When Your Age, and Everyone Else’s, Is Showing

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Alone and Feeling Irrelevant

A strange new world isn’t a bad thing and you are relevant here, there, anywhere. I completely understand how you’re feeling. Mourn the workplace that once was, but also think through how you can move forward. Are there any other colleagues in your age group with whom you can commiserate? Is remote work at all appealing so you’re not sitting alone in an empty office?

Though you may not share physical space with your colleagues, you do engage with them. Is there a company Slack or similar communication tool where you can get to know your younger colleagues better? What about going out for a lunch or a coffee with new co-workers to introduce yourself and learn more about them? Just because many of us are working remotely doesn’t mean we can’t have face-to-face experiences and strong connections. Why do you find some of your younger colleagues entitled, indifferent or judgmental? Are they those things, or are they working with a different cultural vernacular? When they correct you, what are some ways you could make it a conversation? You can ask why they take issue with something you’ve said. You can share your perspective on why you said or did something. They won’t always be right, nor will they always be wrong. Generational divides can be bridged, but the people on either side of that distance have to be willing to meet halfway.

He Won’t Stay in His Lane

There is ambition and there is arrogance, and it seems like your direct report has crossed that line. I’m all for collaborative work environments, mentoring younger colleagues, and encouraging people to pursue their ambitions for advancement. But sometimes, you have to remind people that they need to walk before they run, not because you want to hold them back, but because you want them to succeed.

Outsize confidence does not mean one is ready for certain tasks or roles. I can imagine how maddening it is to contend with this young upstart who is probably relying on a lot of the conventional wisdom about how to “succeed in business” by being brash and bold, but you have to take control of this situation. He works for you. If he doesn’t like being told no, and wants to get contentious about it, that’s a choice he is making. But you don’t have to baby him. If he wants to be a professional, treat him like one and address those instances when he doesn’t act like one.

Now, interesting ideas can come from all corners, so establish clear boundaries about when dialogue is welcome and when it is not appropriate. Remind him that part of being a good colleague is knowing how to accept criticism without needing affirmation or immediately refuting the feedback. He clearly has not yet learned enough about workplace norms. (That’s me giving him the benefit of the doubt.) I trust you can bring him up speed.

Major Trust Issues

This kind of micromanaging is incredibly annoying. Your frustration is understandable. Managers may, indeed, want to stay well informed about projects — or they might be working through some control issues. Regardless, this is something you probably have to learn to live with.

I wouldn’t think of this new policy in terms of capitulation, and I don’t know that there’s much to push back on. The policy doesn’t sound too arduous. Corporations often create busywork for one reason or another, and maybe they don’t trust you, but why do you care? The job is not your friend. It will never love you. It is not capable of trusting you. If you absolutely feel the need to raise a concern, ask your manger why the department has this new policy or if the frequency could change — every other week or monthly, perhaps. I would also ask yourself why this policy is getting under your skin so much.

The Odor Just Lingers

I receive an unbelievable number of questions about smelly co-workers, which is really disturbing. Is there a personal hygiene crisis in the workplace? Whether it’s colleagues who wear too much perfume or cologne, or colleagues with questionable bathing habits, a whole lot of you are dealing with major, very unfortunate sensory issues. And a whole lot of people are not at all mindful of how they smell.

This is a very challenging topic to broach. You don’t want to hurt your colleague’s feelings, but that may be inevitable. If his smell is truly this overpowering, something must be done, because either you suffer his pungent odors in perpetuity or you find a way to tolerate the discomfort of a gentle confrontation. Maybe he has a medical condition or some kind of pH balance issue. He might be allergic to deodorant. Maybe he has different hygiene practices. It could be anything.

If no one else will do it, you need to have a conversation where you delicately but directly share that his personal odor is a problem. You don’t need to get as granular as you do in your letter, but do make it clear this is an ongoing issue. You’ll probably cringe the entire time and he will experience any number of emotions. But that won’t last forever, unlike certain smells.

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