Last week I discussed how to manage people who are older or have more expertise than you. This week, I’m addressing the flip side — how to work for someone who is younger or less experienced.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of workers aged 65 or older increased 101 percent between 1977 and 2007. With a huge number of baby boomers still in the workforce, it’s likely that many employees will work for a younger boss at some point in their career. Here are tips to ensure a smooth working relationship.
Don’t mention their age (or yours, for that matter). Take a deep breath, exhale — and then let the age thing go. They are your boss, and you need to treat them with respect. Stop yourself before making any comments like “Wow, you’re the same age as our youngest daughter,” or “I feel like such a dinosaur around you.”
Leave your ego at home. Now is not the time to act like a know-it-all or to try and “one up” your new boss to put him or her “in their place.” Leave your ego at home and focus on demonstrating confidence without arrogance.
They are not your daughter or son, so don’t try to “raise” them. Be an employee, not a parent. Provide helpful feedback to resolve issues or obstacles, but do so in a way that doesn’t come across as condescending or patronizing.
Share your expectations, but realize that your projects or priorities might change. Hold an open conversation about expectations (mutual expectations, if possible). Keep in mind that your work priorities might change as your boss redefines the group’s goals and objectives.
Figure out how you and your new boss can best work together. While a previous (older) boss might have wanted formal, in-person update meetings once a week, younger managers tend to prefer more informal interactions such as emails, text messages or instant messaging on a daily basis. Flex your style to meet your new manager’s style and technology of choice.
Stay up-to-date on your technology skills. And speaking about technology, many younger employees are technology and social media savvy. This can be helpful in our increasingly technology-dominant world, but it’s bad news for older workers who don’t stay informed and current on technology used by their employer. Don’t let that happen to you.
Don’t try to take advantage of a younger boss. Just because they’re young doesn’t mean they’re inexperienced or stupid. Trying to take advantage of a younger boss by coming to work late, taking extra-long lunch breaks, leaving early or not finishing projects/tasks on time isn’t OK. And in most cases will earn you a verbal warning, written reprimands or even get you fired if you continue the behavior.