BLUF: I was just told I am too young to attend a certain meeting. What should I do now?

The meeting is directly related to my responsibilities - in fact I have been the point person leading multiple workshops and discussions so we can even have the meeting. The meeting includes a very small group and today I was replaced by my boss (he is a director with 150 staff and I am a manager with 50). I was told I cannot attend because, "you are too young" - exact phrase. In the moment, I responded to my boss, "I understand. I have been dealing with that complaint in almost every job I have held for 20 years. Do you need any more support information from me?" I have left it at that. That was earlier today.

This thing called "too young" has been popping up with me forever. In the past I have usually dealt with it 1) using a joke, 2) brushing it aside with a shoulder shrug and head tilt, or acknowledging I am much younger than all my peers.
In full disclosure I am younger than all my peers and all my direct staff - by about a decade. I am 39.

What should I do now? Should I grow a beard? Should I ignore it? Should I ask what skill set a 39-year old is missing that someone in the 40's has? Should I say, "I understand I do not have as many years experience as my peers. What skills do I need to develop to eliminate age as a barrier?" If I had been told I don't have enough experience, I would have responded, "what experiences do I need to practice/develop to get there?' and developed a plan to change. Maybe the distinction is irrelevant when it comes to my action plan??? I am not going to file a complaint or go legal. I need to make some change in my behavior - because something I am doing is conveying youth (or inexperience or both).

What should my action plan include?

engineer76's picture

Now that I have had a little time to vent and such I have the other additional ideas on what I could do: 1) grow my beard back, 2) shave my head, 3) upgrade from sport coat or tie to full suit and tie, and 4) stop using my catch phrases: "rad" and "what the crap."  I realize these are all just ways to make me appear older - which misses the point - but there are behaviors that make me seem young which are worthy of elimination because it is more professional.  I just don't know what those behaviors are.  

donm's picture
Training Badge

As an engineer, you should know that if you don't ask the right question, you won't get the right answer. Therefore, the first thing an engineer has to do when there is a problem is to determine the cause of the problem, and then determine the best course of action to eliminate the problem.

If one word were to be used to describe manager tools, it would be "behavior." Behaviors are: what you do, what you say, how you say it, and body language. Saying "You are too young" is not about a behavior; it is a conclusion drawn due to your behaviors. Facial hair, clothing, or office decor are not the issue.

You are asking the wrong question. You are asking, "What can I do so I am not seen as being 'too young'."

The right question: How are you behaving that is making them think of you as "young?"

donm's picture
Training Badge

I don't know what happened. Your second post did not show on my machine when I wrote my answer. That is exactly what you should be asking, so think about it.


  1. What you say
  2. How you say it
  3. What you do
  4. Your body language

Maybe if you were see if you can give yourself feedback: What would be the behavior that would cause you to say, "When you do/say XX, it causes people to think of you as 'young.'". Have you asked your boss "What am I doing that makes you think of me as young?" If not your boss, your parents, associates outside of work, or maybe in a church, civic group, or club you belong to.