People Asking Me My Age at Work

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-20-1999
People Asking Me My Age at Work
12
Tue, 12-25-2012 - 2:32pm

I work in an environment where most people are very young - early twenties generally.  I am approaching 40.  I think my age is a private matter and I don't ask how old anyone else is and I don't answer when someone asks me how old I am. I usually say, something like, "You shouldn't ask a woman her age!" in a light joking manner. However, people tend to press.  I find it offensive and I don't want people treating me differently based on my age - which already happens.  As soon as people found out I was married and had a child, they assumed I was older than I looked and began to treat me as if I had no knowledge of pop culture and wouldn't be interested in being a part of their group conversations, etc.   I have experienced discrimination in the past based on the fact that I had to take a break to pump milk.  A few years ago, I was working a temp job where two twenty something's were supervising me.  I noticed that they bristled if I tried to join in their conversations. Later, I told them I needed to go take a break to pump milk.  When I got back from my break, my temp agency called me and told me that they wanted me to leave because I wasn't getting my work done. This wasn't true.  My work was almost completely finished.  So needless to say, at work, I try and keep my head down, do my job, and keep my private life private.  It bothers me that the more I try and keep my life to myself, the more people tend to want to pry.  Some of these young women are my supervisors.

Because of all this, my job satisfaction has plummeted.  I am constantly asked my age even though I have politely told people over and over that I would rather not say. I've also been asked why I don't wear my wedding ring. I don't wear it because it doesn't fit and I work with my hands so having it on is a hassle. But people grab my hands and ask where it is or act as if I am hiding some big secret. It's a good job and I don't want to leave but I am slowly growing more dissatisfied.  What should I do?

Sucker Punch

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iVillage Member
Registered: 09-16-2002
Thu, 12-27-2012 - 1:57pm

All I have read is that you've been asked two questions, how old you are and where is your wedding ring.  If people aren't forthcoming with what seem to be minor questions (these are questions people ask to get to know other people), then I don't see how you think you will become part of the group.  I'm sure you're not the only one they are asking these questions of, but perhaps the only one not answering them which is alienating you from the group.  I do wonder if you have deeper concerns about giving this information, I could care less who knows my age (I'm 47), and other people can't make you feel left out unless you give them a reason to do so.  If you start becoming more open and friendly, perhaps you won't feel so persecuted.  Maybe you are in the wrong line of work if all your co-workers are so much younger than you and you feel like you have no one who can relate to you?

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

.  -Albert Einstein

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-20-1999
Thu, 12-27-2012 - 5:25pm


OK ItChick. Yes I do have deeper concerns about answering these questions. Let me explain.

To be fair, I have answered the question about why I don't wear a wedding ring many times. I have also answered the question about my age on a limited basis.  That said, discrimination based on age or marriage status is illegal and a very real problem.  For example. the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) forbids age discrimination against people who are age 40 or older.  That would include someone who is 47 like you.  

Here's what has been happening.  There's a lot I've sort of been silently observing and it's begun to really worry me.

1. The rumor mill there is terrible and I've witnessed some pretty rotten things happen to people.  I've been told by people who have been there for a while that I should always "watch my back", as not everyone can be trusted. Certain individuals have been pointed out to me as those who are the most liklely to "report you" for something. So I was advised to stay away from those people and watch what I say around them. (I don't do this - instead choosing to befriend people who may be less popular or who or otherwise being socially shunned for some reason.  

2. Being shunned happens quite a lot. The reasons are silly and immature.  One woman has been shunned by people in her department because she wears fake colored contacts.  I have made efforts to reach out to her and make her feel more welcome if I can.  I saw another woman talking behind the back of a fellow crew member who is new.  The woman called the new crew member a "B* t_h" and said, "I hate her".  Why? Becuase the new person is being given a work location the old crew member feels she should have. Again, I have reached out to the new crew member as I know she is being treated poorly and I am making efforts to get her what she needs in order to do a good job and treat her with kindness.  

3. Recently someone who was angry about being coached for using her cell phone at work, made up a lie about the supervisor who coached her and spread it to everyone in our department. She even tried to involve me in it as a "witness" when I knew she had made the story up. Management called me into the office to ask me what I knew and told me the accusation was serious. I told them I hadn't witnessed this incident, and that I even suspected this was more a clash of personalities than anything.  However, this supervisor ultimately lost her job a month before Christmas.  She had two children to take care of at home.  The person who made up this story is in her early twenties, and doesn't have children and really has no concept that her actions have real world consequences for people.

