As more Baby Boomers retire and members of the Millennial generation – who outnumber their older colleagues from Generation X – step into management positions, many people will find themselves working for a manager who is considerably younger than they are, which can present challenges. You are likely to encounter differences in work habits, work styles or viewpoints.
The key to thriving under a younger manager is to understand and address the dynamics that the age difference creates. Following these tips can help you cultivate a connection with a younger boss and take your working relationship in a positive direction.
Show your manager respect by treating them with dignity and appreciation, listening to their ideas and valuing their contributions and leadership. Requesting feedback and advice from your manager helps demonstrate that you respect their views and opinions. Implementing their advice and recommendations in your own work can also show your willingness to learn and adapt to their working style.
Find common ground
Focus on building rapport, which is the foundation of any great business relationship. Rather than dwelling on generational differences, focus on what you have in common. You can pose nonwork-related questions to get a sense of your manager’s hobbies, for example, and then connect over shared interests. Connecting with your manager on a more personal level can help them establish trust in your abilities and confidence in your skills.
Younger employees in general are less likely to be stuck in the mindset that there’s only one way to do things. A younger boss can actually bring a great deal of experience and expertise to a job. You’ll gain their respect by letting them know you’re willing to learn from them. Along the same lines, if you achieve a new certification or attain a new skill, be sure to let your boss know. Don’t keep your own achievements a secret because you feel old bringing them up to a younger person.
Tailor your communication style
Some Millennial workers prefer to communicate via e-mail or text rather than talking things out in person, but don’t jump to any conclusions based solely on a person’s age. Find out what your manager’s favored method of communication is and then embrace it. You may have to learn how to use new tools, but doing so will only enhance your knowledge, experience and career opportunities.
An older employee and a younger boss can work together effectively if they take the right steps to ensure the working relationship begins on the right note. There can be opportunity for creative synergies and learning new skills and abilities. And remember that age determines how long you’ve been working, but not how strong or knowledgeable an employee you are.