are a lot of factors that I consider. Always, I look at who would be a good mentor which has a lot more to do with their empathy, professionalism and good attitude. I also look at who would grow from being a mentor. So I just giving it a try, but also remember that what you put into the relationship is really important.

    #3–Some people really don’t realize how difficult it is for others to get away. The new boss might not even realize this and might not know it is a issue of equity (parents, pet owners, people with health issues or disabilities, mental health issues).

    #5–Is it possible that you are looking at a job database that promotes positions that are closing soon first?

    1. JSPA*

      People can get hung up on a mentor being “someone who will mold me in their image” or “someone to aspire to becoming,” but as with any sort of guidance or learning, it’s about finding the right teacher for the lesson you’re ready to learn.

      I’ve never trusted mentors who were too comfortable with the Henry Higgins / Eliza Doolittle dynamic, anyway!

      But even if you’re into that, wanting a single mentor who “has power and will open doors and can be a role model for future me, down to wardrobe choices” is like wanting just one perfect friend, who will always be there to help you…or a fairy godmother…or a rich uncle to die and leave you everything.

      1. Allonge*

        That makes a lot of sense.

        I know it’s easier said than done but might it not be better for OP to get assistance from a therapist about the impostor syndrome (at least primarily)?

        Unless this is a huge workplace, it’s unlikely that there will be a lot of people willing to be a mentor and in OP’s field and have technical as well as approach experience and have something contructive to say about impostor syndrome and be older than OP and…

        As you say, it’s something we want on some level! But that does not help make it happen.

  7. NAL-NYL*

    LW1, I would highly recommend checking in with an attorney regarding a civil suit for fraud. Even without a contract in writing, you may have options. Obviously, the attorney might tell you that they can’t help, but it’s worth getting a consult.

    1. rudster*

      I am not a lawyer, but this would seem to fit the circumstances for promissory estoppel – they made a promise, LW1 relied on it to her detriment, they reneged and LW suffered damages. Damages might be a sticking point, though, since they are basically the difference between LW’s new wage at the higher-paying company and her current wages at the current company over the same period. However, there’s no way to prove how long LW might have worked for the new company at the higher wage, or what her wage trend at the current company might have ended up being (assuming the wage freeze is ever lifted).

    2. JSPA*

      Seems unlikely, unless the person or people making the promise knew (or should have known) about the money crunch / hiring freeze / freeze in all raises, at the time that they made the promise. If it was made in good faith, I can’t see how there would be any sort of legal case (IANAL).

      1. Random Dice*

        I disagree, companies are wusses about lawsuits, and outside counsel is expensive (most companies don’t have experienced trial lawyers, they hire it out). They are very likely to comply.

        If they later fire her or lay her off, that is then a different lawsuit, for retaliation.

        I’d at least talk to a lawyer. And job search like heck.

        1. Southern Litigator*

          I agree with this. I’m an employment lawyer in the US who represents employers and if this case landed on my desk, we’d encourage the client to settle this for LW’s back pay at the new rate and instituting the new raise. It’s not that their case is a dead bang winner, but it’s a horrible look that would needlessly expensive to litigate for them and could still wind up in front of a sympathetic jury.

          1. Random Dice*

            Thanks for the confirmation!

            I should have said that IANAL, but my job requires me to work closely with the corporate lawyers on similar topics.

    3. EPLawyer*

      I HIGHLY doubt this rises to that level. Plus lawsuits take time and are hugely mentally draining. The best solution is for OP to get out of there and not look back.

      1. CityMouse*

        This. The reality is it’s tricky and expensive and almost certainly not worth it.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        A lawsuit is likely not worth it, but a strongly-worded letter on law firm letterhead might be. As Southern Litigator noted, most companies are litigation-averse and might be willing to settle for enough that OP#1 could have some cushion for their job search.

        I always chuckle when people suggest you “just sue them!!” because those people have clearly never been through a lawsuit (especially discovery). I would not wish a lawsuit on anyone I remotely cared for.

  8. Fikly*

    LW2: I would flip your thinking on this. Let’s assume what you know is true: this person is younger than you and has less experience than you in this field, and they are senior to you. Let’s make another assumption – they got where they are not because they are a cis white male, but are say, roughly equal in skills or ability to you.

    So the question then stands, what is the difference? You’re talking about how you are struggling with impostor syndrome, and one of the ways that is harmful is that it can prevent people from advocating for their own advancement in the workplace, or for opportunities that lead to that advancement. That might be a difference. Or it could be something completely different. But potentially this person could be a great mentor not on the hard skills of your job, but the soft skills, which are often much more nebulous, but critical in various ways.

    1. RAM*

      Exactly what I wanted to say – someone who is younger and more senior than you is absolutely your chance to learn if they’re willing to teach! What are they doing, and how are they doing it? How do they approach problems? How do they communicate? If they’re rocketing through their career, this is your chance to learn and apply it to yours. It’s a great opportunity.

  9. Junior Dev*

    RE: 4, I do see a fair number of people say “badass” in a business context and it weirds me out every time.

    1. Madame Arcati*

      Well it would me, but I gather from AAM that referring to someone as a “rock star” in a work context is quite normal. But I am a stuffy Brit – perhaps plenty of people hear rock star and don’t assume a fender strat, a mic stand, a shaggy root perm and a pair of extremely tight trousers!

      1. DJ Abbott*

        The times I’ve seen “rockstar”it was in posts for pushy, high-pressure sales people. And there was one law firm posting for a rockstar and their posts were high-pressure and pushy too.

        1. MsM*

          Yeah, I think the general consensus when it’s come up before may be that it’s not an uncommon thing to see, but it’s at minimum a yellow flag this company may have unreasonable expectations and pushing back against them will be difficult.

      2. Random Dice*

        It was a ubiquitous slang term in the late 90s, which is when many managers today were young.

    2. Raida*

      We once set a trainee’s username to one software as captain.badass and he really perked up after that. :]

      Can’t think of any other time it’s come up in business context, thankfully!

  10. Brain the Brian*

    LW4, you might consider adding “telling people cool things [about XYZ / the company’s work / etc.].” Some bosses might find the word “cool” unprofessional in a cover letter, but I would argue that you don’t want to work for them anyway.

    1. Area Woman*

      I tend to use phrases more like “The next big thing” or novel, unexplored, innovative if we want to be a little less informal. But I work in science and I think the word “cool” would be neat to see in a letter in the right context.

  11. Hilarious*

    I think it depends on the industry and position of the word “cool” is, actually, cool to use. I am surprised that Alison encouraged it without knowing the whole context.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The LW sent me her full cover letter; it works well with what she’s written and the job she’s applying for. (And speaking more broadly, there are more contexts where it would be fine than where it wouldn’t be.)

    2. EPLawyer*

      Even leaving aside Alison saw the whole letter, the person advising #4 said to substitute a formal polysyllabic word. That is terrible advice right there. Cool might not be the BEST word to use, but its better than polysyllabic in general. And this is from someone who prefers polysyllabic over single syllable words.

      1. Cool*

        Also, in some industries, cool is actually a term of art.

        Hard to write about television advertising or colour palettes without using cool at some point.

        Go for it, LW4. Use cool and be cool.

  12. The Prettiest Curse*

    #5 – This is definitely one of the most annoying things about job hunting. Even if you ask if the job is still open and they say yes, there’s no guarantee that it will still be open by the time you actually submit your application. Either skip applying for these jobs if you have enough other options (since they might be re-posted soon anyway) or apply but put slightly less effort and time into the application, so it will be a bit less annoying if the job posting gets withdrawn.

    1. ferrina*

      Yep. Seconding Alison- asking is unlikely to get you any useful information. First, you have to contact the right person. Most likely your email will vanish into the void or the answer will be “all the information is in the posting” (even though we all know it’s not, this will be the standard answer for a lot of folks).

      And even someone that means well may not know about changes- HR usually manages the job postings, but what if after the job was posted the hiring manager tapped someone internally and hasn’t told HR yet? I’ve seen several times when HR was the last to know about changes to a job.

      I agree with The Prettiest Curse- if you suspect that this job may not be open, deprioritize this posting in your job search, or send something more generic that takes less time.

  13. amoeba*

    #5 In my field, it’s unfortunately actually very, very common for jobs to stay open long after applications are actually accepted – I’m pretty sure many only close once somebody has signed on. Which means they are posted for 3+ months, while the hiring process has long since moved on (which I know for sure because I’ve seen it multiple times for positions I applied for myself – I know they were already doing second round interviews and the posting was still up.)

    Haven’t really found anything that would help, though, as those are generally positions at large companies where there isn’t actually any way of contacting the hiring team directly. If I know somebody in the department, I’d definitely ask whether it still makes sense to apply if the position has been online for more than, say, 3 weeks, though. (And I guess it can’t hurt if there’s actually a contact listed, either!)

    1. ecnaseener*

      I would say even if they keep it open until they’ve signed someone, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s pointless to apply — presumably they’re keeping it open because they think there’s a chance none of the earlier candidates will work out, and/or they’re continuously looking at all new applications as they come in.

      That calculus probably depends on how many applications you think an opening is likely to get — if you think they have dozens of well- qualified candidates from the start, then yeah it’s probably not worth applying at the tail end. But like, my team’s openings usually have just a few viable candidates trickling in slowly, so we’re interviewing them one by one and would absolutely look at a new candidate even if we were close to making an offer to someone else.

      1. amoeba*

        Yeah, that’s certainly a point. Unfortunately, the companies here definitely get several hundred applications for each position, so probably no need to go back later on (at least I’ve never gotten anything but a generic HR rejection when I tried, anyway…)

    2. 1,000 Snails in a Lady Skin*

      My company’s policy is “until an offer is accepted in writing, we’re still interviewing and looking at resumes.”
      So we may have multiple people in final rounds and still be moving candidates into first round. This is because from the employer’s side, offers can fall through and final round candidates can withdraw at any point so it’s good to not have to start from scratch when this happens.

