midlife v. gen x at workI work as a freelance trainer for a performance improvement firm. I am hired to deliver corporate training, and am always eager to pick up work! Well, I had noticed that one of the sales people (who sells training programs to corporations) had not hired me for any work, but was hiring other trainers (for jobs I was most certainly qualified to do).

So, with a gentle, yet assertive inquiry I privately asked him, “Is there any reason you wouldn’t hire me for a training job?  If so, I would love to understand.”  I smiled to let him know I was an ally seeking truth.

He looked at me as if I had tasered him and said, “Uh, um, no, no, of course, I would hire you.”  And I knew he was lying; it was all over his face, and he had already been there a year without engaging me. I had every reason to think he would have; I had a nice working relationship with him before he worked at this company and I had recommended him to our manager for the job in the first place! So I thought surely, he’d be kind in return.

Well, back in this moment, to have asked him such a point-blank question was something that my Gen X colleague was not prepared to answer.  I’m 55, a trainer and coach, an entrepreneur who left corporate life and a cushy salary nine years ago to help people become better communicators, to have better people skills and overall be more effective in the world — and here I am having shut down this 30-something guy, who didn’t know how to respond to me.

Right after that he stopped responding to my unrelated, business phone calls.  I decided to seek counsel from our manager, and he told me that this young man had complained to him (the manager) that I had made him uncomfortable. 

I swear, if I hadn’t already been sitting I would have fallen to the floor.  1. Why would our manager allow for such whining and not tell him to be a big boy and respond to me?  2. Why didn’t I realize ahead of time that Mr. Gen X wasn’t going to respond well to an assertive women who could be the same age as his own mother?  3. Why didn’t I use my wisdom to see that his not hiring me all that time was the clearest answer I had all along?

We women in our 50s – we want straight answers.  We crave honest, open discussions, so that we can learn when there’s an opportunity to grow, so that we can get along in the world of differing opinions and perspectives.  We are strong enough to be given honest feedback (even when we don’t agree) because we don’t fear others’ points of view.  We don’t waste time.  And most importantly, we are valuable.  The skills, insights, experiences, wisdom, pain, glory, successes and failures all rolled into one person’s life – your life, my life; make us the most hire-worthy.

Our younger colleagues haven’t yet traveled the path and can’t possibly see what we see, and it’s okay! We know they’re supposed to be where they are, too.  So, I’m not blaming Mr. Gen X for being hesitant to respond directly to an assertive, older women.  Had I also been in my 30s, instead of asking him for an honest answer, I would have chastised him, run to the boss, made a big stink and created hell for not getting a job I want.  I love knowing how much I’ve evolved.  

In the end, I always had the answer.  Plus, I got the feedback I needed…from myself.

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