Join Tatiana Kolovou for an in-depth discussion in this video Managing older employees, part of Communication Tips.
- A survey on trends in the generational shift of the United States workplace taken of 1,200 professionals from a number of industries found that many younger, more qualified workers are entering the workplace. Not just starting jobs, but vying for management positions within just a few short years of their hire. A few years ago, I got a call from Catherine, a business manager who just 10 years earlier was a freshman in my Business Communication course. Catherine needed some help.
She had just been promoted into a position where she would be managing several employees who were her seniors. She wasn't sure how to deal with the older generation. Perhaps you find yourself in Catherine's shoes. So let me share with you the advice I gave to Catherine. First, be open. As a manager, the worst mistake you can make is to assume the persona of a formal supervisor who's not approachable or easy to connect with. I advised Catherine to be herself, to maintain her enthusiasm for her work and continue to demonstrate her strong work ethic.
I suggested she schedule meetings with each of her direct reports soon after she started her position in order to learn about their skills, their goals, to find out what motivates them so she could begin to create a common direction for her department. I advised her to use these meetings to learn each employee's preferred method of communication as well. Be inclusive. After you've learned what your employees have to offer and familiarize yourself with their expertise, leverage that knowledge to include them in decisions.
Seek out their opinions. Find ways to learn from them and give them the credit. Avoid pointing out age differences. Granted, Catherine supervised some people old enough to be her parents. It was a bad idea to point out age differences in conversations, even inadvertently. For example, she shouldn't say things like, "Oh yes, my mother always says that," or, "That was before my time." I also coached her to ignore comments that older employees may make when she first took her new position.
Finally, be credible. This was the most important piece of information I gave Catherine. Build your credibility with everything that you do. Be careful about discussing your personal life, something that younger people are more apt to do than older employees. I advised Catherine against connecting with employees on social media. I also suggested she dress in a mode consistent with the company guidelines and the culture. And to find a balance between expressing herself without calling attention to her youth.
Let me just say that making tough decisions is another big credibility builder. Hesitation and vacillation can work to undermine the confidence of your employees. If you disagree with an idea, or you have to cancel a project, or you need to confront someone's poor behavior, be doubly sure to have your facts straight. Communicate fairly, rationally, and execute with confidence. Find a mentor. This was my final piece of advice to Catherine and to you.
Managing older employees can be challenging, so finding a trusted advisor or mentor for direction and sharing doubts you may have and receiving objective feedback is a great idea. This is the advise I gave to Catherine. She quickly found her way and discovered that managing older employees is very rewarding.
- Understanding introversion and extroversion
- Persuading people
- Negotiating your needs
- Making small talk
- Saying no
- And more…
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