How I overcame bias in the workplace

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Olay. The opinions and text are all mine.

I’ve partnered with Olay today to share how to overcome bias in the workplace. Olay is a brand that celebrates women and female pilots who break boundaries to rise above and live fearlessly. I’m thankful to share my story with you!

As a young business woman, I’ve always had to deal with bias in a workplace environment. Bias is everywhere, but most often affects women and younger employees. I was both of those things. I’ve gotten, “aren’t you a little too young for this?” more times than I can count.

I remember when I got my first promotion at my first job when I was in high school. I was the youngest employee promoted to customer service. The rest of my co-workers in customer service were in their mid-40’s to 50’s, and everyone seemed to question why I was promoted “so young.”

I would often experience helping a customer, provide them with all of the correct answers to their questions, and then watch them walk away and ask an older employee the same questions, just to make sure I had given them the correct information.

Later in life, before I became a full-time blogger, I worked in the real estate industry. Luckily, I had a boss that truly believed in me and my abilities and always stood up for me. She was my biggest advocate, and always reminded clients that they didn’t have to go to her for answers when “Tonya can answer all of your questions for you.” I really appreciate that. I believe that teamwork in a work environment is very important and I was lucky to have it for my last job, my others I wasn’t so lucky.

The biggest takeaway from my experience as a young woman in the workforce is that you can’t take things too personally. Naturally, people want their answers validated and will gravitate toward what they believe is an authority figure to get those answers validated. I always tried to be the best employee I possibly could, and when I didn’t know the answer to a question, I found out that answer for the customer.

Age is just a number. Just because you may be older or younger than someone, does not make you smarter or more equipped to do the job than they can. Focus on your strengths and build off of them. Everyone has different skill sets. Use them to your advantage!

Never let someone’s attitude affect yours, I could have easily been defeated in any of the situations where this happened over and over to me. BUT I didn’t – I stayed professional and proved myself, which I will always do. I know sometimes it’s easier said than done but in the end, not letting someone affect you, will make you stronger.

Have you had a similar experience? Share below! I would love to hear how you overcame it as well. We are learning more and more to stand up and speak for ourselves – I could not be more proud.

xx, Tonya Michelle

64 comments

  1. I used to have this happen a lot in my previous job. I worked at a doctor’s office, and have always been a hard-worker, organized, and was quickly one of the highest-payed employees, but never got any respect. I was a manager, but no one wanted to listen to me because I was the youngest there. Coworkers would often think that I was “the new girl” even after being there for years with many others hired after me. It’s not fun to be looked down on, but that’s also why I work for myself now.

  2. Agreed that everyone has different skill sets – doesn’t matter if you are 22 or 66, some people are stronger than others in some areas. Doesn’t really mean it is because of age. Young people can work hard and prove themselves. I am one of them 🙂

  3. This post definitely rang true for me! I’ve experienced similar things in a corporate work environment. I’m grateful for a career as a fashion blogger because it’s helped me shatter those stigmas as a young woman!

  4. Yea def bias exists in all aspects of life. Just like you said, proving your ability might be the only way to shut other’s doubt on you. So in this case, def action is louder than words.

  5. Age bias is not a good thing for the team. Actually I’ve been through that before in my previous job. but instead they need to work on is how can you deal about the work task and supporting each other.

  6. I love that you had a supportive boss before you became a full-time blogger. People are really judgy of others when it comes to age, but that’s definitely not the most important thing.

  7. You need to treat your work just like work and be able to leave the work at work. It’s not possible to change people. The easy way of dealing with this is changing your attitude.

    But it’s easy to be said than done. I can see from this article that you managed to do that. Very impressive!

    Thank you for sharing.

  8. Bias in the workplace, especially when it comes to age is so disheartening. I can’t control my age, but I can control my knowledge!

  9. Thank you for sharing your story! I think most women can relate to being undermined in the workplace because of biases and even more so if they are women of color!

  10. this is an amazing story babe, thank you for sharing! i think it’s very important to not let bias get to us and to stand up for ourselves for that very reason 🙂 you look gorgeous btw! love all your cute outfits.

  11. This is a great post. We all have our own weaknesses but I agree that it is important to focus on build on our strengths.

