How to manage older employees


A recent promotion has you supervising employees old enough to be your parents. How do you prevent the generation gap from becoming a dangerous divide?

As a young manager moving up the company ladder, you may face the challenge of being in charge of older employees. Here are some tips for easing generational tensions while maintaining your role as manager.

Encourage input

If you ask for advice or feedback from older employees, they will appreciate being involved in the decision-making process. “Younger bosses should welcome input and support ideas from older staff members so they feel like their contributions are valued,” advises employment coordinator Chris Wright of Vancouver’s Neil Squire Society, a non-profit organization that provides career counselling programs.

Understand individuality

Each employee will bring different experiences to the job that may provide a fresh perspective. “A younger leader has to manage each employee as an individual. To be successful, they need to establish a working alliance with every member of their team,” says Tina Strehlke, Director of Communications for Training Innovations in Burnaby, B.C.

Be confident

Regardless of age, managers need to be confident enough to assign tasks and follow up on performance, even if it means reprimanding an employee. “They need to be clear in communicating expectations and work objectives,” says Ms. Strehlke. “They also need to be comfortable making unpopular decisions.”

Create common goals

No matter how old or young they are, employees and managers can develop a strong team by working together. “The key is open communication and building a culture of trust so that it’s not about age, it’s about achieving common goals. If everyone is working toward the same goal, the age issue is less likely to be an issue,” stresses Ms. Strehlke.

Respect experience

Young leaders must be able to acknowledge areas in which they are less experienced or knowledgeable, states Ms. Strehlke. While remaining humble about their own shortcomings, wise leaders can make the most of their employees’ experience. Not only will the older worker feel respected, the young boss can get a jumpstart on lessons that might otherwise take years to learn.