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7 Helpful Tips for Managing Older Employees

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Age may be just a number, but if you find yourself in a leadership position where you’re managing employees who are older — and potentially more experienced — than you, your job can feel pretty tricky at times. You’ve been given a leadership position for a reason, but qualified as you may be for your role, questions and doubts about how to motivate your team or deal with conflicts can still arise due to age differences.

So, as a younger manager, how do you deal? Business News Daily asked experts for their advice on managing up. Here are seven important tips for leading your team, despite gaps in age and experience.

Respect tradition

“A lot of young people come into an organization looking to make a change. When managing someone older than you, it’s important to understand how and why they are doing things the way they are before you start making changes. While ‘that’s how we’ve always done it’ should never be used as an excuse, sometimes it’s always been done that way for reasons only a veteran would know.” – Adam Povlitz, president, Anago Cleaning Systems

Get to know your employees

“Be respectful, curious, and open minded. Find out how they came to be in this job, what excites them and how they like to be managed. Age is much less important than so many other factors including motivation, skills and passion.” – Mikaela Kiner, founder and CEO, Uniquely HR

Don’t make assumptions

“Don’t assume that because your direct report is older that he [or] she doesn’t possess up-to-date technology skills. But if they don’t — and it’s important that they do — ask them to learn whatever software or app will make them more valuable. You’ll be doing them a favor as well as yourself.” –Lynda Spiegel, founder, Rising Star Resumes

Avoid competition

“The natural tendency when you’re managing someone older than you, is for a competitive vibe to manifest. And if you’re not careful it can spiral into subversive or insubordinate behavior. My recommendation to managers is to make a point to be the employee’s biggest supporter. You need to go out of your way to make sure the staff member knows that you’re on their team — that you’re personally invested in their success. Only when an employee genuinely believes you’re a partner in their success will the competitiveness subside.” – Brendan Reid, vice president of marketing, Brightspace

Ask for help

“Sometimes we feel like asking for help creates a weakness in the relationship between manager and their staff — this is far from the truth. It can actually help to build loyalty and trust to show vulnerability now and again. It can be as simple as ‘Can you show me how you produced that chart? I’d like to learn.'” – Nova Woodrow, career coach, Love Living Coaching

Address issues fairly

“In the business world, you will need to address the performance issues of employees, despite their age. This can be challenging because we have all been taught to have respect for our elders. It is important to confront the problem head on, and not let things slide because you feel uncomfortable.” – Nicole Larrauri, president, The EGC Group

Be open and transparent

“While age shouldn’t matter, sometimes it feels that those who are older within an organization should somehow have a greater voice. If everyone across the organization, especially if you’re managing up, is very transparent and open about expectations, goals and decisions, age becomes a non-factor. When you are making the right calls as a manager, and everyone can see it, even those who are older than you can see the ‘why’ behind what you ask them to do and what you expect from them.” – Kris Duggan, CEO, BetterWorks


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