  12. You definitely can’t take anything too personally! That is exactly my same experience. When I came back from maternity leave I had to stay strong and stand my ground at work. Great post. Thanks for sharing

  13. Age bias is the absolute worst, and I can completely relate! I am always the youngest in my work environment and am constantly asked about being too young.

  14. yeah I totally agree with you, as a women we are often told so much about what we can and can’t do, and it is amazing when we talk about how bias it can be in the workplace and how to overcome those struggles, thanks for your tips!

  15. Now, this is an interesting post and very informative too. Loved the way you construct this article it helps anybody on the same shoes as this.

  16. One of the reasons I left my office job because of this. I am now happily working from home and don’t need to deal with others.

  17. I face it all the time. First, it’s hard to prove yourself being a woman. And once you prove yourself people become jealous trying to pull youu down (of course pinpointing the gender factor). Interestingly people hindering my growth are mostly women, and I don’t know whether it is my destiny or some problem in me, I always come across insecure women

  18. This post is a very important read! I worked in early childhood education before becoming a stay at home mom, so I did not experience a lot of gender bias, but I know that it is someone women in male dominated fields have to deal with daily.

  19. I’ve absolutely faced age bias in the workplace, both when I was younger and now that I’m not. It’s so frustrating.

  20. Your words have been very encouraging. I was in the same situation when my supervisor questioned my skills and even wanted me out of her team. Well, I duelled with it. I guess she just felt threatened.

  21. The last corporate job I had was dominated by young, noisy, millenials trying to make their mark in the corporate world. Nothing negative, but they sometimes give you that look that tells you that you are old. I always tell them, “I am not old, I am experienced.” This age bias thing in the workplace should stop. Really.

  22. I get bias in the workplace because I work as a preschool teacher but I am single and childless. I get the whole “wait till I have children” or “you don’t know, you have no kids”. Frustrates me sometimes because I don’t need kids to take care of other kids.

  23. You must be very proud of yourself. Congrats that you have got the trust from your boss in your young age. It is not easy to get the trust. Forget the age bias and follow your dream.

  24. Age definitely is just a number, it doesn’t affect whether or not you are good at what you do. I love your outfits by the way! The long sweater dress is adorable! Thanks for sharing!

  25. Age might be just a number but it seems that not everyone accept this, especially when it comes to a working place. I have been rejected because of my age twice. The first time I was too young to be the supervisor and the second time I was too old for the job!

  26. I sometimes hate it that people comment on how young I am (I’m not actually) and then I am so puzzled by being offended that they comment on my youth… Soon I will wish they would.

  27. Bias in the workplace is the absolute worst! I’ve dealt with it more times than I can count. I’ve found that speaking up for oneself and confronting it head on helped!

  28. I am in awe of your grace and professionalism on how you handled situations where your customers would look validation from an older employee just cause of your age 🙁 Us women we already go through enough gender bias in the workplace. I especially love it when you said: “Focus on your strengths and build off of them. ” <3

  29. Good on you! I’ve been lucky enough to not have experienced this in any of the places I’ve worked though maybe I just didn’t care or notice? I think doing your best everyday and not caring what others think of you is a big step towards overcoming whatever biases they may have.

  30. Bias should not exist in the workplace, but it does. It shows good strength of character to overcome bias and thrive x

  31. I can relate with this totally. When I was in my early 20 & want to started my exporting business I couldn’t find any help because everyone saying I am too young for this business & this not a girls field. & Now when I am focusing on blogging/influencing/filming, many of my friends & family saying this is for young people…lol. when I was young I have dream but not confident enough & now I am confident enough to do whatever I want to do.

  32. totally agree, your age doesn’t mean a thing. Just because you may be older or younger than someone, does not make you smarter or anything. Bias is everywhere, some of us deal with it and some let it get to them.

  33. I think this happens a lot in the workplace. I was also looked down by older coworkers and management when I was in 20’s. I think it is because there is a larger amount of young workers who do not take their jobs too seriously. BTW, love your outfits.

  34. I definitely know how you feel. I hate how the workforce views young women because they think we don’t know what we’re talking about. Great post!

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