      Sure, this might mean that the job might get closed out a few days after someone applies, but also if we see really strong candidates still early in the process, we’ll try to expedite them through if needed.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      We leave ours open until we have a confirmed start date because we’ve had excellent candidates come up late in the process, even if others re already in a final round interview (those are the best candidates we had at the time, not necessarily the best overall) and also because just because people are interviewing doesn’t mean they will take the job (and, as of late, we’ve had more who accept it and then back out before the start date, which is fine but I still need candidates to fill the role). If the posting is up, we’re still reviewing applicants.

    4. DataSci*

      Why is this unfortunate? If you close the opening as soon as you get a few applicants you’ll just need to open 90% of them again when none of the first few work out. I’ve never worked anywhere where in my field they closed an opening before someone accepted an offer. Too few qualified applicants, and too many opportunities for those qualified applicants.

      1. amoeba*

        Nah, certainly not after a few. HR generally moves forward to the second round (screening by hiring manager, then interviews) after the first 100 or few 100 applications. It’s a crowded field and big companies, I’m sure it’s different elsewhere.
        For us, once the screening interviews are on the way, everything’s usually on a defined schedule (“we do screening interviews this week, then decide until week after next whom we move forward, the on-site interviews between week x and y”). Once that first selection is made, usually they don’t (have to) go back and any application I’ve submitted past that point hasn’t gotten past HR, no matter how good the fit would have been (and they generally only screen out the really unsuitable candidates and forward the rest to the hiring manager. So pretty sure they weren’t actually looking at any additional candidates.)

        1. DataSci*

          Ah, yeah, if we waited until we had 100 qualified applicants we’d be waiting for months at best. Apples and oranges. (By “qualified” I mean “the hiring manager thinks the resume is worth doing an initial phone screen”).

    5. cncx*

      Where I am, in a jurisdiction with long probation periods (3 months) it is common to keep a posting open up a while (I’ve seen from first choice’s first week up to the first month) or keep candidates 2 and 3 in the loop until at least month one. I’ve gotten called back as the second choice when first choice didn’t start due to a counter offer (and I stayed ten years!).

      This usually means I do like you- if a job has been open three weeks or a month, I won’t apply, usually

  14. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    LW3, on top of how many people might want to object to an overnight, I am particularly annoyed with how boss pitched it.

    he asked the group if anybody didn’t want to do an overnight portion. Silence.

    Asking people to opt out of something in front of a group is almost always unfair. If public, must be opt in. If opt out, must have a private option (eg “if anyone can’t make this, please come and see me before Thursday). This style necessarily pressures people into going along with the plan regardless of its suitability or desirability. Who wants to be the one person saying “Actually…”?!

    1. Random Dice*


      Especially when the objections are reasons why a group has been historically discriminated against. “Sorry boss but I’m a WOMAN with inconvenient-for-business ovaries and my CHILDREN mean I can’t do business like all the other people here so sorry.” Blech.

      1. Inquiring minds*

        How on earth do your ovaries impede your ability to go on a corporate retreat?

        1. Silver Robin*

          ovaries help produce kids and kids are inconvenient so the association of inconvenience flows backwards, by my understanding

        2. Student*

          Speaking only for myself, I don’t really want to be around co-workers 24/7 when I’m on the rag sometimes. Especially a sleep-over situation!

          I’m in a male-dominated field, and a certain sub-section of our culture is Manly Man Men who Need You To Know How Manly They Are At All Times. That type get squicked out real easy by anything around periods, and get real vocal about it.

          So I get to play the game I like to call, “Do I hide the rag?”

          That’s where you make a call about whether you are going to hide your rags to pretend you don’t have ovaries, which in a sleep-over situation can be rather involved. Will the smell tip people off? Are there house pets involved that might give me away or complicate my strategy? How can I smuggle the pad past everyone?

          Or I get to deal with crappy remarks from those guys and way more attention paid to my uterine sheddings than is business-appropriate, coming up with a full-on communication strategy for the evening. Do I respond to snark and immaturity with escalating snark and immaturity, to try to one-up them at their game? Do I go grey rock, trying to show them it doesn’t bother me by extreme neutral responses? There are so many options, and yet… somehow they all make me look bad and give a pass to jerks.

          1. Inquiring minds*

            Surely you’re taking the word “overnight” overly literally. I doubt this is a communal camp-out or middle school-esque sleepover. I suppose stranger things have happened, but presumably the company would provide a hotel room for each employee, where period products can be changed in private.

            1. I have RBF*

              University stuff is usually done on the cheap, so I would expect shared rooms at some AirBNB. Hard no in my book.

    2. Naomi*

      Yeah, in that context silence reads to me like “awkward silence, as everyone in the room hopes someone else will object first.”

        1. Allonge*

          Eh, that goes too far for me. OP and coworkers can and should discuss the issues with overnighting not just when boss asks but also later / in smaller groups / one-on-ones.

          Also, the fact that people have obligations outside of work is not something that needs to be treated as an embarrassing secret that Obiously TM nobody can speak up about. Someone can say ‘actually, that part does not work for me, I would appreciate a daytime only version of this’ without disclosing.

          Boss is clueless but that is not the same thing as malicious.

          1. Observer*

            No, the boss is not clueless. The original suggestion may have been clueless. Asking this way? No. That’s deliberate.

    3. Quinalla*

      Yes, even if unintentional, asking people to speak up in front of the group to object when clearly boss wants everyone to go is so BS. I would definitely see if you can gather some like-minded folks and speak up well before the next one of these gets planned. Maybe even say “Hey, we did this last year and based on that experience, can’t do it again this year because of childcare/family/etc. responsibilities. What would work is daytime only activities from Xam-Ypm. We wanted to make sure we could fully participate, so wanted to bring it up before planning got too far underway.” Tweak as makes sense to you, but that is how I would approach it!

  15. Rainbow*

    LW1: I just woke up and checked AAM, and I’m already angry at your shitty company! Hope you get the heck out asap!

    1. Empress Ki*

      And hope she leaves a Glassdoor review too. If I was looking for a job, I would want to know to avoid this company.

      1. Spread the news*

        I am sure her coworkers would appreciate knowing about this spit treatment as well, so they don’t fall prey to the hiring freeze gambit.

  16. Green great dragon*

    #2 sounds like your proposed mentor has moved up the hierarchy fairly quickly? Which suggests they’ve got some good abilities that you could learn from, and you may be building a relationship with someone who will be even more senior in future.

    I do get it feels odd, but try to go in with an open mind. And remember a mentor won’t be better than you at everything. Whatever their age, there will be things they do better than you and can give you good strategies, and there will be things they can’t do as well as you.

    1. Cordelia*

      Agreed – and OP, you say this is more about challenges on the approach/mentality side – this person has been able to move up in their career at a younger age, and so their approach and mentality is obviously working for them, they may well have a lot to offer you. As you say, it’s not the technical skills you are looking for help with. Give it a try

  17. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

    If you and others are not exempt, the university would have to pay overtime. They probably has not ocurred to him. Learning this could get it cancelled real quick. He probably doesn’t have the authority to add this to the department budget mid-year.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      An overnight retreat sounds like an irresponsible use of university funds, especially if it’s a public university.

  18. bamcheeks*

    We’ve got a function in our team which we always describe as, “someone who looks at all the data, and then comes back and says, “Hey, let me tell you about the cool thing I found!”” Can we use that in the job description? :)

  19. vegan velociraptor*


    Does anyone have a sense if cover letters are generally more formal in the UK? I tend to write formally phrased cover letters and it would feel quite unnatural to me to use “cool” like that. (Although I do have an academic background, so my writing is generally a bit more formal!) I’m often surprised at how informal the exemplar cover letters on here are, and I’m wondering if it’s a cultural difference or my personal experience/style.

    1. Boolie*

      US here, I honestly probably wouldn’t do it. Would keep the tone light and optimistic of course but wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to think I was ready for informality in my written correspondence with a new company I’m not even part of yet.

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      As someone who has worked in both the US and UK, I think American cover letters are usually a bit more informal than those in the UK. But American employers seemed (in my experience) to expect potential job applicants to perform a high level of enthusiasm about themselves and the job for which they are applying. Gen Z seem to be pushing back on this expectation, and good for them, because forced enthusiasm is worthless.

      Having to convey the expected level of enthusiasm can lead to more informality in writing (exclamation marks etc.), so that cultural difference may explain the greater informality. I also think that American culture is just a bit more informal in general – the lack of stuffiness can be very refreshing if you’re used to UK work culture.

    3. londonedit*

      I’m in the UK, in a fairly non-stuffy industry (book publishing) and my sense from reading AAM is that cover letters in the US are definitely more effusive and enthusiastic than those in the UK. I’m not sure whether formal is quite the right word, but I’ve seen people here from the US comment appreciatively about cover letters that include phrases like ‘I’m so excited to apply for the role of…’ or use exclamation marks, and I wouldn’t use either in a cover letter. I generally keep the tone of my cover letters fairly light, but I wouldn’t use particularly effusive language like ‘I’m so excited’ because it has the potential to come across as OTT or insincere to British eyes. I also probably wouldn’t use ‘cool things’ – I’d phrase it more as ‘I particularly enjoy the aspects of my job that allow me to share my knowledge and enthusiasm with others’.

      1. Tau*

        I’m in Germany and I run all advice involving wording through a cultural filter first. The suggested wording typically does get at the right idea, I just have to decrease enthusiasm by 30% and increase bluntness by 25% and formality by 15% to make it suitable for Germany. (Numbers subject to change depending on field and region.)

