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  • Writer's pictureAdeleine Whitten

Does this email sound like my boss is mad at me?

The workforce is getting younger and younger every day. There is now a significant percentage of office employees that are too young to consider themselves millennials, myself included. In fact, some of your very desk neighbors may have been born in the 2000s, and they’re not breaking child labor laws or anything. Let that sink in.

I started my first office job when I was 21 years old. I was one of the youngest people at the company and the youngest person on my team. I sent emails, took notes during meetings, and pretended day in and day out that I knew what people were talking about when they mentioned things like “bandwidth” or “action items”.

You could say that job taught me a lot about marketing or the products we sold or anything else that was in the job description, but the most important things I took away from my first office job were 1) how people in offices communicate with each other and 2) how to not feel like I have a neon sign pointing at me at all times that proclaims “young person”. And here I am, now ready to shower you with knowledge.

No, your boss isn’t mad at you.

Sometimes your boss will send you messages that say “Okay.” or “Sure.” This can seem very off-putting with their use of the period and absence of an “lol” or “haha”. That’s just how people of their generation type. Straight and to the point, no fluff to assure you they don’t secretly hate you. But that’s normal for them, I promise.

Live and breathe office jargon.

Is the phrase “taking this offline” a threat? Hint: it might be. But even if you don’t love all of the meaningless or slightly passive aggressive phrases your coworkers throw around, understanding (and using) them are going to be key to surviving office life. Because what we want to call the meeting is “pointless conversation that benefits nobody”, but what we’re going to call it is a “sync”.

Cut back on the self-deprecating humor.

To people our age, saying “I’m going to hurl myself into the sun” when you have a 9 AM meeting is normal and hilarious. But if you make one of these jokes too casually, you suddenly have coworkers pulling you aside asking if you’re okay. Stick to saying “hump day, am I right?” to get a good laugh from the group.

Don’t order vodka at the happy hour.

Every intern makes that mistake one time, and then never again. Just a beer for me, please.

No idea what you’re doing? Same.

Impostor Syndrome is real - especially when it feels like you graduated twenty seconds ago. You may feel like a phony when you start making decisions or running meetings with real professionals at a real company, but I promise you, so does everybody else. Your office is nothing more than a bunch of people pretending they know what they’re doing and hoping nobody calls their bluff.

Just try to blend in.

Trust me, this may be the most important piece here. Because the minute that 40-something guy on your project finds out they started at the company the same year you were born, they’ll never take you seriously again. So keep your 21st century birth year to yourself, and pretend you also have a hard time turning a Word doc into a PDF. “Technology is so confusing. I might be able to figure it out if you give me a minute”. It will keep everyone at ease and won’t put a target on your back.

Alright, Gen-Z-turned-Gen-X. Have you been practicing your fake laugh for when your coworker shows you a video on Instagram that you saw a month ago on TikTok? How about your befuddled face when the printer is out of paper and you have to reload it?

Awesome, that’s what I like to hear. It sounds like we’re ready to fool everyone into thinking we know what we’re doing. Now go out there and drill down, touch base, and piggyback to your heart’s content.

Adeleine Whitten | Professional, kind of

is a marketer by day and writer by night, weekend, and sometimes lunch break. You can often find her with a good book or in the Taco Bell drive-thru.

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