Older employees, younger bosses — how to make it work
This is the first time in history that four different generations are all in the workplace at the same time, according to a new OfficeTeam survey.
And because of that, sometimes you don't have a choice working for someone older or younger than you.
Any perceived generation gap seems to be a non-issue in the workplace, however, said Dora Onyschak, metro market manger for OfficeTeam, a division of Robert Half in Central Jersey.
In fact, she said 82 percent surveyed said they would be comfortable reporting to managers younger than they are, and 91 percent said they would not mind supervising employees older than themselves.
But of course, there are challenges both sides face.
"Older workers who have younger bosses say work ethics and values are 26 percent of their biggest challenges. Leadership and learning styles came in a close second at 22 percent," Onyschak said.
A quarter of younger bosses say their No. 1 challenge when managing older employees is technology. Young people are born into the Internet age, born into technology. But Onyschak said older employees are not as adept with new technology — especially social media, instant messaging and smartphones.
So she said it may be a good idea for younger bosses to address additional technology training to bring older employees up to speed.
When it comes to collaborating with different generations at work, she said it's very important to give a boss a chance, and avoid prejudgments.
"You need to be supportive so listening to your manager's plans and volunteering your assistance as appropriate so you come across as a team player," Onyschak said.
For older mangers, she suggests being an employer — not a parent. Don't tell an employee what or how to do something, she said; it's better be helpful and discuss procedures and policies.
As an employee she advised, be open with your boss. Don't assume that you know what they want. Ask them about their priorities and expectations in regard to your work, she said. It's also important to be flexible, so you may have to modify your work style and habits to ensure better relationships, she said.
It used to be the norm that older workers became managers based on experience and seniority. But now, it is not uncommon for an older employee to have a younger boss. So how do you know you're ready to take on such an important responsibility?
Onyschak said you have to be comfortable in making difficult decisions. Constantly making the tough calls does not always make you the favorite person in the workplace — so as a younger boss, are you ready for that?
She said you must also ask yourself, "Can you inspire others? Can you bring people together and be the best leader that you can be so your team is passionate about what they do?"
As a young boss, Onyschak said, it pays to be a good listener, a good delegator and a good communicator. You also must be willing to take the blame when things go wrong.
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