When the Boss Is Half Your Age

/When the Boss Is Half Your Age

When the Boss Is Half Your Age

Older workers — and their younger supervisors — say the dynamics are tricky but can work with effort on both sides.


Read the full article at: www.nytimes.com

It might be every parent’s greatest dread – arriving at the time your children take care of you.  Role reversals and “status incongruence” – uncomfortable twists to the natural order of things – can lead to feelings of isolation and inadequacy.  These same feelings are now migrating to the workplace as increasingly older workers have bosses who are years, sometimes decades, younger than they are.

According to this New York Times article, “Companies these days are looking to fill the management ranks with people who are ‘digital natives,’ which frequently translates to millennials and Gen X-ers. Meanwhile, more baby boomers are staying on the job longer, and some retirees, looking for a second act, are rejoining the ranks of the employed, at least part time.  Consequently, the odds are increasing that older workers will be answering to managers young enough to be their children. A 2014 Harris Interactive survey…found that 38 percent of American workers had a younger boss, up from 34 percent in 2012.”

Research offered here shows that people in this “May-December” relationship don’t necessarily live happily ever after.  David Stillman, co-author with his son, Jonah, of the new book “Gen Z @ Work” notes, “Older workers may feel they’ve lost their shot at running the show, and younger workers may feel their older subordinates just can’t wait for them to mess up…”

Joanne Kaufman agrees, “Older workers may be made to feel that they’re dinosaurs. Younger bosses may think that, yeah, the older worker is kind of a dinosaur.”

So, what is the solution?  It appears the answer is the same as in any relationship. “It’s something we have to work through, and we have to figure out how to make it work.”  It requires, among other things, valuing “business intelligence” regardless of age, having discipline, professionalism, and a willingness to work together.

There’s no silver bullet.  Drat, I was hoping this one would be easy.

Contact us and we can help you better understand how to create a working environment that develops trust and openness.              

About the Author:

Marsha Caldwell
Marsha Caldwell enjoys helping clients envision, lead and implement change that benefits the business and provides employees with opportunities to do meaningful, creative work. She believes clarity and clear, consistent messaging are a vital part of the journey to sustainable change. Marsha spends a good bit of her time looking for the “perfect” word and trying not to take herself too seriously.

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