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Working for a Younger Boss: 10 Tips for Success

It's not always easy taking orders from someone 20 to 30 years younger than you are. But with many senior financial services professionals returning to the workforce or working longer to replace retirement funds wiped out in the last recession, more people are finding themselves reporting to supervisors 10, 20 or even 30 years their junior. In some cases, this has caused tension in the workplace.

Human resource and career consultants are working hard on helping the millennials and x-geners bridge the gap with the baby boomers in the workplace. Their collective knowledge on the subject addresses ways to cope with both the situation and the supervisor. One thing seems to be clear: it is the older employee who has to bend, change and make it work.

Here are some helpful tips for working with a younger boss:

1. Respect the values of your supervisor.

You don't have to accept them as your own. Your boss can probably accept you as different, but pretending to be something you are not is not a path to gaining respect.

2. Think cooperation, not competition.

Be honest and humble enough to admit the strengths in others and allow those strengths to help the organization even though they are not yours.

3. Don't take yourself too seriously.

Good old boys and gals are now the young guys and gals. Give them their due, and allow for their new, different, changing ways.

4. Don't count on old, familiar ways.

For example, face-to-face meetings may be rare. Younger managers may keep in touch electronically.

5. Learn how they like to communicate and how often.

Younger workers may prefer e-mailing, texting or even instant messaging. Consider attempts to reach you as a request for you to return the call---even if there is no message. You might even have to get a smart phone and figure out how to use it.

6. As quickly as possible, prove you have your boss's back.

That will earn gratitude. Be helpful without appearing superior. Never undermine or demean them to co-workers or other superiors, especially because of their age.

7. Resist the urge to act like a parent or mentor.

For many it is a natural and learned reaction to treat younger professionals in this way, but doing so will make them feel patronized.

8. Don't fight their style.

You are the dinosaur. Show you can easily adapt... or perish. It is all about balance. Share your expertise as requested and demanded, but don't overplay your hand. This is most difficult for those who are used to being in charge. Remember the over-eager kid in his first job? Always had too much to say, add, question, challenge. Don't be Mr./Ms. Been-there-Done-that.

9. Younger workers are used to rapid responses.

Speed is the new smarts. Reply to messages and requests instantly.

10. Avoid acting smug.

Your boss is your superior, in a management position. Accept it. Be cautious with your body language and tone. Observe long and hard before making suggestions.

The bottom line is that with the changing times, the workplace has changed, and supervisors have changed, too. Embrace the change. Discover a new you and you'll be more successful... even with a younger boss.

AUTHORRobert Namar Insider Comment
  • st
    11 January 2018

    Also calling people dinosaurs? Really Robert? Nice writing.

  • Ne
    21 March 2012

    This is a very presumptious assessment. Why don't the corporations learn to hire middle age bosses and stop making excuses for not considering the senior market that they are entering.

    Life experience is something that you can't buy and an ingredient that opens the door to empathy and compassion with seasoned individuals who also understand balance.

    I notice you also made it clear "them olde folks are going to have to learn to bend". And how old are you Robert?

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