Asking For a Friend | Chapter Eight
Advice from Babe to Babe
The honest answer here is, you don’t. No matter how you address these people, they’re never going to believe you. The best way to tackle their distrust of your abilities is to tell yourself “game on!” and prove them wrong. And, if you really want to make your point sticky, make sure to spend time building a relationship with them. They don’t have to be your best friends, but take the time to recognize them when they do a good job, help them out when they need someone to cover a shift and do it all—plus your own job—with grace. Eventually, these people will come around to seeing your professional value or they’ll forever be that person who can’t get over it. Either way, they’ll become a great colleague, or they’ll hang themselves in the eyes of you other coworkers, without you needing to make yourself look bad in the process. So, at the risk of being cliché, just take the high road and ignore the haters!
—HILLARY KIRTLAND, CONTRIBUTOR
My take on this is just to let your work speak for yourself. I don't think there's really a way to directly confront this and have it come across genuine or, well, not awkward. I face this all the time (I'm dating my coworker's brother) and I just work hard, show people I deserved this gig no matter what and try to ignore any comments or vibes from folks insinuating that's not the case.
—OLIVIA WILSON, BABE #51
You wouldn’t go into a new job explaining to your coworkers how experienced you are, so why would you if you had a connection help open doors? Although it can be very frustrating to be misjudged, don’t give it power. Instead, focus on making genuine connections with your coworkers, being a team player and let your work speak for itself.
—DANIELLA CABEZAS, BABE #26
I would strongly advise against asking your current boss. Ask a former boss or find a coworker who can speak to your skills and abilities. I've also used a supervisor in my organization who worked with me but who was not my direct supervisor. You could also use former clients (depending on your relationship with them, obviously).
I cannot say this enough: Do not tell your current boss you're seeking other employment. I don’t care how cool she may be; that signals you'll be out soon, and they—in order to protect their business—will need to seek your replacement. If they find your replacement before you find your new gig, you’ll be out.
—ALEXI STRONG GONZALEZ, CONTRIBUTOR
I used a colleague who I had worked with a lot, but who wasn't technically my boss when I left my last job. I trusted her and knew it wouldn't directly affect her when I departed. She was senior enough that it was impactful.
—OLIVIA WILSON, BABE #51
People can be unfortunately vindictive. Use anyone but your current boss, and if asked about it during an interview, just be forthright without complaining or seeming gossipy.
—CAITLIN FLYNN BROWN, BABE #107
Find something you have in common. If you pay attention long enough, you can find common ground with just about anyone. Notice you and Karen are both Diet Coke addicts? Bring her one when they’re two-for-$5 at the gas station. Frank always talking about his pug? Ask if he knows a good dog park for your labrador. People love talking about themselves, so find a subject about which you’re both passionate (so you’re not feigning interest) and go from there.
—JODY JOYNT, BABE #41
Talking about age in the workplace almost feels as taboo as sex, sometimes. I think the most important first step is acknowledging there’s an age difference. This transparency is so critical, because it not only addresses the elephant in the room, but it offers an opportunity for both parties to accept it, levels the playing field and provides explanation for why people do the things they do professionally (not as an excuse, but as a way to understand).
Working across generations is great, because the diverse perspectives improve outcomes, but it can pose challenges if the people involved refuse to acknowledge the age difference and work through it. I have an employee who’s 30 years older than me. She isn’t technically savvy, and hates having to work with computer software, but it’s a critical part of her job. I acknowledged that she hated it, continued to coach her through it, and now when she sends me a finished PowerPoint she jokes about how it only took her two hours instead of two days. It’s a really fulfilling and empowering experience. It’s naive to assume age differences won’t require you to change your approach with a coworker, so opening communication about what works for them and how they thrive professionally is a good start.
—LINDSAY ENGLAND, BABE #76
I don’t think this has to be complicated, at its core. It’s the same thing you’d do when you’re trying to connect with anyone. Ask a lot of questions, listen earnestly and with empathy and find common ground.
—ASHLIE JOHNSON COGGINS, CONTRIBUTOR
Until Next Week,
THE BWH ADVICE GURUS
Asking for a Friend is Babes Who Hustle's weekly advice column that asks and answers the work-related questions on all of our minds. Looking for advice and guidance? Hit us with all of your questions below and stay tuned for next Wednesday's edition!