        1. amoeba*

          It certainly depends, yes! I’m a German in Switzerland and actually find most wording quite OK for my purposes – but then my field is quite international and also involves quite a few people from the US. OK, and the Swiss are at least known for being less blunt and formal than the Germans, so maybe more fitting here than it might be at home?

          (For cover letters, I tend to go a little more formal than the examples here, but not a lot. And I do use exclamation marks – like, one or two, not 5 or 10 – and phrasings like “I am excited about xy…”)

          1. Waiting on the bus*

            See, that’s a good day example of toning down the enthusiasm, which I also do when applying AAM advice to cover letters here. If an example cover letter here would say “I’m so excited about xyz” I’d tone it down to “I’m excited about xyz”. I could see myself using “cool” in a cover letter, but only as a specific stylistic choice to emphasize something, rather than something I’d use in general.

            I use AAM for ideas of how to theme and what to put in the cover letter. But I think tonally we’re more reserved overall, so even in tech industries I don’t think many of the AAM cover letters would fly over here.

            (Having said that, I once applied to a position in English, using language far more like what we see here on AAM and the German hiring manager specifically mentioned how much she loved my cover letter. So maybe this is changing as well.)

            1. amoeba*

              Yeah, I think you could also really stand out in a positive way if you go with the less formal style. But it needs to be very well executed (and you could obviously still be unlucky and get a very stuffy hiring manager. But then I guess I wouldn’t want to work there in the first place!) But the stakes are certainly higher than if you go with a conventional style where the worst that could happen would be to be utterly unremarkable. It’s a fine balance!

              (Also doesn’t help that in general in this city and industry, I actually almost never have any idea which nationality the HR person and hiring manager actually have, haha!)

        2. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

          When you say “increase bluntness”, are you talking about cover letters, or AAM wording advice in general? If you mean cover letters, I’d be really interested in an example.

          1. Tau*

            Now you’re making me think about my joke statistics!

            So for cover letters, it’s typically mainly enthusiasm that needs to be dialed down – like you say, bluntness in cover letters isn’t really a thing, you also don’t want to tell people “I’m looking for a new job because my boss is awful” in Germany! But most of the example letters have this… effusive quality to them that’s just not how we roll.

            General wording, despite what I said Alison’s is often actually very good, possibly because she tackles a lot of questions where people aren’t picking up on the social hints and it’s time to make sure that your communication gets across. Sometimes it’s a little too… exaggerated? demonstrative? I remember e.g. a time she suggested wording for talking about a mistake where I went “yeah no, that’s too overblown for here”. But overall the style she suggests is fairly direct and professional in a way that would go over well, and increasing bluntness/decreasing enthusiasm is more of a thing for some of the wording suggestions that crop up in the comments. I would probably need to bump the formality waaaay up on everything, but I’m in a fairly informal field (English-working-language tech) which also has more international influences and employees. For a more traditional German company suggested wordings would likely need more adjustment for hierarchy and distance. This is one of the reasons why I’m not working in a more traditional German company :)

            1. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

              Interesting, thank you! Mostly it was the specific combination of “bluntness” and “cover letters” that had me wondering. Thanks for clearing that up, and also for elaborating on the rest. :)

            2. amoeba*

              Even (big) traditional German companies are changing quite rapidly at the moment, though! My boyfriend works at one of *the* cliché most German large companies in the world, I’d say, and in the past decade or so they’ve basically gone from suits and ties at work and using “Dr. Lastname” with everybody to first names and jeans. It’s quite fascinating to observe, actually!

              1. Tau*

                Oh, that is interesting! I have noticed that over the past… yeah, decade is probably right… my parents have gone from talking about their coworkers by surname to talking about them by first name. It was an interesting switch because these would be people I’d been hearing about for agest this point and now it was like “Jonas? Who the hell is Jonas? Oh you mean $LASTNAME. I didn’t even know he had a first name!” But I didn’t realise it was reflecting a general phenomenon.

                Gives me hope should I end up setting foot outside the English-language startup-y places. I spent a long time living outside Germany in a country that worked on a first-name basis, and I don’t think I’d tolerate the suit and ties Dr. Lastname style very well.

        3. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

          I’m purely American but your description makes me feel pretty German. I do have enthusiasm as a personal trait, but I also have bluntness and I get tired of it being a hindrance.

          (And now I’m thinking of my RPG friends who talk about “rolling for endurance” and wishing we could do the same for workplace traits.)

      2. Random Dice*

        I read a really interesting BBC article about cultural rates of smiling, and how it is directly related to historical multiculturalism.

        The idea was that high melting-pot countries have so many language barriers that physical signals of good will become the norm. (I know that I smile a LOT more when I don’t speak the local language, or am just learning it. Like, sorry, I really appreciate your patience.) Obviously all countries today have lots of immigration, but we’re talking way back when national cultures were set.

        The US and Canada were examples of countries whose people feel way too smiley to most Europeans. A quote I remember was something like “if you see someone walking down the street and just smiling, they’re either drunk, or American.”

        It wouldn’t remotely surprise me if that smile / reserve line were to be reflected in cover letters.

      3. Inquiring minds*

        I’m in the UK, in a fairly non-stuffy industry (book publishing) and my sense from reading AAM is that cover letters in the US are definitely more effusive and enthusiastic than those in the UK.

        You assume that AAM cover letters are typical. With due respect to the blogger, they aren’t.

      4. linger*

        Style comparisons of American and British English are … complicated. Leech et al (2009) describe several partly opposed trends of “colloquialisation” (with spoken features such as contractions becoming more common in writing) and “densification” (information becoming more concentrated in noun phrases) observable in both varieties, but also identify some significant differences in editing preferences.
        Certain genres of American writing have historically been more formal than their British equivalent: e.g. British press material was more informal, partly because of the more prominent market share of tabloids, whereas American political reportage was noticeably more deferential in tone until the 1970s. But things changed after Watergate, with an incursion of tabloid-style reportage into the USA.
        Biber (1987) described the Brown corpus (1961 edited written AmE) as “more edited” and slightly more information-dense overall than the parallel LOB corpus (1961 BrE). However, what you see depends partly on which genres you compare and what language features you measure. E.g. some British academic publications have higher frequencies of passives, which usually corresponds to more formal style ratings — whereas American editors are more likely to remove passives, which matches Biber’s “more edited” description, but doesn’t necessarily produce “more formal” text.
        Sigley (2013) compared Brown and LOB with the Frown and FLOB corpora (of 1991 AmE and BrE respectively) on a lexical formality index, finding (i) all four corpora were broadly similar both in their average formality level and in the observed spread of genres across the range, and (ii) the 1990s data showed little consistent difference between AmE and BrE, though (iii) reportage and editorials in Brown scored as significantly more formal than in the other corpora.
        Admittedly, we don’t have much data for unpublished writings such as business correspondence. (The International Corpus of English did include some relevant texts, but not enough to draw reliable conclusions about national differences in style level within any one genre.)

        Biber, D. (1987). A textual comparison of British and American writing. American Speech 62, 99-119.
        Leech, G., Hundt, M., Mair, C., & Smith, N. (2009). Change in Contemporary English. Cambridge University Press.
        Sigley, R. (2013). Assessing corpus comparability using a formality index: the case of the Brown/LOB clones. In S. Yamazaki & R. Sigley (eds) Approaching Language Variation through Corpora. Peter Lang, 65-113.

        1. Former Hill rat*

          This is fascinating!

          I think the UK broadsheets are still a bit more casual than the likes of the New York Times or the Washington Post. The Economist and FT are comparable.

    4. bamcheeks*

      I’m in the UK, and I think this is probably the case. I can’t tell exactly what the norm is and what the outliers are, but it feels like the ones Alison recommends as “this is a strong, peppy letter that gives me a sense of you as an individual” would be extreme outliers here, and the ones she thinks are too template and formulaic would be much more typical here.

      I have written a couple of much more creative and informal cover letters for small companies where the vibe of their websites was very informal. One of them had a “our people” section on their website which had some fairly lighthearted and personal staff profiles with a bit about why they were passionate about the work and then non-work related likes and dislikes, so I nicked their format and delivered my cover letter in the same style. Another one asked for something a bit different, so I wrote something a bit more personal and “here’s my journey”. Both of those got me interviews. But they were very consciously matched to the style of the job description and organisation websites, and I wouldn’t do them for every job.

      1. amoeba*

        I’d assume that the formulaic, template-y ones are also by far the norm in the US, which is why they’re formulaic and template-y?

    5. ecnaseener*

      I don’t know if it’s a US thing so much as an AAM thing. Most US cover letters I’ve seen are more formal than the AAM examples.

      I can’t remember where (presumably a US-targeted site), but I’ve seen a guide with a few different tones to choose from, one being enthusiastic and somewhat informal, but IIRC still a bit more formal than the AAM examples.

      I think what it comes down to is that if you’re going to use an informal/conversational style, you HAVE to do it well. Sounding at all stilted will ruin it, so if you’re going to sound stilted you had better go for formal.

      1. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

        Yeah, I don’t think when Alison recommends writing cover letters a certain way, it’s because that’s the most *common* way in the US. My impression is that it’s because she doesn’t think the most common way is the best way (for a US audience).

        I got all my jobs that involved cover letters writing them very formally. I’ve only applied to one job since I started reading AAM and tried out Alison’s suggestion. I got the phone screen (though we couldn’t agree on salary, so that’s as far as it went). But anyway, both styles have worked for me.

    6. RagingADHD*

      I’m in the US, and I’d say it also depends on the position. There are roles that include “telling people cool things,” and there are roles where being cool in any respect is not desired, at all – like roles where you are supposed to be the party pooper and keep the cool people from getting the company in trouble or blowing themselves up.

