Things NEVER to Say to Young Coworkers

They're eager and ambitious, but millennial coworkers can be offended by age-related comments they perceive as condescending. What should you avoid saying?

Click here for details on DiversityInc's July 21 Generations at Work webinar

Are office comments sometimes perceived as patronizing? Maybe the issue is age-related. No matter how unintentional, young coworkers may interpret some comments as condescending.

Here are several things you should never say to young coworkers.

Click here to read "Things NOT to Say to LGBT Coworkers."

"You sound just like my son/daughter."

This statement may seem benign, but comparing a Generation Y or millennial coworker to your children might be insulting. The reason: It positions the person as an inexperienced "kid" rather than a valued colleague.

"Comparing a colleague to your son or daughter not only blurs the lines of professionalism but it also sends the message to your younger coworker that you view him or her as a subordinate," says DiversityInc Associate Web Editor Daryl C. Hannah.

"You wouldn't understand since this is your first job."

Just because a coworker is young doesn't necessarily mean he or she has no prior work experience. Nowadays, the average American has had eight different jobs by the age of 32, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Because of this work-force trend, younger employees are often more acclimated to adapting to new jobs than older employees.

"How old are you?"

It's inappropriate to ask this of anyone, regardless of his or her age. But inquiring about a young employee's age can be perceived as "a lack of experience" and is offensive, says Martin R. Cepeda Jr., a human-resources consultant for the healthcare giant Wyeth.

"Can you go to Starbucks for me?"

Working your way up the corporate ladder should not include running a supervisor's personal errands. This request is demeaning and inappropriate; it makes young employees feel their professional contributions aren't valued, and it reduces productivity.



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