What to Do When Your Boss Is Younger Than You
By Catherine Conlan
Monster Contributing Writer

There are always going to be challenges associated with generational differences in the workplace, but some people find dealing with a younger boss to be especially difficult. If you’re older than your boss, here are some things you should keep in mind.

Show Some Respect

One of the most important things to remember when your boss is younger than you is to show respect, says Robin Throckmorton, president of Strategic HR Inc. “While he or she may be younger, they wouldn’t be in this role if someone didn’t feel they had a lot to offer the role, even if you disagree.”

While it can be easy to think, “my kids are younger than you” or “before you were even born, we…” Throckmorton says if you show respect for your boss, you’ll get it in return.

Be Flexible and Cooperative

Keeping an open mind and staying flexible about how things get done at the office are important when there’s an age difference between you and your boss, says Paul Bernard of Paul Bernard and Associates. “For example, you may be used to a lot of face-to-face meeting time, but your boss may prefer to handle a lot of his communications via text or instant messenger,” he says.

“Don't balk at this -- you'll come across as stubborn and old-fashioned. Instead, try to align yourself as best you can with your boss's management style. You might find that there are some real advantages to doing things differently.”

Bernard then recommends trying to figure out how you can complement your boss' strengths. “Your boss may be a mobile content maven but might need help navigating office politics or be able to use some historical context about your company and how things are typically done. If you can find a way to make your younger boss more successful, you'll help not only him/her but yourself as well.”

Remember Age Is Just a Number

An age difference can be a distraction, so try not to focus on it, says Kelly Hadous of Win The Room. “Don't pay attention to your boss's age! Age doesn't matter as long as your boss provides good leadership and strong guidance, and brings passion and motivation into the company and the team. Ride along with your boss; if you share the same willingness to grow the company and move the team forward, everything will just be fine, and age won't matter.

Communicate

No matter how old your boss is, it’s important to ensure you’re on the same page, and that requires clear communication. “Early on set a time to speak with your younger boss regarding expectations, style, and role clarity,” says Scott Span of Tolero Solutions. “Ask their preferred way of communication and delivery of requirements. Boomers and Millennials need to continue to dialogue, build trust, to put stereotypes to rest to maximize performance."

Focus on the Organization

You and your boss are a team, and you’re working to help build your department, division or company. “Keep focused on the vision of the company or division for which you're working, and praise alignment,” says business coach Wayne Pernell. “You get more of what you focus on and being focused on a bigger picture can interrupt the internal monologue stemming from generational differences.”

Be Sensitive

It can be hard to avoid holding forth with the wisdom you’ve accumulated over the years, but you should try. “Refrain from behaviors that drive younger generations crazy,” says Tammy Hughes, CEO of Claire Raines Associates and international speaker and consultant on generational issues. “Avoid comparing your manager to your son or daughter. Don’t act like a know-it-all. Nip cynicism and sarcasm in the bud.”

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