      I’d say if it fits the role, it’s probably fine.

  20. Boolie*

    #2 at my previous company the person who took over as manager for an analyst team was the youngest and even the newest on the team, but the biggest difference between him and the rest of the team was that he had the most serious, by-the-books attitude. It matters A LOT to companies that someone will think with the company’s brain than with their own brain. I don’t mean that as an insult to the guy. But the managerial mindset is that everything you do at work has some effect on the company’s overall business goal.

  21. Chriama*

    OP1 – your supervisor and/or your company played you. How did this go from “here’s a raise to keep you” to “we have a wage freeze”? Either she was making a promise she wasn’t actually capable of ensuring and failed to communicate that to you (there’s a world of difference between “I’ll try to get you a raise” and “I *will* get you a raise”) or she was told by someone above her to offer you whatever it took to keep you and they had no intention of following through. Either way, it’s a breathtaking lack of integrity at the managerial level that doesn’t bode well for the future of the company.

    You absolutely can and should go back to this company you got an offer from. Be honest with them about what happened and your company’s breach of trust. If the job is gone, so be it. Find a new one. You can’t stay at your current company.

    Depending on how confrontational you’re feeling, I would straight-up ask your current boss for more info about who the decision-maker was and tell them the following: “You made a promise to me, which I trusted to my own detriment. This has given me serious concerns about the integrity of the company and my future here. What happened to justify such a major breach of trust and goodwill, and what assurances can you give me that I can believe what you say in the future?”

    But that’s more for the sake of curiosity than anything. I can’t think of a response that would lead me to trust the company again, aside from something like “a rogue exec made the decision and when someone higher up found out they were fired and we’re giving you the raise and promotion after all.” Anything less than full transparency and immediate action is meaningless.

    1. WellRed*

      They actually gave her the dollar amount of the raise. Either someone is incompetent or they lack transparency but I wouldn’t assume rogue exec. The end result is the same. OP needs to GTFO.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        There’s only 2 possibilities here really. 1. They panicked and did whatever to keep OP from leaving, knowing that the raise wouldn’t be forthcoming but that was a problem that would happen later rather than right now. 2. Supervisor acted in good faith, but now is being passive to avoid upsetting their own higher ups rather than go to bat for OP. Where is the supervisor in covering for these random needs etc – why is OP having to pick all this up?

        1. blerg*

          Assuming good faith on the supervisor’s part, OP now knows that Supervisor is not empowered to make decisions and was herself set up for this outcome. It doesn’t effect what she should do, she should leave either way, but it matters for her relationship with someone who could be an excellent future reference.

          Where is the supervisor in all this now? Good question. Quietly job searching, I hope. She’s in an impossible management position, given responsibility to make deals without the information or authority to keep to them. If she honestly didn’t see this coming, she blameless.

          But now she knows that she can’t trust her bosses any more than you can.

          I notice OP describes her as her “current supervisor” perhaps indicating it’s a high turnover position? I wonder why.

    2. Raida*

      and regardless of it the raise was ever real or not, they have acknowledged the workload issues.
      I’d be immediately setting up a meeting to nail down what those changes are going to look like, who’s responsible, etc. to make it clear that it was a two-pronged change to make me stay.
      I’m *going to get* the manager’s support, unless they want to admit (unlikely) that they were simply lying to make me stay

  22. Morning reader*

    For LW3, I don’t understand what possible purpose an overnight retreat could have for front line workers in the areas mentioned. Is it just for bonding, team spirit, etc? The only time I’ve had something like this involved senior managers and board members and it was a planning retreat for a major expansion. This retreat seems to have no real business purpose. Unless there was some actual need to be there, I think I would be sick or out of town that night.

    1. WellRed*

      OP doesn’t say the are front line workers, just “workers at my level.” Could very well be managers.

    2. BubbleTea*

      My guess is, it would allow the boss to expense a trip he wanted to make anyway.

    3. Waiting on the bus*

      People on this site are so negative about these sort of things. Yes, the purpose is team bonding and making connections with members of the team you wouldn’t normally because they work in different departments/work in other locations in person. The social aspect is the business purpose.

      I agree that these things can be awful if done wrong (especially if there are weird bonding activities), but sometimes users here act as if just the idea of these retreats are the worst insult a company could ever level against its employees.

  23. Chriama*

    OP1 – This is also a good reminder about not taking counteroffers!

    You’re exhausted, burned out, and your company can’t keep adequate staffing levels. A promotion wouldn’t have made things better, because there isn’t anyone to take over your current workload. A likely result would have been being expected to do higher level work while also doing the work of cleaning up other people’s files because no one else was capable.

    A raise probably also wouldn’t have been the blessing it seemed. Getting more money would have felt nice for a while. But you’re burned out and money can’t buy time – or at least, not much of it. You can pay to outsource some home tasks – e.g. a cleaning service, meal prep boxes or meal delivery services, moving closer to work, etc. – but even if the raise was enough to do all that with money to spare, the effect is limited, and it’s not like you can pay to outsource time spent with family or friends. The glow of more money would have faded soon and you’d be stuck with all the same stressors as before.

    Also, given that they’re suffering from staffing shortages due to the great resignation, I assume they’re just not paying enough. So I doubt the raise would have been big enough to buy back your free time at home.

    All that is to say, you decided to leave this job because you had genuine issues. Don’t let shiny things distract you from the real concerns that drove you away in the first place. Unless your company is committed to addressing the underlying issues (and has a track record of doing so with integrity), they’ll come back once the shiny glow wears off.

  24. I need coffee before I can make coffee*

    OP #1 you should absolutely go back and ask about the other job. You have nothing to lose by doing that. They might say no, or they might be really glad to be done with their candidate search.

  25. Hiring Mgr*

    I wonder if LW2 is expecting too much from this mentorship program. It sounds like it may be more of a “here’s someone who can show you the ropes” as a new employee, rather than someone who would help with impostor syndrome, career development, etc

    1. LW#2*

      My manager framed finding me a mentor as talking to someone who could help me with framing/mentally, approach to difficult challenges, impostor syndrome etc. I do not doubt this person’s technical skills, but that is not the purpose of the mentorship.

      1. bamcheeks*

        LW, can you explain a bit more why you don’t think someone younger than you can help with those things? To me, none of those things are age-related, and I think it might help you to articulate why you think they are?

      2. Risha*

        I’m also wondering why you think someone younger cannot help you with these things you listed. I appear younger than I am, I’m also the one who trains new staff to our dept. I’ve had several people flat out say to my face “wow you are so young/you look so young” and not take me seriously. One time it got to where I had to speak to my boss and tell him that this person won’t listen or follow what I’m trying to teach them. It was very insulting that people think I don’t know my stuff because I appear young.

        If the manager thinks this younger person knows their stuff, it won’t hurt to learn from them. Just because someone is young or young appearing, doesn’t mean they cannot be a good mentor or trainer. Give the person a chance, you may find they are one of the best mentors you’ve had. And if you don’t, you can speak to your manager about finding someone else. But it’s not fair to them to just be judged straight away because they’re younger than you.

      3. Sarah*

        I’ve had a variety of managers and mentors (formal and informal) in my career. They all offered various advice and support and inspiration, but none would have had he time / emotional bandwidth ability to provide much beyond surface level direction and strategy for imposter syndrome. Even if they have gone through it themselves. A work mentor is a “free” resource, but if the imposter syndrome is significant, a therapist or well qualified coach may be better suited to help you. I know that can be expensive and hard to access in reality. Another option would be to find books or an online or in person support network that can help you work through some if it yourself. Or even a close friend who is also career minded and willing to hash things out with you there.

        For things specific to your career and industry and company, a work mentor can be invaluable. As a mentor myself, I’d be happy to meet with someone monthly-ish and provide them direction and ideas, talk about what worked for me, and give any resources I had readily available. Maybe that’s what you are expecting, and maybe your mentor has some ideas there, despite being younger.

      4. Jessica*

        I’m really curious as to why you think someone who’s younger than you hasn’t had to find ways to overcome difficult challenges or deal with imposter syndrome.

  26. I should really pick a name*


    Why are you assuming it’s a false lead?
    My first thought is that they’re taking down the posting because they’ve gotten enough applications and they’re reviewing them.

    Either that, or they’re taking it down because the position has been filled. That doesn’t make it a false lead.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      That jumped out to me too. LW, job postings are often left up until they have a signed agreement and a start date for the new person. This can look like “false leads” to you if you end up applying to a bunch of what are older postings, but they’re not false. They’ve just been filled. You have to keep at it, and keep an eye out for newer postings you haven’t seen before, as these will be much earlier in the process.
      It can be tough to tell, but keep your head up and keep applying. You’ll get there!

  27. Heather*

    I would like to know how #2 knows the age of the mentor! Maybe it came up naturally like “She graduated in the same class as Bill, actually!” Otherwise, did you ask? I can’t imagine asking, and I can’t imagine someone knowing my exact age, to the detail of knowing that I am just a few years older/younger than someone else. Usually in a workplace, you sort of know that Susie seems to be in her 20s, Ann seems to be in her 40s, etc.

    1. LW#2*

      I looked them up on LinkedIn, which is what I do whenever I meet a new person at work, out of curiosity. (is that weird?)

      1. Ash*

        Ok, so you probably figured out their age based on the year they graduated from college, right? But people take gap years or have interruptions in their college years, etc. Since you believe this person is only a “few” years younger than you, and there could be 1-5 years difference between your assumption from LinkedIn and their actual age, it doesn’t seem like the age difference is really that significant.

        And no, I don’t think it’s at all weird to look up a coworker on LinkedIn.

