Many Generation Xers are finding themselves in a situation where they are managing employees who are older than them. Whether receiving the promotion they have been chasing for 10 years or taking on a new career in retail, it is becoming a common occurrence for young people to be managing others whom they might have asked to mentor them only a few short years ago. This can, obviously, be a difficult situation.
So here are a few tips to help you as you transition into this new role:
- Don’t be intimidated. Too often, a new manager will come in with fewer years on the job, less time at the company, or missing designations some members of the team might have, and the manager will be intimidated by the collective experience of the team. Instead, you need to remember why you were hired for this job and act accordingly. Similarly, if you make a decision, stand by it. You will quickly lose the respect of your employees if you question yourself.
- Don’t Apologize. There is a good chance someone on your team wanted your job. There is also a good chance some of the older team members will not immediately respect you. So what? That’s always the case, regardless of the age of the new manager and the age of the employees. There will always be someone who does not want to listen to ‘the new boss’ and there will always be someone else who wanted that job. Do not apologize for your success or your age – act your role and people will listen to you. But if you start off from day one apologizing, no one will listen to you and you will never succeed.
- Remember that you don’t know everything. Just as you need to remember that you were hired for the job for a reason, you also need to remember that the additional experience your team members bring to the table can be invaluable. A good manager always uses every available tool or idea to be productive. Again, forget about age and simply try to find the best solutions to problems. Instead of being afraid that your team won’t respect you, understand that everyone wants their voice to be heard and the best managers listen to everyone.
- Understand your employees, personally. One of the easiest ways to fail as a younger manager with older employees is to forget that they may have a very different lifestyle than you. A thirty-five year old with no kids and a spouse who works sixty hours a week may have different expectations for work-life balance than a forty-nine year old with two kids in high school. If the thirty-five year old does not understand the different needs of older employees, it can lead to resentment, complaints, or employees leaving the company, which is the last thing a young manager wants.
- Be Approachable. Whether this is your first job in a managerial role or you’ve been managing employees for ten years, it is important to remember that you don’t know everything. So always remain approachable both about the work your employees do and how you manage your team. If there is a better way to do either, you want your team to feel welcome to discuss it with you, and you want to show that you can take them seriously. This will foster a relationship of trust and help overcome any preconceived issues related to age.
At the core of all of these tips is basic management skills. Your age will quickly be forgotten if you are a good manager who helps increase profits and works to really understand what your employees need. But if you are intimidated by your employees, apologetic of your age, or a know-it-all, you will quickly lose your staff and it will be impossible to succeed at that point.