How to Manage Employees Who Are Older Than You


It requires skill and experience to properly manage employees, but both new graduates and workforce veterans are often given management roles. As these Millennials and Generation X managers take the helm in many leadership roles, they often supervise employees who are older than them and have been at the workplace much longer. Baby Boomers are delaying retirement and staying engaged in the workforce in some capacity, and they typically report to younger bosses. So how do you manage employees who are older than you? Here are five tips.

Communicate Effectively

Effective communication is an important skill for any supervisor to possess. Whether you agree or disagree with your colleagues and subordinates, you should listen to their opinions and ideas. This doesn’t mean that every idea and opinion will be adopted. It simply means that employees feel heard, valued and respected.

Recognize That You Don’t Know Everything

Your technical skills may be superb, but as a boss you should realize that you don’t know everything. Experience is a wonderful teacher. If your employees are older than you, they may trump your knowledge due to their age. It’s a major mistake to not learn from your employees. If you follow the first tip, you will listen to your employees and learn from their knowledge and skillsets. Don’t be too big for your own britches. Take the time to learn from others.

Don’t Carry Your Authority Too Far

Sometimes a leader needs to step in and assert their authority, but don’t exceed the bounds of this power by dominating your employees. A good leader participates in team activities with a willing attitude. Some bosses use their coercive power to persuade their team to do all the work. Adopting a servant attitude can help you shine as a leader and inspire employees — even those who are older than you — to share your vision.

Know What Motivates Your Employees

What motivates one employee may mean nothing to another employee. Understanding what motivates your employees will help you lead them successfully. Maybe your employees prefer flexible hours or small bonuses. Others might prefer a constant routine with little change. Knowing what stimulates their engagement can help you meet their needs, so they can meet yours.

Be Respectful of the Age Difference

Respecting age differences is an essential part of managing employees who are older than you. Make sure your management of this collegial group is accomplished by respecting the differences in your ages.

Let’s look at a real life example of this. CJ Pony Parts is a Ford Mustang parts dealer in Harrisburg, PA. A number of their mechanics have been there for quite some time. So when a younger employee gets moved up in the ranks, he or she will have to be respectful of the age difference and also recognize that the people who have been there longer likely have more car knowledge. This new person should never act like a know-it-all, or he’ll lose respect very quickly. Communicating effectively will allow this person to be a great boss to his older employees.

Managing employees is a challenging and worthwhile endeavor. Applying these tips to your repertoire of management skills will help you effectively lead employees of any age.

About the Author

Scott Huntington is a career specialist, writer, and blogger from Central Pennsylvania. He writes for Careerealism, Brazen Careerist, and The Oxford University Press. Check out his blog, or follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington.


Photo Credit: Getty Images

Leave a ReplyCancel reply