“Just, How Old are You?” The Younger Boss – Older Employee Dilemma

Remember the movie, In Good Company starring Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, and Scarlett Johansson?Here’s a refresher: Dennis Quaid plays a middle-aged advertising sales executive faced with a new boss (Topher Grace) nearly half his age. Matters are made worse when Topher Grace begins a relationship with Dennis Quaid’s daughter. Can you say, ‘awkward’?

This fictional movie features a very real workplace situation: the younger boss – older employee dynamic.

As baby boomers delay retirement and work until older ages, it is more likely they will have a younger boss. A recent survey by the jobs website CareerBuilder found that 43% of workers 35 and older said they currently work for a younger boss.

These generational differences can create challenges for both. Competition, bruised egos, and different management styles can derail a working relationship.

Both sides need to rise above the tension and work together to move the business forward. However, that can be easier said than done.

So here are a few tips for both younger bosses and older employees. (Sources: HR Insight, U.S. News and World Report, Forbes.com).

Respect Experience: Recognize that older workers have a lot of experience. Rather than view them as relics of the past, use them and pick their brains.

Acknowledge Expertise: Older employees must be open to fresh ideas and new approaches that a younger manager may bring to the job.

Provide Plenty of Training: People can always benefit from additional training and development. Younger managers need to define what is lacking in older employees and create training opportunities for them.

Don’t Compete: For older employees, it is best not to openly compete with a younger supervisor or belittle him or her because of age. Don’t act like a parent or mentor to the younger boss.

While it does take hard work to achieve mutual respect and open communication, the eventual success is beneficial for all parties. By looking past differences and focusing on strengths, workers of any generation can create a cohesive workplace. It even happened in the movie – the characters worked out their differences and developed an open dialogue.


Can’t we all just get along, or at least have a Hollywood ending?

Tell us your thoughts about the older employee – younger boss dynamic. Are you or have you been in this situation?

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