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How to deal with a younger boss?

How to deal with a younger boss?

If life was fair, you would have finished school, learnt a trade, and steadily climbed up your career ladder until you retired with a golden parachute. Unfortunately, as anyone above the age of three can testify, life’s experiences are not all that you hope them to be. You get a job, or don’t, when you ought to. You get a promotion, or don’t, when you ought to.

And then, one fine day, while crunching numbers for upper management, huddled in an uncomfortable chair in your bullpen, you spot the flavour of the month, the fresh out of school sensation, taking a selfie of himself next to his name on the door to his very own corner office. Your new boss of 20 some years, waves at you with a smile while you shift your 40-year-old weight around in your chair, your knee silently complaining of a lack of love and care.

So, if someone, far younger than you, manages to take over the spot of your boss, how would you, with all your years of experience go past his pimples and into a subordinate role? ‘Coz if anything, we are generally brought up thinking that age brings about an inherent sense of authority owed directly to the years of experience.

Your parents, who potty-trained you did so ‘coz they were trained before you. Your teacher scored your test ‘coz she knew where you went wrong. Your coach made you take extra laps ‘coz he had done it when he was younger.

Really, anyone and everyone who has ever had a chance to teach you a lesson or share his wisdom of the world, did so ‘coz they had been there and done that. They knew better. This is why the idea of an authoritative figure, who has seen less of the world than you, is an unnatural one and needs some work to get comfortable with.

In this article, we talk about the urges and the recourses to adapt while dealing with a boss who is far younger than you. Read on.

6 Tips to deal with a younger boss


1. Be professional

While this doesn’t require an exclusive mention, and should be a given no matter what, we tend to usually forget to leave emotions outside our workplace and act professionally. Though it may hurt to see a younger ambitious person take charge leaving your older experienced ego badly wounded, there is a good reason for this.

Unless you are having a really bad run and the upstart youngster is the CEO’s entitled son, your new boss probably went through a fair recruitment. He is most likely a well-deserved candidate whose resume, when pitted against that of the others, came out shining for its merit, training, and all those qualities that recruiters hunt for.

Accept the circumstance as the result of a sound management decision. And if you still feel wronged at being passed over for the opportunity to the chair, evaluate the worthiness to take up that cause and possibly ruin your chances of survival. If there is valid cause, talk to a trusted superior/colleague for a recourse. If your petulance simply stems from a bleeding ego, let it go.

Read How to appear professional at work?

2. Leave the entitlement out

No one is, or even should, evoke respect simply because they were born before you. Respect is a two-way street and age simply gives you more experience. Whether that experience garners you a seat, with the leaders, is a function of the quality of the experience, the body of your contributions, and all the other factors that make someone a desirable employee.

Age doesn’t bring entitlement, it should instead act to increase your ability to act maturely, evaluating yourself in a given situation.

Maybe you are an excellent worker but do you have what it takes to lead? Maybe you are a conscientious employee but can you manage a team, angry customers, and report to upper management every time something, or someone, goes wrong? Do you have what it takes to take responsibility of others?

Perhaps upper management was able to recognize your much superior ability at given tasks rather than wasting your talent in being a shepherd to your flock! If the younger boss, with his superior management abilities, does a better job managing everyone than you, the fact that he is younger is immaterial. Again, let it go.

3. Watch your reactions

Don’t apply condescension over rank. I know better ‘coz I have been here longer doesn’t have much substance. Statements, or body language, that exudes your disregard for his leadership will only make you look silly.

Of course, your opinion deserves a hearing but expressing contempt for his lack of experience is unprofessional. If you see yourself beginning to treat him like your child, stop. Move past the difference in age and keep an open mind about his opinions, just as surely, he would be keeping for yours, in order to keep the team running together.

4. Be receptive

Don’t you feel the need to constantly work to keep up with your kids? Trends, technologies, and more? Working relationships will also last longer, far more fruitfully, if you keep yourself up with the times. Stay sharp and keep yourself updated and abreast with the relevant. Chances are, your younger boss is already on it.

Teams work better when there is a mutual understanding of the collective goals. Assuming that your boss is already there, it will certainly be prudent for you to be receptive of the new and fresh ideas that may help the team go forward. Do not resist.

5 Spirit of collaboration

Instead of treating your younger boss like an adversary, you should think of this as an opportunity for a collaborative multi-generational effort at something better (Read What makes a great team player).

Here’s where your experiences and his trendiness can be mentoring sources for each other. Work on a relationship which values what you can bring to the table – the aforementioned experiences, your prior relationships across the board, between teams, customers, etc, and insights for navigating the structures within the organization, you have been a part of, for so long. Accept the situation as a positive move for you to become a part of a diverse group of people, each with something useful to offer.

6. Don’t stereotype

Millennials tend to get a bad reputation of being whimsical. Like many other stereotypes, this assumption is flawed (Read What Millennials want from work and life and Job Satisfaction for Millennials: Statistics and Analysis).

Instead of adopting the first biased thought that runs through your mind, the best way to deal with a younger colleague, boss or not, is to actually interact and work with him. You share a common interest, the team’s goals. Focus on that and stay away from making blanket suppositions on his character or working style, on account of what’s different between you two – primarily the age.
In the end, don’t try to overdo things. Trying too hard, to make an impression can backfire, severely. If you want to be taken as a serious contributing member of the organization, do what you do best and with honesty. Focus on the basic interpersonal skills you would apply to any other colleague (Read Key skills needed at your workplace).

Rather than being threatened by the rising new generation of workers, stick to business at hand with the diligence of a valuable employee. Stay relevant and don’t worry about reporting to someone who was born the same year you learnt how to shave. Give it a few years and chances are he will be well on his way to become as jaded with work as you are, now.

As they say,another brick in the wall!

A few relevant bossy articles here.

Watch this video to learn how you can become an entrepreneur at a young age

Rakhi Acharyya
About Rakhi Acharyya
Rakhi is a freelance writer, a Physics PhD from Michigan State University, an ex-teacher and a former employee of Corporate America. Follow her on Twitter.

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