        1. WellRed*

          Let’s assumeOP knows the age of the person rather than point out the ways they might be wrong. At any rate, rather focus on age, OP, focus on their experience. And no, not weird to look people up on LI.

      2. Heather*

        Oh thanks for answering! No, it’s not weird to look up someone on LinkedIn, and I know you can’t help doing some mental math when they have graduation dates listed.

  28. Sssssssssssssssssssssss*

    I once did email the company to ask if the job posted was still open as I was able to see that it had been posted a month ago (there must have been a date) and I said to myself, why not ask, it’s very possible they didn’t find who they wanted and it’s open.

    When I reached a human being to ask, I was told by a slightly affronted person that no, that job had been filled. When I explained that it was still on their website, their reply was “That’s not my job!” I had never implied that it was. I quickly moved on to the next job opportunity.

    Looking back on this 14 years later, if the reaction to a job seeker’s observation that a filled job opening was still up and you were the person that those resumes were going to, to blurt out “that’s not my job!” was a red flag.

  29. ImGladImNotAlone*

    Overnights with work colleagues? Count me firmly OUT. I honestly don’t think many people are into that sort of thing, TBH. Also, my sister’s law firm has annual overnight retreats (which she has successfully gotten out of due to childcare commitments) and she says they are drunken hook-up fests. No thank you.

    1. Former Hill rat*

      Every company I have ever worked for has had an annual overnight retreat. That includes not only private sector law firms, but a stint working on Capitol Hill, where it rotated every three years between the DC area and two distinct regions of the state my boss was from.

      None of these were “drunken hook-up fests.”

      The idea that a job will have no travel ever is unrealistic, and this has nothing to do with whether OP is an introvert.

      1. Observer*

        The idea that a job will have no travel ever is unrealistic, and this has nothing to do with whether OP is an introvert.

        *THIS* is totally unrealistic. There are many jobs that do not have travel. Ever.

        Capitol Hill is unfortunately not a model for well run workplaces. I would not use that experience to try to prove how great an idea is.

        1. Former Hill rat*

          Capitol Hill is unfortunately not a model for well run workplaces.

          Well, this office was, but that’s not the point. The point is that other companies I’ve worked for (not just in DC, but in other states and other *countries*) have done the same thing.

          We’ll have to agree to disagree on requiring travel. In my view, asking an employee to travel for 1-2 nights in an entire year is reasonable, barring extremely extenuating circumstances.

          I will say that on the Hill, the receptionists got included, but that’s presumably because Capitol Hill has the most overqualified receptionists anywhere; the staff assistants are all looking to get promoted to LCs, so they’re eager to go. The law firms generally restricted the annual retreats to lawyers only.

    2. Andrada*

      hear, hear! I once went on a work retreat to a hotel with an indoor pool. Just seeing my coworkers in swimming trunks was too much!

    3. Waiting on the bus*

      In my experience, most people actually are into this sort of thing. I’ve become a bit grumpy about company retreats over the past few years, but we’ve had retreats in every company I ever worked for and most people loved them and looked forward to them.

      We just received the invitations for this year’s retreat. People have been very excited about how trendy the hotel looks and how big the spa area is. Meanwhile, I’m seeing that the hotel doesn’t have that many rooms and am thinking that if we have to share rooms, I’m not going lol

      For the record though, no company retreat I’ve ever been to ended in a drunken hook-up fest.

  30. Emily*

    LW #1, I am so sorry this happened to you. Your company behaved horribly. You are showing way more dedication to this company than they are showing to you. I do think there is a tough life lesson to be learned here. Your company had already shown you who they were based on how they were treating you, and while it can be nice to think that you getting an offer and being prepared to leave would make them realize your value, more often then not that is not the case. I believe Alison has talked in the past about the dangers of accepting a counter offer (or getting an offer from another company to use to bargain with your company), including that you’ll be seen as already having a foot out the door, etc. I do hope you take Alison’s advice and see if the position is still open at the other company. If it’s not though, definitely keep job searching.

  31. Lily Potter*

    #2 – Mentor Situation
    I think LW#2’s situation is comparable to someone who is searching for a romantic partner. S/he has a particular idea in mind of what they are looking for in a mentor; it’s not discriminatory in a legal sense for them to prefer someone older, any more than it is for someone who is dating to looking for someone older, or with blue eyes, or who’s college educated. I can see why LW#2 would have an older person in mind to serve as a mentor and s/he shouldn’t be shamed for having this preference or being called an “ageist”. It’s not true, and it’s not helpful to this question. Would is be discriminatory for a POC to prefer a POC mentor, or a woman to prefer a woman mentor? I don’t think so.

    All this said, much like with dating, it’s also a good idea to challenge one’s preferences every once in a while because, well, “you never know”, right? LW#2 has said in the comments that they did meet with their proposed younger mentee, and as suspected, it wasn’t a good fit. It’s perfectly okay to tell your boss what happened and see if there’s someone else more fitted to what you need. Not every first date ends in marriage, after all.

    1. Kammie*

      Thank you for saying this. LW#2 isn’t questioning the mentor’s professional skills and abilities, just that it’s not a good fit.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        How can they know its not a good fit before they’ve worked with them?

        Age really isn’t a factor in their capabilities in this situation.

        1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

          The OP mentions in a comment above that they did meet with the mentor once and they gave very generic advice that was more on the technical side.

    2. bamcheeks*

      LW didn’t ask, “how do I express that this mentor isn’t a good fit?”, they’ve asked “Is it wrong of me to see it as a faux pas to give someone a younger mentor?” — they’re specifically asking whether the employer has done something wrong by assigning a younger mentor and asking for a gut check on whether that’s reasonable.

      If they were looking for a mentor to support them in navigating the workplace as an older worker, it would be reasonable to expect that the mentor would also be someone who was also an older worker. Same as if you wanted support with navigating the workplace as a POC, or a woman, or someone returning to work after a career break, or whatever. But LW’s mentor is supposed to be helping them with “approach/mentality”, and LW’s sole reason for thinking they can’t do that is their age. I know US law only protects older workers from age discrimination so this isn’t “ageism” in any legal sense, but I can’t really think of a clearer case of ageism in the colloquial sense than “they won’t be able to help me with [thing which is unrelated to age] because of their age.”

      And more generally, if LW’s objection to being mentored by someone younger than them is because their own imposter syndrome is linked to their age and either feeling like they should be “further on” because of their age or that they aren’t ready for these responsibilities because of their age– identifying those assumptions and challenging them is probably the most useful thing LW can do to overcome them.

      1. I like hound dogs*

        I think the problem with this analogy is that you’re allowed to be pickier about who you choose as a romantic partner. At work, if someone is providing a resource, you should at least make a good-faith effort to make that work. If not, you run the risk of seeming a bit … high maintenance.

        1. Lydia*

          LW did make a good faith effort and it’s not a good fit. LW also has given a lot more context for their thoughts on what was happening. I encourage people to go look at their comments before posting.

  32. Another thought*

    LW1: If you haven’t pushed your current company harder, I recommend that you do so. You should reach out to HR, and/or your grand-boss – or even higher than that depending on company dynamics. Hopefully you have something in writing/email to back up your story. It’s possible your direct manager or someone in their chain made promises they weren’t authorized to make, but which the company may well honor, given the situation. However much you seem to trust your supervisor is giving you the truth, I would absolutely not take their word on this. It seems likely they either lied to you when they gave you the “counter-offer” (because it wasn’t actually approved) or they’re lying to you now about why it isn’t happening.

    The actions as you’ve described them are so egregious that it’s hard to believe it is the company’s actual position; even if they’re in a hiring freeze, they can choose to “un-freeze” or make an exception any time they want to. It is of course possible that the company is just that unethical top-to-bottom, but that gives you another data point to go on, in which case you should run for the exit asap.

  33. HonorBox*

    #1 – Do you have anything in writing from your current job related to the offer of a raise? If so, I’d absolutely pursue that. So what that they’re going through a hiring freeze. They made you an offer and you accepted it. The circumstances outside of that (the hiring freeze) shouldn’t be impacting your pay.

    Also, definitely go back to that other company. And you could be really honest with them. You declined after an offer was made. It has only been a week. Hopefully they haven’t moved on. And if they have, job search, job search, job search!

  34. Jane Bingley*

    LW1, once you’re safely on your way out, I’d encourage you to be open with colleagues about your experience. Everyone who works there deserves to know how badly you were treated, so they can make informed decisions if/when they decide to leave.

  35. Workerbee*

    #2: “… help me navigate challenges (more on the approach/mentality side than strictly task-related).”

    You don’t know until you know what someone has gone through to make them good at navigating challenges – and as you are being guided toward this person specifically for the approach/mentality side, please take up that offer. We cannot afford to let age and a resume worklist deter us from continuing to learn from others.

    Errantly or not, I equate this to only reading/listening to people our exact age or higher. Imagine what you’d miss.

  36. MicroManagered*

    OP3 You have the perfect excuse! All you need to say is “I’m not available for an overnight team-building event because I have two small children.”

    That’s my favorite way to say it by the way: “I’m not available for [time slot].” Don’t ask for your boss to agree or leave room for debate — it’s just a no.

    My boss is a classic workaholic who thinks working on the weekend is like, a normal/acceptable way to manage workload. When he hints at it, I just say Oh, I’m not available to work on weekends. Our party planning committee occasionally plans something after-hours… Oh, I’m not available after 5 unless it’s a true work-emergency.

  37. Sylvan*

    2. Could you give them a chance?

    As a writer, I often work with editors who are younger or less experienced than me. Only one of my past four editors has been older than me. I would only hold myself back by being unwilling to take guidance from them.

