I recall years ago being asked the question, “How do you think you would cope if your boss was younger than you?” For me it didn’t matter how old my boss was, as long as they were competent to undertake the leadership role I wouldn’t be fazed by their youth. That still holds true today. But in today’s workforce the appointment of a younger boss is becoming a more prevalent trend. So for the ageing workforce the likelihood of a millennial boss is not a matter of if, but when.
While some of you adopt my point of view in answering to a younger manager, others of you have struggled to adjust. And I’ve no doubt that you often integrate into your sentences; when I was your age…or… I’ve being doing this for as long as you’ve been born. That’s not cool grandpa and will not win you any brownie points with the fresh faced chief in command.
Before you make any judgements you should probable peruse your new bosses resume. After all, they have been placed into their senior role for a reason. In fact you will probably find that they have not only spent four years of their life studying their craft, but have put in some serious leg work to climb the corporate ladder at an accelerated rate. In short, they’re qualified and experienced. You could learn a new trick or two from them. So my advice, bite your tongue, stop with the negative body language and give yourself the opportunity to take advantage of their new knowledge. You may have been in the game for a long time, but did you manage to keep up to date with all the technological advancements? Do you know what’s going on in the overseas markets and how they are impacting your industry? Do you understand other external factors that are forcing your organisation to evolve and diversify? The geographical boundaries of companies have expanded to encompass a global landscape of endless opportunities. It is a world that our youth were born into and have been playing in their whole lives. Consequently their unbound minds are attractive to many growing businesses looking to take the next step.
If you aren’t coping with a younger superior, then the answer to your troubles is to focus on the positives of your situation. Dwelling on the negatives will foster a poor relationship with your youthful boss and that probably won’t bode well for you! In focusing on the positives of what you may find to be a less than desirable situation, look to yourself. Your age is an advantage as with time comes experience. You can use that to make yourself a crucial asset to the team. In taking stock of your strengths you may discover that you have an extensive network of valuable contacts, skills that are no longer taught and single you out as a specialist, knowledge on how to manage tricky, rarely encountered situations as you’ve done it before. By recognising that you bring a unique set of skills to the team, you can ease your feelings of resentment and insecurity towards your manager. With the right mind set you can develop an effective and mutually beneficial relationship with your new, younger boss.
Younger managers also feel insecure about directing older workers. Particularly those who are veterans of the organisation they just stepped into. They know they are probably being stereotyped, but it’s likely they have the runs on the board. So don’t patronise your boss by parenting them. Likewise they need to show respect to their older subordinates if they are to receive it in return. Understanding that you both bring something of value to the table and can learn from one another can result in a positive working relationship. By showing your boss you are a resource for them you may actually find yourself playing the role of mentor. Guiding one with less life experiences rather than ‘telling’ them how they should do things will foster respect and admiration. It will also make walking into work each day a pleasant experience for you. You may even find yourself developing new skills by opening your mind to the skills, knowledge and experiences of your boss’ past.
Your level of confidence in your boss’ ability to perform should not be blinded by their lack of wrinkles. Reserve your judgement for their performance and achievements, or lack thereof. If they are incompetent and lack credibility it will show and their superiors will manage that matter. Remember you too will be under scrutiny and pressure to conform to the new manager’s style. If you have any preconceived bias then your ability to cross the generational divide will not come easily. It will however be up to you as to choose how easy or difficult that journey will be. I guess you will have to ask yourself if you value and love your job, or if you think you can find a more suitable working environment elsewhere.