Tips For When You’re Older Than Your Boss

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Compiled and edited by Julie Tereshchuk

Dear Mentors,

I have 30 years experience in the communications field behind me, and have a senior role in a large company—a job I’ve held for several years and used to enjoy. My boss left a few months back. Her replacement is 36 years old. I try to do my job, although I’m increasingly uncomfortable. Some of it is style, but some of it is generational. I’m not sure what will come first: her firing me, or me quitting, although I really do want to stay. Any survival tips?

Yours, Mature Worker

 

Dear Mature Worker,

Whether the issue is managerial style or generational, what matters most is trust. Do you trust her? Does she trust you? Do you trust her to be fair if you make a mistake? Does she trust you to do your work, meet your deadlines, keep mistakes to a minimum. It takes time to establish trust, so don’t quit too soon!

Try to establish trust and see how it goes.

Yours,

Margaret Barry

 

Dear Mature Worker,

I suggest addressing the issue head-on. The tension between you may continue to grow if you don’t.

I would set a meeting with your supervisor and just talk through the situation in a non-confrontational way. You have to go into the meeting with a positive attitude, expecting the meeting to help the situation, otherwise I think you could have a bad result. If you express your love of the job and the company, and just ask about what this person would like to see from you in your role, that would be a starting place. Be open to feedback and willing to try things a different way.

Showing that you care, you take direction, and you want to help the company succeed in their communications will go a long way. You can also express at that time your preferred working style and get some feedback from your supervisor on how that jives with their own.

Yours,

Erin Huddleston

 

Dear Mature Worker,

A younger boss may sound threatening, but she may also bring fresh ideas, new insights and a perspective that your company needs.   Change often makes good business sense.

Before you jump ship, or have to walk the plank, it sounds like a face-to-face conversation is in order. She’s the boss and part of your job is to help her succeed. Yep, it’s true.

Schedule a meeting to ask her how you can best deliver what she needs. Maybe she prefers a quick text or email to a two-page report? Maybe she doesn’t really care about the rigid dress code the previous boss enforced? Maybe she needs to know that you are on her side

Have a conversation that lets her tell you what changes in your work or behavior she expects, if any. You may even find out how much she appreciates the experience that you bring to your role.

Don’t leave a job that you love without gathering information about how you can be part of the change. It may not be so hard, and it might even be fun.

Yours,

Sandra Kleinsasser

 

Dear Mature Worker,

As a younger manager (I’m the same age as your manager and I’ve managed people who were 15+ years more experienced than me in the past) my best advice would be to treat them with the respect and patience that you should have of any new manager. Just like you wouldn’t treat them differently based on their gender, race or religion, you shouldn’t treat them differently based on the age.

The biggest thing is to try to find common ground. You have a ton of experience, a lot to offer the team and the company, and it sounds like you’d like to work through this if possible.

So, I’d recommend meeting to discuss:

– Prioritized goals. Try to walk away from that discussion on the same page. This means you’ll both have to listen and give your perspectives on what matters most, what can wait, and what goes into the ‘parking lot’ or onto the ‘back burner.’

– Expectations. Yours and theirs, as they shift when new managers come onboard.

– Communications, reporting cadence and formats.

Also, use your network – has anyone else that you know well worked with or for your new manager?  They might have valuable insights into the best ways to work with them too.

Have the conversations and if you’re not satisfied then you might want to consider other alternatives, but give it a chance. Then, if you do decide to make a move, you’re going to know it’s right for you and that you really tried to make it work.

That’s important because you’d have a new manager in your new role too, and you’d have to figure out the best way to work with them as well.

Yours,

Katie Pariseau