10 Ways to Manage Employees that Are Older Than You

There are always awkward moments when a company's new hire is younger than the team he or she is managing.    Older employees who thought
December 06, 2010

There are always awkward moments when a company's new hire is younger than the team he or she is managing. 

Older employees who thought they were in the running for the same position may feel slighted, others may assume youth amounts to inexperience, or they may not be bothered. Often though, the experience tends to be just as uncomfortable for the new boss who is aware of joining a closely knit team, not only as an outsider but a young one at that.

Here's how you can command respect, temper egos and get the work done:

1. "Don't be the boss. At least, don't appear to be," said a friend recently employed in a managerial position with a few older employees on his team. Remember, old habits die hard. Give them time to get used to you and your leadership style and till then, just focus on the task at hand. 

2. Don't be dismissive, help them learn new skills. Just because they can't tweet or operate the Bloomberg terminal like the back of their hand doesn't mean they don't want to or are incapable of it. 

3. They've survived the business for a reason and have probably come across bottlenecks you haven't, use their experience.

4. Understand differences in lifestyle. If they're excellent employees but have to go home to their family instead of a happy hour, cut them some slack. Try reorganizing social events to be inclusive.

5. Validate them. When making a decision, seek their perspective even if you decide differently. Show them their opinion counts and when you can try and explain why the final decision works best. This isn't a token exercise.

6. Know what motivates them. They may prefer better benefits over small bonuses, or they may want flexible hours. Keep it realistic and try and see where you can match the company's and employees expectations.  

7. Talk to your employees. It's good practice in general to communicate with your team. Constantly brief them on changing expectations and be specific. Don't assume that they will know what you want because they've been around a while.

8. Don't' be intimidated by them. When you make a decision, stand firm, don't keep second-guessing yourself. They will respect you for it.

9. Introduce a mentorship program, whether its the older employee's mentoring younger ones or interns. You can even partner with organizations and school if the employees are willing, not only is their experience being put to good use the company would also build some good karma.

10. If older employees do step out of line, reel them in just like the rest. You don't need to give them a dressing down in front of their colleagues but in that regard, treat them like everyone else on your team.