By Chelsea Peng published
Being an employed person of a certain age—hell, any age, really—you have probably learned to stifle your rage when a coworker of a different cohort makes a blanket statement classifying your generation as lazy/self-promoting/the worst ever/entitled/garbage.
When this happens, you have a few options:
a. Suck it up
b. Suck it up, then complain about it to your friends later
c. Say "at least I know what a GIF is, you old fogey." Get fired. Work on the internet where everybody has a folder just for GIFs. Achieve work nirvana.
But seriously—after one too many times of someone older insinuating that all 20-somethings need to learn some humility, we could really use some advice, plus some A1 comebacks to keep in our back pockets. Vicki Salemi, career expert for Monster, is here with both, provided you don't interrupt her because you think you know better, okay? Okay.
How to respond, including a sick(ish) burn
I'm really showing my age here, but you know that meme? The one about how work is replacing the obscenity you'd much rather be saying with "Okay, great?" You have to do that here too, but the most effective way to shut down a hater is still through action. "Not physical force," she added hastily.
According to Salemi, start by countering (politely) with something like "I know you may have notions of what my generation is all about, but I've always received positive reviews from former internships that I am an excellent team player and an asset to the group." Then you make like Britney.
But Salemi also cautions that it's more about what you do, not what you say. "Show, don't tell," says Salemi. "This means your actions, behaviors, and attitudes will speak volumes on their own. In turn, the person who made preconceived notions about you prior to even working closely with you can view this as overwhelming positive proof that you're not too individualistic after all."
How to avoid being labeled in the first place
See: "Don't stop now/Just be the champion/Work it hard like it's your profession." Because, as the (likely) more junior employee, it is your job to, you know, help out your elders. "Every new hire should view their job this way—fulfill their own responsibilities as well as recognizing others' demands. So you should strive for balance by asking yourself if you're staying on course with your job and career development within the role. By focusing on impeccable work, utmost professionalism, and being a joy to be around, you will hopefully defy any negative demands in the workplace and, in fact, successfully exceed them."
And that's it. I could talk about how it's unfair we have to put in extra effort to compensate for/overcome such a stereotype, but then I remember how good it feels when you prove someone wrong. 👊💁🙏
I'm Chelsea Peng, the assistant editor at MarieClaire.com. On my tombstone, I would like a GIF of me that's better than the one that already exists on the Internet and a free fro-yo machine. Besides frozen dairy products, I'm into pirates, carbs, Balzac, and snacking so hard I have to go lie down.
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