    Additionally, my company has a program that pairs new hires (of any experience level) with longtime employees as mentors. My assigned mentor was younger than me. I would have only held myself back and made settling into a new workplace difficult by dragging my feet.

    I think that, if you give this person a chance, you might benefit from working with her. If you don’t — well, how do you benefit from that?

    1. I like hound dogs*

      Well put. I’ve also held myself back in similar situations before realizing that it was my own defensiveness that was the problem.

  38. Not A Manager*

    LW2 – Reading between the lines of your letter, I wonder how you are positioning yourself with your new department and new boss. You mention that “the manager proposed finding a mentor to aid with” your feelings of impostor syndrome. This implies to me that you are the one who first broached feeling out of your depth, and your manager “proposed” something that was meant to assist you. Then you say that you “communicated your apprehension” about your younger mentor, without trying the solution your manager had come up with to address your initial concerns. You talk about the possibility of “defenses being fully up” with the mentor, as opposed to being “fully open and vulnerable.” At first you were “excited” with a list of questions, now you are “deflated.”

    What I’m seeing from this is that you’re putting an awful lot of emotional energy into what could be viewed as a routine issue of on-boarding. And you’re putting a lot of emotional burden on your manager and potential mentor to help you with your strong feelings. I think you might be better served stepping back from the emotional component of “I feel a certain way and I’d like someone to help me with those feelings” and start to think of this as an arms-length business situation – at least in the office context. You asked your boss for help with a problem, your boss proposed some help. Take the help and try to get some concrete, business-related advice from your mentor.

    For help with your strong negative emotions, I think you should look outside the office. I really empathize with what you’re experiencing, but I think that you could undermine yourself with your new colleagues if you try to involve them too much.

    1. My take*

      I think a clear way to see this is that for the specific role that OP is struggling with, the mentor has more experience with that role!

    2. I like hound dogs*

      I agree. There are so many indications of something deeper in this letter; it seems like you (LW2) have a problem that you want someone to solve for you, and when your manager offered a resource, you attempted to deflect it out of insecurity.

      The best I can relate to it is how I feel about parenthood, which is sometimes insecure, and so I often avoid hanging out with mothers who I feel are either aspiring to perfection or performing perfection — I much prefer people who are a bit messier/imperfect, because it doesn’t set off my “THIS PERSON IS RAISING HER CHILD SO MUCH BETTER THAN ME AHH I FEEL TERRIBLE” bad feelings. This is a me problem rather than a problem with those mothers. When I’ve been able to work past those feelings, I can form relationships and benefit my kid and myself, rather than holding people at arm’s length and being constantly defensive.

      Similarly (not a perfect analogy, I know), because you’re insecure about how you’ve progressed in your career, you’re having a reaction at the possibility of having to face the embodiment of a successful career trajectory in your mentor. I’d suggest working on some of those feelings outside of work, maybe with a therapist.

      Also, FYI, no one is perfect, and even if your mentor is a few years older and in a higher position, it’s not like they have it all together, either. I promise. A few years is really nothing. Learn what useful tidbits you can about the role!

  39. Recruiter*

    OP #1 Unfortunately this is very normal the last year or two. When we make an offer to someone and their current employer counters we just put their resume to the side. I know they’re going to be calling me within in a week saying their current employer’s counter offer was not what they thought it was. As long as they were professional, we go ahead and hire them.

  40. 15 Pieces of Flair*

    LW#2- I’ve been the manager who assigned a (in my case, much) younger mentor. We hired “Jay”, an experienced tech support professional in his mid-40s, for a broad implementation manager role with a very technical customer base. I assigned Daniel (33, software engineering and customer success background) as his mentor. While Jay had a decade plus more experience than Daniel, Daniel’s customer-facing background, including management positions, enabled him to navigate customer relationships, run engagements effectively, and recognize risks. If Jay had asked about this decision, I would have explained that Daniel was selected for his ability to resolve people and process challenges, which were significant elements of the job and areas where Jay needed coaching.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      When my company assigns mentorship pairings, this is exactly the kind of thing we’re looking at. Even if you have exactly the same amount of experience as someone – or more – there might be specific areas where you need support and the other person excels. No one has all skills.

  41. Delta Delta*

    #2 – I’m a lawyer and am very active in my local bar association. We have an informal mentorship program, that was meant to follow the traditional “younger professional learns from wisened sage” model. What we started to find was that the wisened sages found they got a lot out of the insights the younger folks brought to the table. Turns out young lawyers know different things than old lawyers, and can, in fact, teach old dogs new tricks (or at least get them thinking about it) I had suggested we broaden our program language to be more focused on learning from one another, since the benefits seemed to flow both ways. Sadly, covid sort of did in the program and it hasn’t found its footing again. Had we not had a plague, the broader model may have worked.

    I share this because OP2 seems frustrated in their situation, and maybe seems insulted by the notion that a “mentor” be someone younger. but a mentorship can be about a lot of things, and OP really ought to give it a try before saying no.

  42. Delta Delta*

    #1 – Definitely reach out to see if the position at the other company is still available. And if it’s not, apply like mad for jobs elsewhere. Your company has shown to be unreliable, first with retaining staff, and then with employment promises to you. You simply can’t stay there, and sadly, they made your decision really easy.

  43. Pink Candyfloss*

    Company-wide hiring freezes don’t just suddenly happen out of nowhere. They are usually strategized and planned out, well in advance, to be rolled out at a specific target date.

    This did not just suddenly happen, LW#1. Someone knew this was coming, and when it was coming, and you were intentionally allowed to make choices based on information that was not complete.

    This is not business as usual. This is, as Allison says, a serious breach of trust on top of all the other nonsense that has been being put on you, and it is time for you to leave.

  44. Tesuji*

    LW #2:

    I feel like there’s a possibility you’re looking for more out of this mentorship than the company is really envisioning.

    Like any sort of work relationship, I think it’s important to go into it with an understanding of what the minimum realistic expectation is (e.g., this person is going to give you advice about succeeding in your position that is slightly better than generic advice but biased by their own circumstances) rather than assuming the best-case scenario (e.g., this person is going to be a close personal friend and a guide in navigating the complications of life!).

    And, of course, as noted by others, this letter drips with a certain level of agism that may or may not be warranted.

    I mean, there are circumstances where there’s some facts that were just left out (e.g., this person is in a senior position but younger than me… because they’re a straight white male nepo baby who was born on third base and thinks they hit a home run, so any advice they can give you will have limited applicability), but “this person is in a senior position but younger than me” isn’t in and of itself a detriment, and thinking that it is could possibly be something holding you back all by itself.

    It could, of course, be that the only advice this person could give you would be “Er, next time, be born to rich parents?” but it’s equally possible that the reason for this person’s success is mastery of soft skills that are exactly what you need to fill in some gaps in your own.

  45. Dr. Doll*

    LW2, coaching may be a better fit for what you need than mentoring. approach/mentality does not immediately open the door to discussing all the imposter feelings.

    the mentor is a great offer, but the relationship should initially focus on the industry or organization. that will also likely help you feel more comfortable with a younger mentor.

    you might also ask, will the mentor get any training in the role?

    and do ask about a coach, too.

  46. El l*

    OP1: 3 possibilities.
    1. Your boss is acting in bad faith (lying about the raise)
    2. They’re incompetent (not checking above them before offering)
    3. You didn’t read their counteroffer carefully (e.g. they said they’d “try to get you a raise,” which is so different from “you will get a raise.”)

    While my money is on #2, it doesn’t matter for how you proceed. You need to hold them and the rest of management accountable for this. Call the other company and explain that you need to revisit your previous conversation, as a breach of trust occurred with your current company.

    Regardless, find a way to move on. And I’d learn a lesson to never take counteroffers. (I’m sure it’s worked for someone, but I’ve never heard from them and it requires levels of trust and maturity that are rare)

  47. I’m the problem it’s me!*

    My company assigned mentor has the same title as me (in a completely different area). It is what it is. It’s not ideal as it’s not meant to be a peer program, but I see it as a chance to meet someone on a different floor of our office.

    My mentor has a year or two more experience, and I got a promotion during the process of mentors being assigned, so had assignments been made a month later, I would have been a mentor rather than a mentee. It’s fine and they’re a lovely person, and we can always learn from the experience of others!

  48. AA Baby Boomer*

    Ref: I don’t want to do a department overnight

    You could approach your university’s auditors and mention it to them and it should be kept confidential. It could be considered the misuse of funds. There is no reason for a university (i have worked at one for 23 years) to use travel funds for team building. Are you currently closing out budget for the year? He could have some funds that he’s wanting to use up. He could justify it as professional development; but it’s a fine line. To me it wouldn’t truly build relationships when people are forced into a trip they do not want or see a justifiable benefit. He would be better off having a professional team builder coming to campus for a one day work shop, etc. I would mention an on-line option; if possible but I do not see how the team building would work in the format.

    1. MicroManagered*

      I also work for a university and work closely with both internal and external auditors, and I don’t think this is the kind of thing they’d care about. It sounds like this was more of a hypothetical and nothing has actually been planned yet. My employer does cover the cost of accommodations for overnight travel, as long as the travel request falls within our policies on those expenditures. I have seen overnight accommodations approved for things like professional conferences, so depending on what the activity for the “retreat” might be, it could fall within the university’s policies — that’s all part of the purchase request and approval process. Nothing about the letter indicates that the overnight retreat idea has gotten that far — so going to auditors with a complaint would be REALLY strange.

      I think OP3 just needs to let their boss know they’re not able to travel overnight because of their small children and then also let their coworkers know, so they can push back as well.

    2. Goldie*

      They mentioned they were with the Auxiliary of the University, so they probably have less string to their budget.

