Relating to a younger Boss

Perhaps you’ve taken a new job, or someone was just promoted, and now your boss is younger than you. With Millenials and Gen-Xers making up two-thirds of the workforce now, diversity in age and rank is becoming a commonplace rule rather than an exception. How do you keep your misgivings from getting in the way of a prosperous working relationship? How do you put the age gap aside and focus on what you have to learn from each other? Here are a few helpful tips for you to ruminate on.


Identify the real problem

Firstly, it’s important to think positively. Try not to fall into stereotyping before the relationship between you and your new boss has even had a chance to blossom. However, if you just can’t dispel those negative feelings, ask yourself; what’s really the matter here? Are you afraid of being made to feel like a junior again? Are you concerned that change brought about by a relatively inexperienced mind might negatively affect the way you work? Are you annoyed that your new boss filled the position when you feel that you deserve a promotion? If this is the case, you need to deeply contemplate whether you want this person’s job. You may be surprised to realise that the answer is no, especially if you want to slow it down a touch.


Don’t dismiss your feelings. Having a younger boss can be an emotional transition so you’ll need to deal with it on an emotional level. We all know what happens to bottled up feelings. It can be helpful to discuss with friends and colleagues who’ve been through something similar. Be sure to seek out helpful suggestions, support, and advice.


Embrace change

Diversity is great for inspiring innovation. People from different age brackets have just as much to share with one another as those from different continents. How comfortable are you talking to younger people? Will you be able to work for one? While you may have been brought up to respect your elders, will respecting the wisdom of someone half your age be an issue for you? The key is an open mind and active practice.


The dynamic between manager and subordinate continue to stand regardless of age. Remind yourself that they, just like you, earned their spot at the table, even though it may have been through slightly different avenues. Support and respect their decisions and opinions.


Try to be excited about the potential for new experiences and don’t be afraid to start a conversation. Contrary to some popular belief systems, Millennials value personal connections just as much as any other generation. Make small talk, ask them questions. You might grow to like them...


Use your differences to your advantage

You have a better chance of getting along with the new young boss than you might think. You may have had to explain to them what a floppy disk was but maybe they could show you a thing or two as well. Try asking them to train you in their position, so that you might both be promoted one day. Learn to do the new stuff that makes them worth their salary. Become an effective bridge between them and the rest of the team. Serve as their right-hand-man or woman.


Also, maybe go and watch the movie, The Intern. Very relevant.


Leave the past in the past

You have gained valuable experience from your past and this is what got you to where you are, so don’t be afraid of gaining more experience in the here-and-now! Now more than ever, forward-thinking innovation is a priority in all industries. Present your ideas on how to achieve goals. Learn what other companies in the same industry have done recently that has been working. Avoid the dreaded, “In my day, we did it this way…” Instead, highlight your willingness to learn. Older workers often face the stigma of being inflexible and stuck in their ways, so emphasize how untrue this particular stereotype is.


At times your boss may ask you what it was like to work in your position “back in the day”. It’s okay to answer these questions. Just try to remember that your experience is valuable but it is also useful to highlight why something didn't work and suggest ways to overcome this. Today is a new day and the sun will come out tomorrow!


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