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posted: 3/9/2014 6:14 AM

Work Advice: Older worker feels a chill; younger worker may be creating one

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Reader 1: It has become painfully clear over the past year that I am being excluded from activities for which I once would have been eagerly sought out as a leader.

I still receive great evaluations. My supervisor says she is pleased with my performance. My friends say to relax and enjoy the cruise up to retirement. My husband says to talk to HR in case this is subtle age discrimination.

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A: If you trust your boss, it "can't hurt to have an honest conversation" expressing your concerns, says employment attorney Elaine Fitch, of the Washington law firm Kalijarvi, Chuzi, Newman & Fitch. Ask whether there have been complaints -- or whether your colleagues are backing off because you're rumored to be retiring soon. If you have no such plans, make that clear to your boss.

With your colleagues, consider actively volunteering your assistance on projects. Keep an ear open for telling responses -- "Oh, I heard you were leaving" -- so you can correct any misconceptions.

And if you do have a date set for retirement? You might see whether you could stay on as a freelance consultant to ease the transition. Colleagues may be more eager to bring you in on new projects if they know you can see them through to the end.

Reader 2: My manager has asked me to train a new 60-year-old employee in the technology work I do by letting her shadow me and sponge on all I do. I feel humiliated and insulted. The new elderly employee is not as qualified as I am and has no technical certification. Training her in addition to doing my job is a huge stress. Further, I am not paid extra. Other people who could train her are project leads who work with and hired her. I am a single mother with mortgage payments and wonder if my manager is exploiting my situation.

A: I'm not sure what's humiliating about being asked to train someone less qualified than you. (Duh, that's why you're training her.)

If you're having to spend too much work time going over the basics with the trainee, see if a class or self-study could get her up to speed. Assigning her simple tasks could help her learn while supporting you. Or ask your manager if those project leads can lend their expertise (read: time), too.

If your issue is that she's "elderly" -- would training someone younger annoy you this much? -- get used to it. The average retirement age is increasing yearly. Might be she has a mortgage, too.

• Miller has written for and edited tax publications for 16 years, most recently for the accounting firm KPMG's Washington National Tax office. You can find her on Twitter, KarlaAtWork.

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