    3. Pretty as a Princess*

      OP hasn’t given any reason to expect that this is a misappropriation of funds. I would not introduce that into the conversation. (We have some kinds of funds we can use for these purposes, and some we can’t. To be loosey goosey it depends on the source of the funds.)

    4. Samwise*

      Retreats — overnight or daytime only — are exceptionally common in higher ed in non-faculty programs and services. Very very common. It’s part of their budget. And believe me, this is not where fraud or misuse of funds happens in such units. I mean, it could, but generally these sorts of events aren’t in vacation wonderlands with swank accommodations.

      This is true for both private and public higher ed institutions. Even in places with notoriously tight fisted state legislatures, no one blinks at these retreats.

    5. metadata minion*

      Overnight retreats are definitely not a thing at the university library I work at, but there’s no regulatory reason why they *shouldn’t* be a thing. For us, it would be a waste of money, as you say, but not really any more of a waste of money than plenty of other pet projects people get funding for.

    6. Johannes Bols*

      Saying anything in ‘confidence’ to any department and expecting it to remain so is wishful thinking. Anything you say to anybody will be used against you. I found this out at my last job. We had round table feedback about mgt. I spoke up about something, my words were truncated, taken out of context, and reported back to a manager by other employees who were present in the discussion. It was purported to be ‘strictly confidential.’ Sure, Jan…

  49. Midwest Teacher*

    I’m currently serving as a mentor to a teacher who has more than double the amount of experience I do. But she’s never worked for our agency, so I’m responsible for helping her with processes, paperwork, documentation, etc.
    No, she doesn’t need any support from me in how to be a good teacher, but I’m supporting her in so many other ways. Age and years of experience are not requirements for being a successful mentor.

  50. BellyButton*

    For the first half of my career I was always the youngest person at my level. However, my area of expertise and my ability to navigate the corporate culture, communication issues, blind spots (like not being open to learning from all levels), and my experience teaching meant I was often mentoring people twice my age. Even now, at nearly 50, I coach people at all levels and ages. I learn just as much from them as they learn from me.

    Also, peer to peer coaching is one of the most effective ways to learn and build relationships. All of my development programs include cohorts, coaching, and mentoring and they can be with people at all levels and all ages.

    1. Goldie*

      I was the young one forever. In my early 20’s everyone I worked with was 20+ years older than me. People often thought I was in intern into my 30’s. Now, in my 50’s I am older than my co-worker’s mom. It is an interesting journey to go through these phases.
      I now am doing a project with someone in her late 20’s and have caught myself worrying if she think’s I am up to the task ; ) She is highly competent and I appreciate her professionalism so much.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      Same. When I took over my current team about 10 years ago, I was younger than over half of them and have skills the vast majority do not have (my focus is more strategic, theirs is highly technical and specific). Most people were awesome, and we learned a lot from each other over the years; some were very dismissive and rude about being managed by someone so young. I eventually won over all but one of them, who was making passive-aggressive comments to me right up until the day they retired (niche area of expertise, protected by a higher-up).

      I always chafe a little bit at the idea that years of experience (past a certain level) is some sort of indicator of how good you are at your job or what you have to offer. I have worked with a number of younger/less experienced people over the years who just got it and had a little something extra to offer.

  51. The Person from the Resume*

    For LW #2, I suggest to stop thinking about or mentioning age as a concern. I can better understand “less work experience in this field,” but they are also in a higher position so they have experience working at a higher level than you do and potentially supervising people who do what you do.

    OTOH I am less sure that the solution for impostor syndrome is a mentor. If the problem was that you knowing how to do the work, think through problems then a mentor seems like a good solution. Teach you come of the soft/fuzzy skills (the one there’s no class for) with the job and the next higher position.

    If the problem is believing that you’re doing a good job when others think you are, that seems more like something to work on with a counselor because there’s probably an underlying cause.

  52. El l*

    There’ve been a billion comments already that I can’t add much to, so I’ll add a book recommendation: The classic and hilarious book on Wall Street “Liars Poker.” Suggest it because the 2 people Michael Lewis learned the most from were his age or younger.

    Also, I don’t think a superior will necessarily be better than a peer at showing you mentality. Because if they can do it, so can you.

  53. Zee*


    I have a range of experience, so applications may be for different industries where some of my previous roles are not necessarily relevant. A templated resume is a good start …

    Have multiple templates! I also have some varied experience and apply for multiple types of roles. I have a handful of templates that are directed for each of the common categories I’d be applying to. I almost never have to do any further editing to tailor for a role once I start with the correct template.

    1. Melissa*

      Definitely! I have several saved on my computer, with names like “community health nurse,” “psychiatric nurse,” “home health nurse.” The substance of my resume doesn’t change obviously, but there are some tweaks depending on the focus. But I could apply to a bunch of different home health agencies with the same resume.

  54. Ccbac*

    honestly, I don’t think “mentorship” is a great way to teach technical skills. many people sign up for mentorship programs to learn more about the soft skill side/how to level up in addition to but also outside of their direct roles. a person who has a lot of experience in a particular technical skill but not a lot of general work experience may not be the best for being a mentor in a mentorship program but could be good for teaching said technical skill

  55. Mentorblues123*

    #2 – I’m dealing with this, but on the other end. I’m the assigned mentor/trainer for a new hire , but they won’t take me seriously. Every time I offer guidance, they go straight to my older, male colleague for reassurance (our answers are always in line, so it’s not a question of my expertise). I’ve tried everything I can think of (different styles of training, being direct with guidance, etc) but it’s not getting through.

    1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      Do you have a relationship with the other colleague where you would feel comfortable having him ask your mentee why he keeps going to him rather than to you? Or has he said “what does Mentor say? Well I agree with them”

  56. Camelid coordinator*

    Hi OP3, for part of my years in higher ed I had a brief stint in Student Life, which did have a yearly retreat at a local environmental/conference center in the woods. I was new to Student Life but got the impression that a yearly retreat was a standard thing for this group (at least at that college) to do. I get all of the reasons why overnights don’t work but wanted to mention my experience in case it was typical of the field. (For what it is worth my last one was legendary because about 5 of us announced our resignations to the group at the retreat!)

  57. CoinPurse*

    Re:#2…..I was an older career changer and ended up having several mentors far younger than me. I learned a lot. I also found that I needed to look beyond age for growth in my field.

  58. Lily Potter*

    As I think about LW#2’s situation some more, I think that this might be a case of mismatched expectations between LW and his boss. The boss found a mentor that could impart technical knowledge; LW wanted something more broad.

    I think that the issue wasn’t so much the age of the proposed mentor that was “wrong” but the mentor’s experience level was too close to that of LW #2. LW #2 mentioned that he has 10 years worth of field experience to his mentor’s five and that there was only one level of job grade between them (LW#2 mentions in a comment above that they have the same title, only the mentor is a “Senior Llama Groomer” as opposed to LW #2’s “Llama Groomer”.

    When I think about a mentor, I think about someone with a lot more experience (which will likely correlate with age), several steps up on the hierarchy, taking someone under their wing to “show them the ropes”, advising them internally on company politics, introducing them to power players, giving advice on promotion possibilities, and the like. Something tells me (LW#2 please chime in if you read this!) that if the Vice President of Llama Grooming were proposed as LW#2’s mentor, LW#2 wouldn’t have cared at all about the VP’s age.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      I think you’re right about the expectation mismatch. It sounds like the boss and LW#2 have very different goals from this mentoring relationship – the boss seems to be trying to get LW#2 help acclimating to their new team and responsibilities, not setting them up with a career mentor. We use more experienced/one-step-above peer mentors in a similar way, and it’s been very successful for what it is. LW#2 sounds like they’re looking for someone to coach them through their feelings that are impeding their success.

      I am essentially VP level, and my level of usefulness to our llama groomers is somewhat limited. If they want long term career, office politics, industry trend, strategic project, policy making, or change management advice, I’m their person. If they want to learn to do the day-to-day of their job better or how to approach/think about specific responsibilities, their more experienced/one level up peers are far better at that – I *can* do a lot of their jobs, but it’s not my day-to-day and I’m rusty. Based on how LW#2 has described their struggles, I can see why their boss decided they are more in need of someone to get them on the right path of doing their job and acclimating to the new team versus the professional mentoring they’d get from someone higher up the food chain. Executive mentorship is more for people who are performing well in their current positions and being groomed for leadership.

    2. LW#2*

      Yes! Thank you for this, you’ve certainly explained it more clearly than I have. When I wrote the letter, I was hung up on their age/years of experience because that was the main differentiator between us. I took it as a given and didn’t realize the implied context would be completely missing for other people, which is how I ended up perceived as the rigid asshole who can’t accept a younger person’s wisdom or authority. My bad!

      I want to make it clear that if this person had a position that would require them to have skills that I don’t, I would be very happy to learn from them, regardless of their age. And in the same vein, even with us having the same title, if my manager had chosen them because of their mentorship experience or because he thought I could specifically benefit from learning from this person, I would be open to it.

      Knowing that’s not the case rubbed me the wrong way and made my insecurities (or perhaps my ego) flare, but I will still wait for us to have a couple more meetings before completely writing them off as a bad fit.

      As for the concerns that my manager and I have mismatched expectations from what this mentorship would entail, I very much doubt it. The mentorship was entirely my manager’s idea, and he made it clear from the beginning that the goal was to talk to someone about my feelings of inadequacy/overwhelm, and that he wants to know immediately if the person he finds is a good fit, because he doesn’t want this to be a waste of time.
      If anything, I think he might’ve been a tad idealistic with the requirements he had for finding a mentor for me, but when he realized all the senior managers were too busy to take the time to do it, he settled for the first person who accepted. Which, of course, is not the mentor’s fault, in fact they were very eager to be helpful, which was appreciated, but it also highlighted just how green they are in this area (case in point, they didn’t ask me any questions or tried to get to know me/my situation, just came in with a bullet list of “advice” topics and rattled them off). I’ve mentored juniors before, and frankly, I think I did a slightly better job.

