My boss, who is half my age and lives at home, has set up a work group chat which includes him and four of my childless peers/co-workers who are all between 26 and 35 years of age. I and one other co-worker are excluded from this group chat. I am not a Luddite. My boss told me ironically that one of his master's courses is "The Use of Technology with Older People in the Work force." I am in my mid-50s, dress well, am not overweight or unattractive, have raised two successful kids, worked in a variety of fields. I try to fit in and am a team player. I feel like simple ageism is at work here. I know diplomacy is needed, but I'm annoyed as hell at being excluded. I have no issues working with ambitious 26-year-olds, but this is a peeve of mine, especially when life is about inclusion. I need advice on how casually to broach the subject.
You had me at "my boss … lives at home."
Had me chuckling quietly to myself, that is. I've had young bosses, but they all had their own apartments. I wonder if he goes home and complains to his mother about how hard it is to manage people and be in a position of power – and then that her meatloaf is kind of dry that night.
Let's turn to the technological component of your question in a minute. What you're feeling – excluded from a snobby little clique – is as old as the species itself. We feel it keenly, at various points in our lives.
Woody Allen famously quoted Groucho Marx: "I would never want to join a club that would have me for a member." The corollary is: You do very badly want to join a club or clique that doesn't want you as a member.
And of course, belonging to this group chat could be a good source of work-related information.
But have you really thought this through? I should admit, somewhere – here – that I've never been part of a group chat. And I know some of them have been very effectively used around the world to promote good causes. A small group of like-minded individuals exchange information about a cause, or an injustice, and can turn into a powerful force for change and good.
But most (I'm told) are largely comprised of frivolous nattering – even if vaguely or speciously connected to work. Like the endless onslaught of e-mails so many people in the workplace get from cc-happy colleagues.
Sounds as though this could be one of those. And I could see that getting tiring quickly. But if you then try to extricate yourself from this chatty little group – well, you risk offending them. (And then your boss will unleash an angry tirade of invective to his mother specifically about you, pounding his fist on the table, spraying meatloaf everywhere.)
And isn't it better to be ignored than cause offence?
It's also yet another arena in which, if you say the wrong thing, it could end your career – especially since it would be very easy to be lulled into thinking you're in a "safe space" with this little group.
But nothing's safe these days: As with e-mail and Twitter and all those other "platforms," your remarks will be on the record, therefore irrefutable and easily transferrable to a third party: human resources, the police, a lawyer.
Speaking of HR, it does sound like ageism is at work, and you could go to HR to complain. But I wouldn't bother – too murky and difficult to prove. I'm sad you have to talk about how fit and attractive and well-dressed you are, but maybe just let this one go.
Of course, you could ask nicely to join this group chat, but that could be an awkward conversation. It could also backfire. It sounds as though your boss and his fellow group-chatters went out of their way to exclude you and your colleague. What if they say no?
So, no: Were I you, I would not bother trying to join this group chat. Just be friendly to your young colleagues and boss, old-school-style: i.e., in person, in the physical world – with a friendly remark, a nice smile, some compliments, maybe some pastry you've bought for them.
Who knows? Your boss might even wind up inviting you to his mom's house for dinner.
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