Bridge the Generation Gap with a Younger Boss

Roberta Chinsky Matuson

You're over 40, and your new boss is under 30. You're not alone. As seasoned workers continue to delay retirement, this scenario will become the rule rather than the exception. The situation might be an adjustment for you, so here are some tips to help you manage your relationship with your younger boss.

Give Your Boss a Chance

Get to know your boss before making assumptions that he or she isn't qualified. Who knows? You might even learn a thing or two from them.

Strive for Consensus

When conflict emerges, manage it before things implode. For example, your boss may measure performance partly based on face time. This is common among Generation X managers, who were born between 1965 and 1979. As a Baby Boomer (born between 1946 and 1964), you believe performance should be evaluated based on results. Speak to your boss about your concerns.

Look for the commonalities. You both would probably agree that completing tasks in a timely and cost-effective manner is what work is all about. You can then work towards aligning your differences to accomplish your mutually agreed-upon goals.

Be an Employee, Not a Parent

It's no secret that your new boss is young enough to be your child. Resist the urge to parent your boss. When asked, provide advice on business-related items only. Keep your suggestions brief, and avoid the trap of saying, "Well, in my experience?," because it might make your young boss feel inadequate.

Advice regarding personal matters, even if requested, should be avoided at all costs. This will help you avoid being viewed as a parental figure.

Manage Your Own Insecurities

Your boss has enough on his or her mind without having to deal with insecure employees. If you don't feel confident about a particular skill, ask for more training. On the other hand, if you happen to have proficiencies in areas needed by the company, gently inform your boss of your expertise.

Respect Communication Differences

Understand your manager's communication style and adapt your style accordingly. As a Baby Boomer, you may prefer to talk by phone or face to face. Most Gen Xers prefer e-mail. If your boss is a Millennial (born after 1980), a quick lesson in text messaging might be in order.

Be Open With Your Boss

Your boss may feel a bit threatened by your experience and knowledge. He or she may think you are waiting for them to make a mistake so you can take their job.

If you have little interest in your manager's position, tell him or her so. This approach will enable your boss to see you as an ally, rather than a predator.

If you are interested in moving up, seek your manager's assistance. Ask your boss to put together a development plan to help you transition to the next level. Remind your boss that companies are more apt to promote an employee if there is someone else in the organization who can take on his or her role.

As a subordinate, it's your job to be supportive of your boss. If you do your job well, he or she might soon be promoted. And you might add another good reference for your future.

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