4. When I first arrived, someone spread a rumor that I had “told off” a supervisor.  AS a new person I had to quickly do damage control and tell the person who was spreading this rumor that not only was it untrue, but I would never do something like that as I valued my job.  I didn't want other supervisors or crew members who didn't know me, to label me as someone who was going to be difficult and mouthy.  On the contrary, I've made every effort to be kind, work hard, and do what is asked of me without complaint. I even went to the supervisor who was the subject of my alleged “telling off” and asked him if I had said anything to offend him. He said I had not. So someone just made that up!

5. As for my marriage status, I've seen people who have been labeled as loose at work.  I do not want people thinking I don't wear my wedding ring because I am unchaste but this is not an unheard of accusation where I work.  I know of four individual people who have been accused of sleeping around – one of whom is engaged.

6. Rumors spread and get distorted where I work very quickly. An employee who has been there for a while compared it to "Peyton Place".These kind of accusations  and rumors ultimately limit advancement opportunities if someone is seen as untrustworthy or doesn't have good morals/values or just isn't like for some odd reason. I know of one person who lost out on an opportunity,not because he couldn’t do the work, but because the people he would have been working with decided that he was “too much trouble”.  I know this because I was told by the person who was training the new person for the position.

7. In addition,  older workers are given less plum assignments, and assignments with lower visibility because they are perceived as not being able to handle the work load.  Those who have school aged children are more likely to be passed over for promotion because they have less flexibility or need to miss work more often for family reasons, etc.  Sometimes this is true.  For me, it isn't.  However, I have noticed, out of all the entry-level management positions we have in our department, these positions are held, almost exclusively, by young (in their twenties), single people, without children. You cannot advance in this company unless you have held a leadership position beginning with the low level supervisor position or "lead".

8. I've had a supervisor tell me I wouldn't understand something she was discussing with someone else because I wasn't "in her age group".  

I hope this better explains my concerns about my age and marriage status. I'm looking for advancement opportunities at work and if I lose out because people think I won't be able to perform my duties or get along because I am older and married with a child, or because they think I am trying to hide being married for some reason,  I'm going to be, understandably, a little annoyed.

You suggested that I become more "open and friendly" so as not to feel so "persecuted" and that I may be in the wrong "line of work if all your co-workers are so much younger than you and you feel like you have no one who can relate to". Well as for changing jobs, my "line of work" is the job I could find.  Not everyone has the luxury of finding the perfect job for them in these times. It took me three years to find this one.   It's also wrong to assume I am not "open and friendly" and that I feel "persecuted".  I feel that I have valid concerns based on what I have witnessed and experienced.  Although I appreciate your taking the time to answer my post, I think I'll just continue to keep my concerns to myself and keep working hard and doing what I can to be a valuable employee who shows up everyday, does a good job, and treats everyone with kindness. Clearly that is all I can do.  Take care and have a good day.

   




Sucker Punch

Avatar for xxxs
Community Leader
Registered: 01-25-2010
Thu, 12-27-2012 - 8:15pm

  This is a real problem.  Many of the available jobs are with young unsophisticated people.  They feel that there is noting of interest in a "older" person. They are also in the "transparent" age where they put their business on the street.  Even if you are an expert on pop culture they will resent you for invading their territory.  Part of it is they are unsure how to deal with an "older" person.  The questions about your age may not have a meanness, but ignorance.

  "I usually say, something like, "You shouldn't ask a woman her age!" in a light joking manner." 

     That retort has not been is use for decades.  They do not understand why you would not be forthcoming?  After all that is what they ask of each other.  If you are defensive it will be worse for you. 
. just say over 21. 

  Forget, what happened in years past.  Keep your private life private.  The ring well to the people and culture where you are maybe a bit old fashioned and your not wearing it is something outside their experience.  Best response: do not want to.  That is unarguable. 

Goldfish

Avatar for CMEvelyn
iVillage Member
Registered: 05-29-2012
Thu, 12-27-2012 - 8:53pm

sharmaine73 wrote:
I think I'll just continue to keep my concerns to myself and keep working hard and doing what I can to be a valuable employee who shows up everyday, does a good job, and treats everyone with kindness. Clearly that is all I can do.

That is probably the best thing you can do, and stay positive. It's hard to be negative about someone who is always positive.

Avatar for xxxs
Community Leader
Registered: 01-25-2010
Thu, 12-27-2012 - 9:05pm

  I read your response to the post by chick.  Are you over 40?  If not the why even put the age law in.  It would not effect you.

