Leadership roles are increasingly being filled by younger generations of workers (Deloitte), which in turn presents new challenges in the workplace. One of these challenges is managing employees that are older than you. The following tips can help navigate this unique situation.
1. Lead by example and do so with confidence.
As a leader, you are expected to “walk-the-walk” and call the shots with confidence. There is no better way to prove your leadership skills than through your actions (AMA). Focus on performing your own job duties to the best of your ability—your team can recognize a job-well-done, and respect will follow.
2. Avoid the “me versus them” mentality.
Perhaps one of the most important things to keep in mind is that management is a give-and-take process. Strive for a symbiotic relationship with your team, in which the actions of one party (management) positively affect the situation of another party (group of employees) in a cyclical fashion. Creating a psychological boundary between yourself and your team members can be detrimental to the team’s overall success, because it can inhibit the trust-forming process.
3. Be consistent in your word and action.
Fairness and consistency are admirable leadership qualities, ones that your employees most likely desire in a manager, regardless of age. Give them the chance to learn what to expect by following through with your plans, and do not undermine your confidence by asking for permission when it comes to decision-making.
4. Approach management with an open mind.
A team is made up of unique individuals, so naturally, managing in a “one-size-fits-all” manner will likely be ineffective. Be willing to learn valuable things from your more experienced employees, and let those insights guide your management strategy.
5. Seek feedback about what matters most to them.
Organizational research has highlighted differences regarding what the various generations of employees value in a job (SHRM). Recognizing that these differences exist is the first step. Use this information to create motivators and rewards that they value, such as flexible start and end times for better family-work integration.
6. Validate their experience and expertise by asking for insights regarding what currently works and what doesn’t.
Being a part of a solution makes people feel good, so give employees opportunities to chime in when department changes are made. Opening the lines of communication is an important step in helping employees feel they are valued and are helping influence decisions, as opposed to simply taking orders.
7. Make the human connection and take interest in their lives (Forbes).
In what ways can you relate to your employees that facilitate common ground? Regardless of your age, background, gender, and experience, there are many ways to make connections. By investing time in an effort to learn about your employees, you send a message showing that they matter.
Any manager-employee relationship takes time to develop mutual trust, respect, and confidence. With these considerations in mind, you may be better equipped to form relationships with and lead team members that defy age barriers. Listen to your employees, learn what they know and value, and be open to discussion of any issues that may come up. Finally, remember that you have earned a leadership position for a reason, and with time, your managerial skills will speak for themselves.