My Boss Was in Diapers When I Started Working!

by Joe Lavelle on June 6, 2011

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When it comes to your career, there is one person whose presence grows in likelihood every time you blow out the candles on another birthday cake — a younger boss.  In fact, a survey conducted by Career Builder last year found that 69% of workers 55 and older report to someone who is younger than them.  This generational divide and reversal in the typical power structure can make for some tense situations in the office.  Fortune magazine recently offered a few tips for improving this boss-employee relationship.

One of the most important ideas to remember is that older workers prefer face-to-face contact, while younger workers like to conduct most of their communication through email or another method that involves a computer or a smart phone.  Bosses should remember to maintain that personal touch with their employees, particularly the older members of the office who have built a lifelong and very successful career on the idea of personal interaction with others.  At the same time, bosses should also continue outreach through the electronic methods that make them comfortable and also provide an important written record of the discussion.

Also, young bosses need to appreciate the experience that veteran workers bring to the office and the workers who have been in the same position for twenty years must be willing to accept that someone the same age as their child has every right to change expectations and run things differently.  There is a mutual respect for what each person brings to the situation that must be in place.

Old or young, I coach my team and clients that a HUGE career accelerator is learning how to make their boss more successful.  This starts with great communication, but continues with real understanding and empathy for each others responsibilities and keys to success and/or failure.  Whether or not your boss is competent, if you regularly do things that make them look successful, your career will accelerate.

What have your experiences been with the young boss/older worker dynamic, from either side of the relationship?  What advice do you have for making sure that such professional relationships are developed properly and are negotiated in such a way that allows for maximum productivity and profit?


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