“I’m a new manager and the person who will report to me is significantly older than me. How can I make sure this relationship goes smoothly?”—Dione from Worcester, MA
You are not alone. Every new manager, regardless of their age, has bouts of nervousness. Moving into a role where you are managing people who are older than you can exacerbate it, but you don’t have to let it get in the way of doing your job well. Remember that managing employees who are older than you is no different than managing anyone else. Take age out of the equation and show them respect, let them know that you care and prove that you value their input and efforts. Know that you were put in the position because others believe you have the skills and personality to be a great manager. Harness that confidence and let it shine through (although not too much) in your communications and interactions.
That said, there are certain tricks that may help things go more smoothly from the beginning:
- Be confident, but not too confident. As a leader, your team looks to you to make decisions and empower them. If you show that you are hesitant and nervous, it will be hard to gain the respect of your reports. Even when you are shaking on the inside, show a steady hand. Fake it until you make it. On the contrary, be careful not to come across as arrogant or overly domineering.
- Get to know your employees. Showing you care about your employees and their careers will go a long way in smoothing any awkwardness. Take time to meet one on one with your employees, in person if possible. Ask them what they like and don’t like about their job, how they see their future and how you can help them, both in their current job and to get to the next one. When meeting with employees who are older than you, ask them for their advice and workplace insights. Treat all of your employees consistently and with respect, and you will receive their respect in return.
- Rely on the expertise of your team. A good manager knows that a team is only as strong as the people on it. Your reports all have expertise and skills that help them do their jobs well. Look to them for advice and input when it comes time to make decisions. Tell them that you appreciate their input, but make sure they understand that you will be making the final decision.
- Don’t be afraid to be the boss. Managers have to make tough calls, especially when it comes to employee performance. Establishing expectations from the beginning will help, but when issues arise, be sure to confront your employees respectfully and hold them accountable when they aren’t doing their job.
- Put your best foot forward. As a young manager, the image you convey can go a long way in earning the respect of all of your employees, as well as your peers and those above you. Be sure to dress, speak and behave in a professional manner. A good rule of thumb is to dress for the job above yours.
Lastly, be patient. Know that it may take time for some people to see beyond the number of years you’ve put in. All you can do is continue to create trust, move past the issue and do your job well.