There are more generations working together in the workplace than ever before. Thus, some older employees are finding that they are now reporting to a younger boss/manager. For many older employees, being supervised by someone who is young enough to be their child is a tough pill to swallow. However, if the truth be told, having a younger manager often has substantial benefits. So, older employees should not get caught up in feelings of self-pity and resentment that may doom a younger manager and older subordinate relationship. With a little effort older employees’ may be able to make the working relationship with a younger manager, one that is pleasant, effective and beneficial for both. The key is to understand and address the dynamics that the age difference creates. Here are a few tips for aiding older employees in cultivating a connection with a younger manager:
- Communicate/Talk about the Elephant in the Room – Younger managers may be concerned about older employees reporting to them. They may be concerned that the older employee is not willing to try new approaches, not up to speed with technology, or may lack the enthusiasm to do the job. Older employees should tell their younger managers why they should not worry, but better yet show them. They should try and align themselves to their younger manager’s management style and speak about expectations and role clarity. They might find that there are many advantages to doing things differently. The key to relieving a tense work relationship is often as simple as better communication between both individuals.
- Older Employees Should Manage Their Attitudes – Older employees should listen to what the younger manager has to say and respect their title and the position. They should go out of their way to show their willingness to try new approaches and ask themselves how they may be a good partner. In addition, older employees should focus on building rapport, which is the business foundation to any great business relationship. By focusing on what the two generations have in common the two generations will be able to connect over shared interests which will ultimately lead to a successful business relationship.
- Older Employees Should Play to Their Strengths – Older employees should try to focus on what he or she offers the employer, e.g. maturity, expertise, problem-solving skills, etc. and offer to mentor younger employees, if appropriate. It is important for the older employees to show the younger manager that they see themselves as a team member and not as a rival. They should state that they understand the age difference but want them to know that they are there to support them and that they hope that they will leverage their expertise.
- Prepare for Less Face Time – Younger managers tend to favor telecommuting and less in-person meeting time as they believe that it produces greater results. So, older employees need to grow accustomed to remote workplaces and more communication via text messaging and emails. However, older employees need to figure out how their younger manager likes to communicate and react accordingly. Older employees should ask their younger manager their preferred way of communication and delivery of requirements, continue to dialogue to build trust, and put stereotypes aside to maximize their performance.
- Focus on the Organization – Older employees and their younger managers are on the same team and they are working to help build their department, division, or organization, as a whole. Thus, they both need to make sure that they are keeping focused on the mission and vision of the organization and continue to praise alignment. Older employees should work at being a strong collaborator, more than being a mentor in many cases in order to help build their organization’s success.
- Remember Age is a Number – Both older employees and their younger managers need to remember that age is just a number and need to try to not focus on it. Age doesn’t matter as long as the younger manager is providing good leadership and strong guidance and brings passion and motivation to the organization and the team. Older employees should try and refrain from behaviors that drive younger generations crazy and also try to avoid these phrases:
- “When I was your age….”
- “This is the way we’ve always done it….”
- “I’ve been doing this since before you were born….”
- Older Workers Should Not Try to “Fit In” – Older employees should be professional and dress to their age. They should not try and be “hip” and wear similar clothing as their younger manager or should they use language that is generationally inappropriate. No matter how old an employee is the best thing that one may do is to be authentic. However, on occasion, older employees should make an attempt to hang out with younger employees. Connecting at casual events may help to build critical relationships and keep older employees in the loop.
While generational relationships may always be stressful in the workplace, older employees should remember to suspend assumptions and judgments based on age in order to be a better employee. In addition, they may need to reinvent themselves for a changing world, which is part of their ever-changing job within an organization.
For additional information on generational differences and working with a younger manager in the workplace, please contact us at www.newfocushr.com.
Written by: Kristen Deutsch, M.B.A., CCP