Boss Baby Problem For Younger Looking Workers Careers
Date: 22 November 2022
Media: Today Extra, Channel Nine, National Australian Television
Story: Boss Baby Problem
Hosts: David Campbell and Sylvia Jeffreys
Guest: Sue Ellson
9 Now at nine.com.au: https://9now.nine.com.au/today/videos/latest/how-looking-young-can-actually-cause-you-problems-at-work/clarg0w6b00390un31pbk0u6e
On 22 November 2022, I was invited to appear on Channel Nine’s Today Extra Program to talk about the Boss Baby Problem for Younger Looking Workers’ Careers. A recording of the segment is below, followed by the transcript and then some additional points I prepared before the segment.
Welcome back we all wish we could turn back the years and regain our youthful glow but for some people looking younger can actually cause more harm than good particularly in the workplace I’ve really suffered from it it’s called Boss Baby problems and that’s more we’re joined by the career expert Sue Ellson in Melbourne
Sue who thought that looking more youthful could actually do your harm it do harm to your career tell us more.
It’s really hard to believe isn’t it and sadly this was happening 60 years ago at NASA as we saw in the movie Hidden Figures but it’s one of those situations particularly now again where there’s this huge rise in technology where a lot of people who as they get older everybody looks younger but they also realize they might not have those technical skills either
Women are often more affected by this aren’t they?
Definitely and even just last year I was speaking to an expert and he said if you want to come across more authoritative you need to lower your voice and I couldn’t believe it because I’m well past being young now
So you’ve got to pretend to be a man?
Well this is what this guy said to me and I just couldn’t believe it so no I don’t plan to go down that path but it’s interesting that that perception is still out there
That’s entrenched misogyny there. That just seems to be happening all through the workplace so if you do find yourself faced with this what can you do at work to help yourself progress?
Look I think there’s a lot of different things that you can do. You can definitely be very aware of your surroundings you can make sure that you’re listening for those cues of what’s going on in the place, be involved in the social activities, turn up on time, be reliable, get the job done and try not to react if somebody says something that you find a little bit difficult to hear and you know, keep being proactive too
Okay and what about some of the things we can avoid to combat this Boss Baby issue can’t fix your face?
No I know it seems a silly question doesn’t it. Look I think that if you are the young person and you don’t listen to other people, if you don’t ask the questions, if you don’t find out facts it’s going to be very hard to back things up. If you can collect some statistics, start publishing content I wrote an article last year and believe it or not the people from Google contacted me and I had a you know they’ve implementing my suggestions at Google. So get yourself out there. There’s plenty of ways to convey your expertise and yeah ask lots of questions.
Well let’s talk about the employers though how can they stop this trend?
Well I think multi-age teams are really important. We’ve seen with the rise of TikTok there’s even videos being created with the young people applying for jobs online and there’s a lot of ways that you can you now get people together to ask them the questions, to get peer support, give them stretch tasks there’s lots of ways that that integration can occur and definitely give people you know let them remember what it was like to be young have fun smile enjoy your time at work
I think those are all really important things to do lots of good advice there so great to chat to you Sue as always thanks so much for your time
What is the Boss Baby Problem?
- Looking young or younger than your actual age
- Being perceived as inexperienced
- Discounted or dismissed in group situations
- Automatically excluded from senior meetings
- Asked for information but not allowed to present it
- Tends to be more of an issue with women
Who knew looking more youthful could actually harm your career growth…
Yes, I know the feeling! I found it very hard to be taken seriously when I first started work as I looked like a teenager throughout my 20’s. I think it is even more difficult now for young people as many of them are very fast thinkers and have a lot of technical skills that they can use to solve complex problems. Ironically the people who are now older were once younger and it is hard to believe they don’t remember what it is like to be young!
The sad part is that this was all happening sixty years ago at NASA as shown in the movie Hidden Figures. What I did like about that story was the fact that the women helped the other women all advance together.
Women and young women are often more affected by this problem, why is that?
I think there is a general perception in many workplaces that women need to perform at a much higher level to receive the same recognition for their expertise. I had one expert tell me just last year that I should lower my voice if I wanted to be taken seriously. One of the best courses I ever completed in my career was assertiveness skills and that includes the ability to speak up, to politely say no and to convey your message clearly. I think smiling and having fun at work and not taking things too seriously can also help.
How can we make ourselves better respected in the workplace?
- Being aware – being aware of the cultural norms in the workplace can help you convey your message.
- Participate – Make sure you are a part of the team and participate in social activities and build relationships. Listening and asking questions helps people feel as if you understand them. Good eye contact and real presence in discussions (put your phone out of sight).
- Show up and be reliable – On time and in tune. Bring your energy and enthusiasm and be willing to be assertive (not pushy) and responsive (under promise and over deliver). Get what needs to be done first.
- Listen – to what people ‘tell’ you in words or actions, there are many visual cues around that can help you perfect your pitch when the time is right.
- Keep Records – Keep a record of your achievements, great to discuss in a performance review but also to add to your resume or LinkedIn Profile if they are not commercially sensitive.
So what things should we avoid to try and combat the Boss Baby Problem?
- Don’t show people up – especially in a group situation. Have conversations rather than written communication as these can be misinterpreted and used against you. Only put in writing your considered and data based suggestions. Have some one-on-one meetings before presenting to a group. Go international for suggestions – use your research skills.
- Don’t make assumptions – You could have a voice in your head saying you are too young or inexperienced or not good enough – but if you are doing the work and kicking goals, you are ready to go to the next step.
- Don’t be ungracious – If you get a no response. Understand the other side of the story even if you disagree with it. Sometimes life somewhere else is no better and you will get further by making things work where you are. It takes around six months to be unconsciously competent in a new role.
- Be proactive – be willing to test and learn and innovate
What can employers be doing to stop the trend?
- Put people in multi-age teams
- Reward effort as well as results – young people can be great catalysts for new ideas
- Ask yourself why you are resisting their input – it says more about you than them sometimes
- Provide more information – so they can explore the scope available
- Give them stretch tasks with peer or mentor support – otherwise they may start to look elsewhere