Managing employees who are older than you can come with a number of challenges. However, today more and more managers and business leaders are younger than the employees they manage. This is especially true in certain industries, but it can be seen in a wide variety of different jobs.
Generally, in workplaces and in society as a whole, we are taught to look up to and respect our elders and those who have more years of experience. Most people have the idea that those at the top of the company will be older and those at the bottom will be younger. The idea of “rising up the ranks” reinforces this thought.
So how can you successfully manage and lead those who are older than you? Here are a few tips to help overcome the most common challenges that come along with the role.
Try to Understand How Your Employees Feel
This is especially true if you were recently promoted above older or more experienced coworkers. It’s natural for people to feel slighted and upset when a younger or less experienced employee receives a promotion that they wanted.
Regardless of how you got into this role, you may be faced with a staff that doesn’t respect your skills and experience. In order to counter this, show confidence in yourself but don’t act like a “know it all.” Work hard and show why you have this job through your work. By being a hardworking, fair and inclusive manager, you can earn the respect of those who doubted you.
Leadership is all about the people you are working with. As outlined in this article on mensxp.com, 6 Leadership Lessons From Mark Zuckerberg, great young leaders like Mark Zuckerberg understands the importance of listening to their employees. After all, leaders build a team of people and it is that team of people that build a company.
People of different ages have differences. That’s not to say that these differences are good or bad, just that they exist. People are shaped by their experiences and the events that took place during their lives. Therefore, a person in his or her twenties will have a different outlook, different preferences and different skills than someone in his or her fifties. Good managers understand these differences and utilize them effectively.
A team made up of many different age ranges can be incredibly beneficial. Once you recognize the differences between you and your staff and between the different members of your team, you’ll be able to draw from a wide variety of different experiences and skillsets to accomplish goals. Diversity in an organization can improve your team in a number of ways.
People are also shaped by their situation in life. For example, a person in his or her mid-twenties might not have kids and a mortgage while a person in his or her fifties may. These lifestyle differences impact how people act both at work and away from work. It can also make it more difficult for colleagues of different ages to relate to one another. However, it doesn’t make it impossible. You can still form bonds with those in different age groups.
Sir Richard Branson talks about the importance of people and teamwork in his interview seen here with Inc.com.
Take the time to create bonds between you and your employees. You don’t need to become best friends, but you do need to recognize that employees are generally more loyal to work relationships than they are to companies. Take the time to arrange both formal and informal situations where you and your employees can get to know each other better. However, you’ll also need to realize that an older employee with two kids might not be able to come out for drinks with the team after work. Try to come up with ideas that allow you to create a culture that includes employees of all ages.
Don’t Be Intimidated
It can be tough to make decisions and exercise your authority when you are dealing with older or more experienced employees.
Make decisions based on the information you have and don’t second-guess yourself. You have this job for a reason. Treat all employees equally, regardless of age, and they will respect you for it.
This Forbes.com article emphasizes that one of Steve Jobs’s greatest strength was his confidence. It was of one the greatest contributors to his success as a leader.
Some younger people have a tendency to view those older than them as “out of touch,” “slow” or “behind the times.” Doing this as a manager is a dangerous mistake. Don’t assume that older employees aren’t as capable of using technology, for example. Yes, older employees may not Tweet or use WhatsApp to communicate, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t learn. In addition, don’t immediately assume that you know better since you’re younger. Appreciate the experience that your employees have.
Seek Input from all Generations
Even The Zuck asked, and still asks to this day, for input from those that worked for him because he understands the value of other people’s insights and experiences.
Avoid assuming that the “new” way is always better than the old. For example, younger workers may prefer contacting coworkers and clients through email, text and chat applications while older employees might choose to use a phone call instead. While texting and chatting are certainly becoming more and more commonplace in business, sometimes a phone call is the right choice. Again, don’t dismiss the experience of your employees. Instead, use their knowledge to help you manage your team better.
While your staff can certainly learn from your unique experiences and skills, you can also learn from them. Keeping an open mind and allowing feedback from employees of all ages before making a decision can go a long way to improving morale and helping the company.
At the end of the day, everyone has something they can teach you. If you are not open to it, you are bound to miss out on some valuable information.