How Younger Bosses Can Manage Older Employees

As you advance in your career, sometimes you get that big break and get promoted to a managerial position relatively early in your work life. Typically, this is a sign of great things to come – you’re obviously headed to bigger and better things, and this milestone marks a critical juncture in your ascent up the corporate ladder.

But actually doing the job you’ve been promoted to won’t necessarily be easy. And one of the awkward challenges you’ll likely have to navigate will be managing an older colleague.

This is a scenario that is happening more frequently as Gen Xers and Millennials mature into management positions. To help navigate this tricky scenario, here are some tips for younger managers managing older coworkers.

Don’t lump all older workers together. If you’re 35 years old, you likely don’t think you have much in common with the 21-year-old college graduate that just started at your company. Well, a 55-year-old and a 40-year-old have the same age and experience gaps, and a good manager will understand that just because employees are older doesn’t mean they’re all the same in terms of what they want to get out of work.

Treat all employees with respect. As a newly minted manager, you might be tempted to act like a stereotypical overbearing boss. TV and movies often portray tyrannical bosses who order people around as a way to get things done, but that approach doesn’t play too well in the real world. As a young manager, you may feel like you need to make your mark or prove how tough you are. However, that usually reveals a lack of confidence. Treat employees with respect and you’ll earn their respect.

Get rid of your assumptions. The stereotype is that older workers won’t be as technologically savvy as younger employees. This isn’t always true, and it’s the type of assumption you should not make.

Learn from their experience. Employees who have been around longer than you have seen some things, and they often have a really good idea of how things work. Seek out their advice; it doesn’t mean you always have to do everything they say, but it helps to create communication, invest them in the work you’re doing together, and maybe you’ll even learn something.

Being a young manager charged with overseeing employees who are your senior is not an easy position to be in. However, it isn’t impossible. The key is to act with maturity, which is likely something your bosses saw in you—and why they promoted you in the first place.

Contact us at 215.441.4600 if you have questions or would like to discuss how this topic may impact your business.

Subscribe to Kreischer Miller's email newsletter

You may also like: