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Tips for Seniors Working with a Younger Boss

By Elizabeth Thielke / Posted on 29 November 2011

With the economy and the job market like it is today, many seniors are staying in the workforce longer, or getting jobs they may not typically pursue otherwise. They are encountering all types of coworkers, and are increasingly finding themselves managed by people young enough to be their children.

U.S. News and World Report provides some tips for older workers with younger colleagues:

Don’t generalize. Allow for individual differences and not assume that everyone in a generation behaves in the same way.

Listen. “Make sure you are listening to your younger boss,” says Monster.com career expert Charles Purdy. Good listening skills can help an older person pick up on any real and potential concerns their boss may have, particularly concerning age-related factors that a younger boss would not communicate directly.

Change. Being open to new things is essential in today’s workplace and can go a long way toward destroying age-based stereotypes.

Career focus. The Sloan Center’s work has revealed that age differences between employees and supervisors are not nearly as important as differences in where they are in their careers. People should “think about the career stage as the more important factor,” James says.

Teamwork. “There are very different styles in the workplace today,” Alboher says, and “more collaborative” attitudes are common as opposed to traditional command and control hierarchies.

Communications. Smart phones and other mobile devices have moved workplace communications from long response times based on paper documents to real-time decisions driven by instant communications. For older workers, developing these new skills is very important, and it’s also an excellent way to blow away negative age-based stereotypes.

Work-life balance. For a young person, the expectation of always-on availability can be difficult for an older person. Older people may balk at the notion of being available all the time. But many workplaces are geared toward managing goals and performance, and not as oriented to a time-clock mentality.

Skills. It’s expected that you will learn different things and be willing to do more than one job.

This is also on my mind because I’m getting ready to start a new job, and it will be my first time having a boss younger than I am. (No, she’s not young enough to be my daughter.)  I can only imagine what it’s like for my father who has colleagues who could be his grandchildren.

No matter who you are, or how old you are, it’s important to study and adapt to your workplace.

-Elizabeth Thielke

There is One Comment about this post

  1. karen lee says,

    My last job was working with a younger boss. I had no problem with that at all. There was no problem, until he hired a younger designer whom I trained and then I was let go and she was kept. I am one of those who has had to deal with the harsh realities of age discrimination in the workplace. That being said I am now forging my own path and I have “got on with it”.


    on 15 March 2012 / 1:41 PM


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