4 Tips to Help You Adjust to Working for a Younger Boss
Societal norms dictate that the older you are, the more senior position you hold. Right? Not necessarily. As younger generations enter the workforce, ready to take your industry by storm, you will likely start experiencing more senior ranking members of your company being your junior in age. While there are a myriad of reasons for this shift-from a gap in your employment to making lateral moves between industries-the fact is that your company hired or promoted the person that they believe is the best employee to lead your team.
Not surprisingly, a 2016 study from the Journal of Organizational Behavior reported that those with a noticeably younger boss experience more negative emotions in the workplace. Even if you don’t consider yourself an ageist, most of us can admit that our confidence would be shaken if we found ourselves old enough to be our boss’s parent- or worse, grandparent. The truth is that working under someone with less life and work experience can feel demoralizing and impact our ability to perform at work if we let it.
If you are struggling to acclimate to a generation gap with someone that you report to at work, the following four tips will help you to make the adjustment and develop a positive, professional working relationship.
- Don’t let your pride get in the way of your success.
When you first realize that you will be taking direction from someone younger than yourself, quitting may actually seem like a viable option. How could you possibly be expected to take direction from someone with less work, real world, and overall life experience? However, before you make any career altering decisions, consider that this sense of pride could stand in the way of your success.
- Ditch the age related phrases.
Phrases like “when I was your age” come off as undermining and can cause a rift in an already tenuous manager/direct report relationship. Leave any comments about how things “used to be done” for your after-hours venting session with your friends rather than directing them towards your boss. Even if you are itching to say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” while learning a new program or system that your boss is implementing, resist that urge to voice comments that will make your boss feel defensive about their age.
- Act your age.
Trying to get in your younger boss’s good graces? Of course you are. After all, it’s likely crossed your mind that a younger manager might feel more comfortable surrounded by a younger staff. While you can’t change the date on your birth certificate, you may be tempted to try to rewind the clock by adopting a more youthful persona. Don’t. The best way to gain favor with your boss isn’t by trying to act younger- this can actually have the opposite effect. Instead, act your age and demonstrate your maturity through your ability to find commonality with others despite a generational gap.
- Stay in your lane.
Do not- I repeat- do not go above your manager’s head to a more senior member (in title and age) of the company to air your grievances. You may not agree with every move that they make; however, the last thing that you want is to create a situation where it appears that you are not respecting your company’s chain of command. Stay in your lane and be the person who sets an example of how to treat managers with respect by backing up their decisions (even if you aren’t exactly thrilled).
The best tip? Remember that age aside, there is a reason that you both were hired for your respective positions. Keep that, and the tips above in mind to help you to develop a mutually respectful professional relationship with a younger boss.