What should you do if you’re feeling envious of a colleague who’s younger than you, seemingly unappreciative of the opportunity you’re giving her, and also — in your opinion — inappropriately flirty at networking events? Reader J wonders:
I’m a 40 yr old business development manager at an engineering firm. I’ve formed a group of female colleagues that helps with networking and business that’s getting notice in my city (like a Stiletto Mafia). A few months ago one of the key ladies in my group invited my junior engineer in my firm to join.
This engineer is funny and smart but also a gorgeous 24 yr old. Now I am torn between wanting to be a mentor and jealousy. I am jealous that she has access to this group of high powered ladies that are my friends and doesn’t seem to grateful that I’m including her. This engineer also occasionally helps with networking. It’s frustrating to attend a business event while these men are flirting with her. She isn’t overt, but she is aware of her looks and plays them up.
I’d like to drop her from the group and ask her to focus on current clients vs networking. Am I being a hypocrite?
I think you’re being honest, Reader J — a lot more than most people would be in person. I don’t think this is unusual, though; I think a lot of younger women alienate good mentors by being too entitled (like the reader who expected her boss to help her network) or arrogant at work, or, here, too focused on other parts of life like flirting. (We have offered some tips in the past on how to network with older women that may help younger readers here!)
I suspect you’re stuck with her in your group, as I think others will think you’re being petty if you drop her without solid reasons. I would also caution you to be polite and professional with her, both in her presence and when she’s not there. Don’t be short, don’t make fun of her, don’t make backhanded compliments about her clothes — just focus on networking with the others. You don’t have to be her mentor or her friend — although I hope you’d be open to it, since you do say she’s funny and smart — but I think it is professional (and mature!) to take the high road.
However, I would suggest talking with your fellow group founders about the direction of the group. Do you want to admit new members but keep the group small? There should be a formal process of some sort — at least a cursory email to the group or something like that. If your fellow members resist a formal process, I would suggest opening group activities to everyone — but forming a steering group of founders who will be the folks who determine what/when the next event is, whether there is a membership fee, and who will “represent” the group for any outreach purposes.
Readers, I have a feeling this one will be polarizing — what are your thoughts? Can you see it from Reader V’s perspective, or do you feel more for her younger colleague?