06/26/2015 05:38 pm ET Updated Jun 26, 2016

6 Things 40-Year-Olds Think About 20-Year-Olds in the Workplace

My generation (now, sigh, in our forties) has finally reached the point when we are the ones being mentors, taking on interns and considering prospective employees. And as we sit across the interview table from you folks who don't remember life before Wikipedia, we are often confused and frustrated by some of your behavior.

But true to the promises we made back the first time flannel was in style, we want to help you guys the way we'd wished someone had helped us. To that end, I offer this list of things we fortysomethings are thinking about you twentysomethings (who, we know, have never heard of Thirtysomething).

1. "WTF are you doing with those shoes?"Sweetie, this is an office, not a casino lobby, so why are you wearing platform stilettos? You don't look sexy. You're walking like a newborn calf and watching you is like screening a Toddlers & Tiaras spinoff. Your skinny legs would look way better if they ended in some footwear that isn't hooker-chic. And hey, guys -- it's okay to own a pair of dress shoes. Perhaps, check out a men's magazine so that you avoid looking like 1) you borrowed your dad's shoes; or 2) your shoes are a hunting trophy from when you shot that gator down in the bayou. Footwear can say "I'm an asshole," "I'm a slut," or "I've actually been inside an office building." Your choice.

2. "This person knows what Instagram and Snapchat are" We know you're doing something on your phones and tablets, but if we're being honest, we're not exactly sure what. There's something about naked pictures and Tinder or Grinder or Kindling or something, which scares the shit out of us -- but there might be something you're using on those devices that's actually helpful. And we'd love it if you could bring your knowledge of cool new technology to our workplace. And it would be awesome if you'd order us an Uber car home from the office party, because we're a little afraid that if we did it ourselves, we'll be unwittingly engaging in some kind of sex trade.

3. "You're our equals. Sort of." We've lived a lot more life than you have. We remember car rides without handheld electronics, telephones that had curly cords and life before texting. We know what it means to be fired, to get married, to raise children and to miss a party when our kids got sick. Despite the fact that we have more experience, we still think you could be a valuable part of our team. But we're picking up on your signals. If you're confident, we're going to assume that you have good reason to be. And if you're not, we're going to assume that it's because your resume has been Autotuned and that you've never actually worked a day in your life. When you act like you're not worthy of looking us in the eye, it reflects poorly on you. You can be confident in who you are and what you're worth without being disrespectful, so quit cowering and take your seat at the table.

4. "You're obsessed with bad television, dick pics, drinking and partying, aren't you?" It's nothing personal. It's just that there seems to be a hell of a lot of things out there right now to distract young people from general productivity. So our go-to assumption is that you'll spend all day pretending to work while you're actually doing something mindless online. But if you indicate differently, we are completely open to the idea that you might not be completely vacuous. In fact, we're hoping that you give us some evidence to that effect. Bizarre as it sounds, it wasn't so long ago that we were your age. We were rolling our eyes when our parents were getting "chat rooms" confused with "My Space." And we were finding ways to be promiscuous without the assistance of iPhones. But we were also studying hard, working hard and following our dreams, and we hope you're doing the same. But you've got to give us something to go on. Tell us how you're passionate about your hobbies, ambitious in your career goals and accustomed to hard work. Speak up, and you'll see that we're much easier to flip than you think.

5. "You know what's cool." Even those of us who consult Pinterest before getting dressed each day know that we are no match for the cutting-edge sensibility of someone two decades younger. We know that in two seconds, you'll have determined whether our jeans are mommyish, our haircuts are contrived or our taste in music is lame. We would love for you to think we are cool in the same way you'd love for us to think you're smart. Remember that and use at will. Camaraderie with coworkers outside your age group can be one of the most valuable things you accomplish in your 20s. So bond with us by sharing your knowledge of popular culture. And try not to mention that no one under 30 uses Facebook. It's kind of a sore subject.

6. "You're trying too hard." Yes, my time is limited; yes, I've accomplished some cool stuff; yes, I'm farther on this road than you are. But I don't need to be showered with compliments and gratitude. One honest, "it means a lot to me that you took the time to have coffee with me" is worth a thousand, "omg you are SO amazing"s. Everyone hates an ass-kissing sidekick, especially in the workplace. By contrast, we all love mentoring a grateful and determined protégé. Work to strike the right balance and you'll see that it'll pay off.

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