How to manage someone older than you

managing someone older than you

Workplaces across the nation are experiencing a very different kind of organisational chart and management structure than in previous decades. 

We have the younger — often hugely ambitious — generation skyrocketing through the ranks (I was once one of these). This results in rising young managers potentially overseeing teams that include people who are much older than they are. 

Yes, there is a stigma attached to the different generations. However, the reality is some people are more ambitious than others, and regardless of your age or your position, there is a culture of respect that should be adhered to.

Managing someone older than you can be difficult at the best of times. If you find yourself in this position — or think you potentially may be in the future — here are some things to consider to make the situation less stressful and more productive for everybody.

1. Acknowledge their previous experience

They may have been in a much more senior role in another workplace but were made redundant.

This may cause them to feel some resentment about your relative youth.

However, if that was the case then you would be very strategically smart to understand the amount of experience and wisdom this individual has — and have them as an internal ally (or even mentor). 

2. Understand their contentment

Perhaps they are not as ambitious as you and happy to remain where they are.

This may come as a surprise to you, but not everyone wants to run teams or climb the corporate ladder. Often people like their routine and are happy to be led by people as long as they feel their work is valuable — and valued.

Best you don’t hassle or pressure them to be more like you.

3. Show them respect 

This is a very simple rule — and one you most likely were raised on.

Regardless of your position, you should respect those older than you and make sure your team does the same.

Yes, we should be respecting everyone, however, you need to make an effort to understand the older generation may think or speak differently to you, and act accordingly.

This may simply mean keeping silent in a group setting and speaking with them privately about issues. 

4. Address their fears

It is common for those older than you and below you to fear your decisions or even fear losing their job and be replaced by a fellow ‘younger worker’.

The problem with fear — whether it is justified or not — is it most definitely will cause conflict.

The best way to address this is to keep lines of communication open at all times and observe their language and behaviour.

A simple meeting one-on-one can put them at ease… and before you know it, they are your biggest ally.

Any new role can create anxiety, none more so than leading a team of people who happen to be all older than you!

Just remember in 30 years from now this could be you. So if in doubt, consider the adage ‘treat others as you would like to be treated’ and you should do well.

NOW READ: Age is no barrier: Why Australian businesses need to give older workers a fair go

NOW READ: What’s the average age of a successful Australian startup founder? And how do we fare against the stereotype?


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