Bridging this generation gap alone is common among coworkers today, with workplaces often having 2-3 different generations working together. What happens when one of the younger employees becomes the boss of an older employee? It’s not uncommon to find tension in these situations, however there are several ways for both the boss and his or her employee to work well together.
What causes tension in this situation?
The first thing to consider in this situation is why it might become a stressful or uneasy environment. Differences in work styles, work ethics, technical knowledge, and experience might cause some friction between a young boss and older employee. According to Forbes magazine, “older workers tend to believe in face time at the office. They show up early, work through lunch and on the weekends. Gen X and Yers were raised in the Internet era, where it doesn’t necessarily matter where the work gets done, as long as it does.” Technology can also be a separation point. Younger workers are more intuitive when it comes to computers and software applications, while older employees who didn’t grow up in the internet age might take longer to adopt new technology.
How to benefit from the Young Boss/Older Employee Situation
While some might be reluctant to see the benefits in this situation, it can have positive implications for both the boss and the employee. Here are a few ways to use this situation to your advantage:
- For the employee…learn from your new boss. Set aside the fact that they’re younger. According to the Wall Street Journal, “There are reasons someone becomes a boss. Ask questions about new tactics and try watching your boss to pick up skills you don’t have.”
- For the new boss…learn from your employee. You have a great opportunity to learn from an experienced employee who has seen many different management styles and can provide great feedback and opinions to you.
- Communication is a two-way street. Having a regular exchange of ideas allows a more creative and less tense environment, and allows each generational worker to show their value. Donald Trump recently wrote in his blog, “younger workers can bring fresh ideas and new techniques, older workers bring incredible insight and knowledge.”
- Use the skills that each of you bring. For the younger employee, it might be learning networking or sales skills, and for the older employee, it might be learning a new technology.
Are you working for a younger boss, managing an older employee, or know someone who is? What are they doing to benefit from the situation, and in what ways are they finding it hard to adjust? Let us know what you think!
Sources: “Age-Old Issue of Success With a New, Younger Boss,” Wall Street Journal Career Journal; “The ‘Young Boss, Older Employee’ Dilemma,” Forbes.com: February 27, 2007; “Young Boss, Older Worker,” The Trump Blog: October 28, 2007.