When I talk to managers and supervisors about the challenges they face, many bemoan the ‘younger generation.’ But lately, I’ve heard from some of those younger management and C-Suite folks, and they aren’t so happy either! While they anticipated some hurdles, they didn’t realize that work with a multigenerational workforce would be such a steeple chase.
Simply put, it appears that many people aren’t thrilled to have a boss who is a lot younger than they are. And many of those folks are terrible and keeping that fact hidden. Older employees can be behave in ways that make working relationships unproductive. They can be condescending, dismissive, and sometimes – out and out mean.
They might ignore comments, challenge credentials, make mean-spirited jokes, be passive aggressive, or undermine behind the scenes.
- Rhino-Hide – A thicker skin is required if you want to manage people and the sooner you develop one, the better you’ll sleep. It’s not all about you. Yes you are the younger person, but it probably could be ANY younger person.
- Helium – Rise above some of this stuff. Take the high road – there is often less traffic!
- Poise – Aim for appearing unflappable.
- Homework – Come prepared. Always. For every meeting.
- Speak Professionally – Don’t swear, use slang, say ‘gonna,’ ‘like,’ or ‘you know.’
- Purge Age – Don’t talk about college or your major. Talk about your background and your experience. Make it a goal that no one can figure out exactly how old you are. (Don’t lie about it, but don’t make it blatantly obvious.)
- Understand – Some people resent that those who are younger might make more money, have more responsibility, or know more than they do. Other can feel threatened. Younger people can be an easy target. This is more about ego and less about you as an individual (even though it doesn’t feel that way.)
- Gently Respond – Ignoring doesn’t always work and may not be the most effective response. Stand your ground and avoid a display of anger. Ask if they have anything else they need to add and suggest that you all need ot move on and get to the work that needs to be completed.
- Input – Talk to a mentor or your boss to get some ideas about ways to handle things. It’s always good to have people of different ages to talk to about challenges.
Being the young doesn’t have to be a disadvantage. When I was the one who was younger, I always thought I brought a fresh perspective, solid credentials, tons of energy and enthusiasm, and smarts to the table. Now I’m not the youngest (younger, young!) I still think I bring those things to the table. No matter what YOU bring, figure out how you can make it work for you, and make sure you let people know. No matter how old you are (or how young) you can add value.