Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Help, my boss is my junior
Without asking, every employee gets to the new job expecting bosses to be older, juniors to be younger. We have been used to that play where older people than us are more qualified and have more skills and therefore tend to be promoted more than us.
The trend has changed though. You may find that your boss is actually your junior in age; of you walk into new employment to realize you are the youngest in age and more senior in rank. What do you do?
Employers are increasingly taking a liking for qualified young people. MBAs which took years to complete can now be easily completed by energetic and bright young people. When they come to work, they know what to do, they have the drive, the ambition of youth and they are not tied down by age-old ways of doing things.
But also because more countries are pushing retirement age up(we have had our own debates here) you are likely to have your parents’ age mates for work colleagues, some who may have failed to adopt to the use of computers still preferring wash -out to the delete function key.
A lot of people look forward to retirement, but a lot of times one retires and they have nothing to do. Age old traditions and ethic are suddenly redundant and your body clock fails to adjust. In a lot of cases, these people may resume work, a lot of times in consulting.
Have you watched Morning Glory? You should. Older guys can be hard to manage.
So, then there you are trying to manage this 'younger boss, older employee' work politics.
Do you read Forbes Magazine?
You should. But then why should you when you read this blog! I have quoted here.
Here we go:According to Forbes Magazine, the generations' different work styles and perceptions of each other can create many challenges. One of them is the perceived difference in work ethic. For instance, older workers tend to believe in face time at the office. "They show up early, work through lunch and on the weekends," says Linda Gravett, co-author of Bridging the Generation Gap.
Your average junior executive on the other hand was raised in the Internet era, where it doesn't necessarily matter where the work gets done, as long as it does."
These days we even have people working from home and getting paid better than those who wear suits to work.Bloggers for example.
Therefore you will notice older employees coming to work at 7.30am and leaving shortly after 5.00pm while the younger ones will come in at 9.30 am and won’t mind staying at work longer, given as they may not necessarily have family commitments yet. As the leader you are going to have to manage both these groups with their attitudes and work ethic.
Another difference: Older workers are used to meeting more regularly to discuss projects and goals, whereas younger bosses are more likely to hand an employee a project and let that person run with it. "The communication styles are different," says Robin Throckmorton, co-author of Bridging the Generation Gap. "Younger bosses tend to say, 'Shoot me an e-mail.'"
Know that you have earned your role
With such dynamics in play, you are likely to feel intimidated by the age-politics. However, you need to believe in yourself. Know that you have earned your role and much as they may be senior in age, you are their leader and they need to be mindful of that. Don’t question your own authority. Older employees are not your parents, in fact they need to get used to you telling them what to do. That is your job.
However, do this without delineating them and try your best to keep them as part of the team where they feel they belong are assets to the team.
Encourage participatory problem solving and feedback
A lot of times, this type of older employee will know a lot and have a wealth of experience. Tap into it. Encourage participatory play at work. It is doubly troubling for a ‘more experienced’ employee to feel that that they are being ignored and their younger colleagues are passing off as more knowledgeable. You may lose them on the team or their contribution. Work along with them and encourage sharing.
What is the actual goal?
The reason you all find yourselves that engaged is that you have work to do. That is the higher motive. Do just that and push aside any discomforts that may come with stereo-types outside the office. As leader, this will be exactly your role since at the end of the day, measurable results are what is expected out of you no matter the mix of team differences.
It would probably help to recognize that, even when age is not an issue, learning to be a boss takes practice. After only a couple of months in the job, you may not yet feel secure enough in the role, which may in turn be causing your teammates to lack confidence in you.