Young Managers – How Do They Lead Older Subordinates?
Effect Of Generational Differences On Young Managers
How does understanding generational differences affect the success of new managers? More and more managers are (and will be) younger than their team members. What must a “younger” manager consider when leading “older” team members? – Andy in Ohio
Great questions, Andy. As someone who has been on both ends of this situation (I have both led teammates older than me and I have been subordinate to someone much younger), I can tell you that the best advice is no advice.
No Advice For The Young Manager?
That’s right, the best thing for a young manager who must lead someone of a previous generation to do is to do nothing different. This is not to say that you treat everyone the same, you do not – real leaders know that they must lead each individual as that person desires to be led. And the best leaders understand the goal and they keep it foremost in their minds (without regard to the age, religion or sex of their charges).
Specifically, your first question about understanding the generational differences and its affect on the success of a new manager assumes that new managers must understand how their charges were led in the 1980s in order to be led successfully today.
This is a misconception that many new managers have. People are people, and just because someone is 20 years your senior does not mean they do not wish for understanding, personal pride and appreciation. Deliver your team honest leadership where you are the support and they are the superstars, and their age becomes irrelevant.
Younger managers fail with older teammates when their management style is void of respect for others. This is not a generational difference – although older subordinates will be less tolerant of disrespect – eventually, everyone who reports to a disrespectful manager will become disenfranchised.
So, Leadership Is About Respect?
That’s right – leadership is about people and all people want respect. They desire this alongside understanding pride and appreciation – but they’ll give up all of these to be respected and valued by their leaders.
Understanding this, a young manager need not get hung up about the age of his or her subordinates, he or she must just do what they know is right for their company and their people, and let the chips fall where they may. If the old folks (like TheManager) fail to get it, then fire us – just make sure you checked your ego at the door, provided us with support and led with respect.
So, what must a “younger” manager consider when leading “older” team members? Only this: your subordinates expect to be led, and they expect to be led by you, so forget their age and forget your age and lead them.
January 27, 2016 @ 4:34 PM
Hi, I am a female, 28 year older manager leading a mix team of 8 people who are 15-25 years older than me in finance operations. I have slightly different situation. I am an EXPAT from India working in Netherlands in a Dutch company. All my team members are locals and working for more than 10 years. I worked with the same group of people for 2 years and then got promoted and became a manager of the same team. Clearly I faced rejected behaviours as I am much younger, more educated, new with the company and was once a team member of the same level. Its been 2 years that I am struggling with handling them and know they dont like me. I tried almost everything to make it work, helping them, coaching them in the areas to be improved, explaining the high level expectation from our management but its never get appreciated. But if I do try to put timelines and get explanations for not meeting them, the whole atmosphere becomes negative. Can u please advise considering my specific situation?
January 28, 2016 @ 1:39 PM
Great question! In fact, we felt your topic was so important, we responded to your comment with a post of its own: http://askthemanager.com/2016/01/help-im-female-im-foreign-and-im-a-new-manager/.
How Do You Convince an Interviewer That You Can Lead?
July 14, 2015 @ 11:49 AM
[…] a reader posed a question after finding our article explaining how young managers can lead older subordinates. Because his question (posted below) required more than just a passing comment as a response, we […]
May 24, 2012 @ 11:16 AM
I am a 30 year old Manager and working in a mine situation.It took me about a year and a half to make this descision and here is how it goes.I have been working with this surbodinate of mine and has been surbotaging me for months and have been talking to the guy and all he does was laugh or smile about it.He was closing areas saying that they were not safe.I once took disciplinary action against him and in the end i withdrew thinking that he will change.The matter is worst now because i took disciplinary action against him and not withdrawing.Now he is closing ends and telling his surbodinates that they should not do any work because the fight is on with his boss..he is fighting fire with fire.With all this going on we are not meeting our targets and if this continues we are inviting EXCO into the section.All i give to my other surbordinate is respect and nothing less and they are meeting their targets. I dont know if this is insanity or disrepect..please assist thank you
May 24, 2012 @ 8:14 PM
M.M. – While I can’t give specific advice since I’m not privy to everything that is going on, I will say there are a few things I would likely do in a similar situation:
1. I would never withdraw a disciplinary action once started. My fear is that I would appear to weak to everyone in the organization. Now, while I generally don’t care about others’ misguided opinions, the very fact that you are in this ‘war’ makes it critical that you always appear decisive.