   You bring some of this upon yourself.  You make effort to befriend those out of favor. That makes you a target.  You are afraid. You are not a leader. Your lack of actions in your favor are part of it.  You do not know the rules of power.  Who is the queen bee?  It is about making your life better. 

    Being weak is a guarenteed reason to be attacked.  You do not fit but because of the current economy do not have much of a choice.  So some are accused of sleeping around and are they still there and for how long?  The weapons of the cunning are yours. 

  Have you read books on gaining power? 

  The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli

  

Thick Black Theory: Forbidden Strategies For Victory by Zhao An Xin
Thick Face, Black Heart: The Warrior Philosophy for Conquering the Challenges of Business and Life

The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto MusashiMolloy's Live for Success by John T. Molloy

The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene

Goldfish

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-20-1999
Fri, 12-28-2012 - 1:46am

I will be 40 in February,  I wouldn't have brought it up if it weren't pertinent to me.  Oh and if I'm not a leader who is afriad - how come I got promoted to lead within 6 months of being there?  That doesn't happen there.  I made that happen. Please.

Now the rest of your advice was somewhat good.  You need to work on your delivery.  Sounding tough does not make you tough. In my experience, those are the first people taken out.  Cunning requires subtly.  It's not something you can pick up from a book.  It comes with experience.  What I have learned is to ask for help when I need it in a safe environment away from the field of battle - if you want to use that parlance. However, I am careful with whom I accept advice from.  Thank you for your input.  I'll take what I need and disregard the rest.  Have a good evening.

Sucker Punch

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-20-1999
Fri, 12-28-2012 - 1:52am
You are right about staying positive. Thank you. I appreciate that. Have a good night and take care.

Sucker Punch

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-16-2002
Fri, 12-28-2012 - 2:59pm

If there were two people left on the planet, they would still gossip about one another, to each other.  Gossip is just a way of life.  What you need to do is figure out a way to NOT be so concerned by all those things you listed.  Unless you are being directly discriminated against or directly affected by people spreading rumors,  just leave it be and focus on your work.  What other people do is out of our control, we can only control our reactions in response. 

I have perfected the art of not giving a flying fart about what other people think or say about me.  I am very confident in my abilities, show everyone these same level of respect (regardless of their position in the company), and do not involve myself in gossip.  If someone tells me something about someone else, I don't agree or disagree, I just say "Oh?  That's interesting..." and then leave it alone.  I'm privvy to a lot of information regarding a number of coworkers but whenever I'm told something, it stops with me, I don't spread it forward. 

Where I work, we have all age ranges, and everyone respects everyone else, regardless of their age.  I have never seen anyone discriminated against because of their age, if they are married or not, or have children or not.  I also work in a very family-friendly company, so it's probably those of us without children who are not the norm.

Perhaps it's the type of business you are working in, I can't really tell what it is...you mention crews, is it a construction company? 

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

.  -Albert Einstein

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-14-2005
Mon, 12-31-2012 - 9:44am

I would really like to know what type of business you work for and what type of work you do.  You say you work a lot with your hands, but that describes many different types of jobs.  You could be admin support, eyeglass technician, construction worker, or work at an arts and crafts place.  I think the type of business matters greatly as to the type of people working there.  I worked for an on-line stock trading company with mostly young people.  It was the worst job I ever had.  Sounds a lot like the type of company you're working in now.  These people delighted in rumor mongering and cutting people down as much as they could.  I learned quickly not to befriend any of them or even talk to them if I could avoid it.  Nasty people working in a toxic company.  I left after a short period of time for that reason and pay issues also.  It was the best decision I ever made.  It lead me to the company I'm in now, which is the polar opposite.  It's a nice, stable company I'll be at until I retire.  (I'm now in my fifties)  About the wedding ring issue, I don't understand why anyone thinks it's any of their business whether you wear a ring or not.  It wouldn't even be an issue if you were male.  Nobody asks a man why he doesn't wear his wedding ring.  That's a totaly sexist discriminatory issue.

I know it's a tough job market out there, but I think you're going to have to decide if you really want to stay in a company with with that kind of atmosphere.  If the money's good and you like your actual job duties, it might be worth it to stay.  After all, people move in and out of job positions.  But peace of mind and workplace satisfaction is important also.  Good luck!

Terri

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-13-2011
Wed, 03-27-2013 - 11:39am

There is a lot of age discrimination in the workplace. I used to work in an office with a lot of 20-somethings, and I was the only married person there, also I was pregnant. Three weeks after informing the supervisor of my pregnancy, my employment was terminated.

Also, beware of temp agencies. They tend to believe whatever their client tells them, even blatant lies. I quit temping years ago because of all that.

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