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        I wonder if ahead of your next meeting you could let Sr Llama Groomer know that you’d like to specifically talk about times SLG has felt inadequate or overwhelmed by a role (or even a *portion* of a role) and how they dealt with that — did they ask for assistance from peers, did they seek out additional training, or something else? Maybe your boss did a bad job of explaining what the focus should be, or maybe SLG felt uncertain how to begin things. But if you tell SLG what you specifically want to talk about and they aren’t able to give you anything that’s helpful you can tell your boss that it’s a mismatch — I know you’re feeling it’s a mismatch now, but if you haven’t been explicit about what you’re looking for it’s worth doing that!

  59. Knope Knope Knope*

    #2 I’m pretty successful. I’m a Sr Director at a fortune 100 and I’m in my 30s, making around $200k/ye. Two of my best managers, who I considered mentors, were younger than me. I wouldn’t be where I am without them. My boss, who is one of the smartest and most successful people I know, mange’s people older than her. That’s just work. People go at their own pace. Seems like you’ve gotten a lot of advice to this effect, just chiming in to help quiet the imposter syndrome in your head. This is normal, common and I find being open to it can help your career.

  60. Samwise*

    OP #3. Use your words. Your boss * directly asked* if anyone objected. You said nothing. That’s on you. Unless the boss is gonna scream at you for speaking up, or you have a reason to think speaking up will cost you in terms of treatment/promotion/getting fired, speak up!

    If I were the boss, I’d be annoyed to learn after plans were made, the retreat started, that team members did not like the idea of an overnight retreat. That’s too late for me to make different plans. If people don’t want to be there, the retreat won’t be as effective and it will have been a tremendous waste of resources.

    1. Observer*

      Unless the boss is gonna scream at you for speaking up, or you have a reason to think speaking up will cost you in terms of treatment/promotion/getting fired, speak up!

      Well, the OP DOES provide some reason to think that speaking up will not go well. The boss talks about transparency and respect but acts differently, and is not good about handling push back, according to the OP’s letter.

      In that context, it’s pretty obvious that asking if anyone doesn’t want to do this was not intended as an honest request for feedback. The way it was put is a clue on it’s own, but the context makes it hard to think otherwise.

  61. Risha*

    LW3, if you feel comfortable being very direct (and I know it can be difficult if you’re not used to it), just tell him something like “I’m unable to attend due to personal reasons”. Your reasons are not his business, a simple no can do should suffice. If he has an issue with it, consider that a yellow flag about him and the company itself. You gave him your time until 5pm or whenever you get off, you’re not obligated to spend your personal time with bosses/coworkers too.

    I’ve never been in your unfortunate situation, but I did have bosses in the past who thought their employees were supposed to satisfy their social needs. One former boss would have events after work and get offended if you couldn’t attend. She didn’t care what you had going on at home. Well, I don’t really care if they’re offended or not, I’m not married to my job and I have a family. But I just told her that I can’t go. When she asked why, I told her it’s for personal reasons, she gave up when she realized I won’t provide any excuse that she could try to bulldoze over.

  62. SPB*

    Regarding the last letter: maybe have a master resume for each industry, and then you’ll have significantly less work to do on each application

  63. umami*

    LW1: I really hope you push back on this. Implementing a hiring freeze shouldn’t have anything to do with your promised raise, since you are already on board. And it wasn’t even described as a promotion; you are still in the same position, correct, and they agreed to increase your pay to stay in that role? This definitely seems like something to revisit and even escalate, since you made a decision to stay based on getting that raise.

  64. DameB*

    AOC once posted something I think about often — no matter what your age, you should have at least one person to mentor you who is younger than you. I’m pushing 50 and make a point of learning from younger colleagues — they have a different approach, different life experiences, and a different mind set. I have three decades of experience (which is long than some of them have been alive!) and still learn new things every day from them: new ways of using language, now ways to think about the world, and new skills.

    1. cncx*

      I took my current job based on most of the team being significantly younger than me (my boss is 16 years younger to my 45) because I wanted to work with people with different mindsets.

  65. Dawn*

    LW2: Age is of very limited meaning once you reach the professional world, and it sounds to me like this mentor was assigned to help you work specifically on your attitude and enthusiasm for the work.

    It would not be wildly out of the ordinary to think that someone younger than you might have a more positive attitude that you can take a lot away from.

    If I were you, I might want to stop and consider if the fact that I was pushing back at the first thing that didn’t go exactly as I had envisioned it might be another sign/symptom of the underlying attitude issues, rather than anything to do with your mentor’s age or overall experience.

  66. Kevin Sours*

    For OP#1 I’m curious about how to play checking if the prior offer is still good. Because they are going to need to do some damage control to avoid looking like a complete flake. A good company is going to understand taking a counter offer but “I turned down your offer but now I changed my mind” isn’t a good look. At a minimum you need to convince them that you mean it this time. Some level of transparency seems like it would help — I accepted a counter but it wasn’t honored is a compelling explanation — but that’s runs afoul of the “don’t air dirty laundry at your current place” advice. I think the benefit outweighs the risk but wanted to check that impression.

    1. Observer*

      The truth, unemotionally and calmly stated is all they need. “My company made me a very attractive counter-offer which I accepted. But due to budget issues, the offer was rescinded.”

      I don’t think that there is anything more convincing that the OP could say, because it’s obvious to anyone that the OP is done with their old company.

  67. Office Drone*

    Regarding LW1. My dad worked as an employee union representative in his (large, well-known) company for many years. The one thing he absolutely drummed into his children’s heads is to never, never, NEVER quit until you’re absolutely ready to go and then to never, never, NEVER accept any offer to stay from the company you’re leaving. Yes, it can and does work out—sometimes. But it’s a complete crap shoot and you’re dependent on the company’s good faith. In his experience, it was never, never, NEVER worth the risk, especially if you’d already accepted a great offer elsewhere.

    I know this doesn’t help the LW at the moment, but I’ve read enough letters here to know that it’s a common issue for workers who are trying to decide if they should stay with a company that promises Big Things if they change their mind and stay. What the LW went through here is more common than might be expected.

  68. Jessica*

    I don’t want to nitpick someone’s language choice, but I felt like it was telling that LW2 phrased the question as “Is it wrong of me to see it as a faux pas to give someone a younger mentor?” rather than “a less experienced mentor.”

    Yes. It is.

    Is it a faux pas to assign someone a mentor who doesn’t have as much experience? Sometimes. But *age itself* shouldn’t be a factor. Age != authority or experience. (For that matter, even length of time working in a field isn’t automatically expertise–people grok their fields and how to navigate them at vastly different rates, and some have trouble ever figuring it out without guidance.)

    Something the LW would do well to remember is that if someone in the company is being recommended or assigned to you as a mentor, it’s usually because people who work with them think they have something to teach.

    Maybe your mentor has built a good reputation with their coworkers, and can smooth the road into your new team for you. What makes people effective in jobs isn’t just the length of time they’ve been there or their knowledge or expertise: it’s the relationships they have with the people around them.

    So I’d say be careful what sort of relationship you build with someone who’s supposed to help you adjust to your new team.

    If you don’t treat them with respect, or resent the fact that a younger person is comfortable in and qualified for this role when you’re not sure you are, the coworkers who *do* like and respect them are going to notice, and your lack of respect for their teammate is going to reflect negatively on you, not them.

    1. LW#2*

      I want to restate that this particular mentor has not been specifically chosen or recommended, they were mainly selected because they offered, since they wanted to give mentoring a try. I do not doubly they might by a good fit to mantor someone in a junior position, but I think my particular situation required someone more seasoned.

      And I just have to say, I resent the implication that I have been outright rude or disrespectful to this person. I might have my biases and concerns, some of which I have shared with my manager, but I am also a professional (and a nice person!). I have never blamed them for the pairing mismatch or even suggested they were at fault, so I’m not sure where the assumption stems from.

      1. Jessica*

        It stems from the deeply dismissive and disrespectful way you’ve been writing about them.

        Believe me, your mentor can detect your resentment of them.

        1. LW#2*

          Well that would be quite a feat, considering I do not resent them. But go on confidently speculating I guess.

  69. Alex*

    Hi everyone! LW 1 here! Thank you so much to everyone who provided opinions and advice! As someone who is fairly younger and newer to the business world, it means a lot for so many people to confirm and validate how I was feeling. I have spent so much time thinking I did something wrong or messed up. I am keeping my fingers crossed that things work out for the best. In the end, this has been a huge learning opportunity for me. :)

  70. Raida*

    3. “At a meeting planning the retreat for employees at my level, we were discussing activities and he asked the group if anybody didn’t want to do an overnight portion. Silence.”
    You didn’t want to.
    You were asked.
    You said nothing.

    Yes. You need to speak up when asked.

    “For me, I’m happy to be involved in daytime activities but not overnight.” that’s it. write it down, practise it, and say it. Who says they’ll ever ask again though, so you’ll have to bring it up yourself. Sorry, I know you mentioned introversion, but you have to act.

  71. Vanny Hall*

    I’m struggling with an issue at work and just made a lunch date to get advice from someone who has my role at another organization and whom I respect … and who is young enough to be my daughter.

    Ageism works both ways. I’d try to resist falling into it.

  72. Meow*

    Letter 1 is probably yet another example of why it’s better (usually) to not accept counteroffers. Take the new job instead. There is no guarantee the counteroffer will materialize. Even if it does, people in your company might still hold it against you that you even thought about leaving. Unfortunately, not all company leaders are reasonable or ethical people.

Comments are closed.