2. There are always subordinates that will never change – and this person sounds like he fits that definition. That said, I would start disciplining him as harshly as possible, though I would remain completely fair and document EVERYTHING. Additionally, the tone of my disciplinary actions would always be positive…. e.g. “I know you can improve your work…”
3. I would bring my bosses up to speed on this issue ASAP – again remaining positive. This guy is likely going to try an “end around” and go above me to undermine my authority… and I have to beat him to it.
Hope this helps – please keep us posted.
September 4, 2011 @ 3:13 PM
Wao! I use to think that my subordinate should earn my respect and not just me respecting them like that. I’ll sure pratice this respect thing and I just hope it’ll work cos I am very new at the firm and this people just disrespect me at liberty in return I;ve been very hard on them.
But it feels so good to know that I’m not the only 24 yr in this.
July 23, 2010 @ 4:17 AM
The experience i have acquired from being a supervisor of a relatively older generation is that i need to treat surbodinates with respect.The only effective way to manage an older surbodinate is directing them towards the objectives and goals of the company.To my experience, the surbodinate will for get her age.
Appreciating the good that staff will have contributed also motivates staff.This to them is a sign that despite age,they perfomed to the best of your expectations.
Followup also matters,older surbodinates need space but a follow up is very important.This to them shows despite how young you may be,you will still be remembering the assignments you gave to each of them.
The challenge i have continuosly got is that older surbodinates tend to be very slow in decision making,risk taking, as opposed to me.This sometimes think that they have a negative atitude towards the set goals.
April 28, 2010 @ 11:27 AM
Iam a 24 yaer old manager in a communications firm.I treat my older surbodinates the same but with alot od deligency.I listen to their concerns and they respect me for that.I dont push policies before them.I consult them before implementing.
The main challenge with young managers all over is that they want things done faster,when these older subodinates are slow.At times you need to do follow up and make many courtesy calls to facilitate quick implementation.
But this is not very easy,at times these older surbonates cacoon against the manager.Its upon the young manager to form team work and come down to them very carefully.
March 31, 2010 @ 2:33 AM
Iam a 24 year old manager in a communications firm.I believe age difference has nothing to do in this case.I lead older subodinates and they have always appreciated my style of management.A managers should respect his surbodinates if he is to manage better older subodinates.The challenge with young manager is when the older surbodinates become very slow or decide to surbotage thevpolicies of a young manager.The young manager therefore has to clearly undrstand the likes of older surbodinates in order to lead them effectively.
January 12, 2010 @ 1:30 PM
I LOVE THIS TOPIC!!!
I, 26, am a young manager myself in the fast food industry. I totally agree that a young manager should ‘do nothing’ about the age difference. BUT it can become quite a confidence issue. My older colleagues seemed to be very skeptical about my abilities at first. We ended up having a super relationship int he end. But it took lots of support from my personal social network, mainly my husband, to help me through the tough times. We all strive for human connection and if the older generation ‘blocks’ that connection at first, one can feel quite alone. But as with anything… it just takes time.
July 19, 2009 @ 3:30 PM
Great question, Sourabh. To see our answer, check out this post: http://askthemanager.com/2009/07/how-does-a-young-manager-from-the-outside-convince-an-interviewer-that-he-can-lead/
July 18, 2009 @ 9:27 AM
Very nice and positive reply. I need help with a question. I am posting the question here:
Recently I interviewed for a leadership position in a big and reputable organization. The company is considering internal candidates also for the position.
This position is likely to lead a huge team which also includes experienced and older team members, many of whom would’ve been interviewed for the same position.
The interview panel felt that it would be a humongous challenge for me to lead such a team. Although the panel seemed satisfied with my professional exposure, they considered the people challenges to be the most difficult part of the job.
In the subsequent round of interviews, what do you think my approach should be to the people management aspect?
Thanks, Sourabh De (Mumbai, India)
July 14, 2009 @ 1:03 AM
WOW! Point taken, so simple yet so sharp. Every manager would need to read this, both young or old.
August 25, 2008 @ 12:24 AM
Thanks so much for making this simple and plain to understand. A very powerful point made concise and clear.
August 23, 2008 @ 11:43 PM
An excellent post. This is an issue a lot of professionals face. You hit the nail on the head when you said that each person must be treated as an individual. Even though this looks simple and obvious, this is where most managers go wrong.