Strategy: 5 things you should remember if you're a young boss with older employees
Asking someone who you think has more experience than you to do something can be intimidating.
Managing a team can be a challenge for everyone. If you're young and it's your first time in a management role, it can be even more so.
You are likely to be in charge of people who have a range of different skills, different personalities, and different ages.
At some point, you'll probably have to manage someone who is older than you. This can get a little awkward to say the least.
According to Juliet Hailstone, senior product marketing manager at HR company MHR, being in charge of someone your senior can be intimidating because you assume they have more experience, more knowledge and more confidence than you.
She gave Business Insider five tips on what to do if you find yourself in this position, so you can get the most out of your team without anyone feeling uncomfortable.
1. You have been asked to do this job for a reason.
According to Hailstone, empathy goes a long way. Think about why you got the job and why they didn't. Perhaps they missed out, or maybe they wanted more time at home at the point they are at in their career. Whatever the reason, you got the job because you have certain strengths, but that doesn't mean that they don't have brilliant skills too.
"It is important to remember that you have been asked to manage your team for a reason — you have the skills and will prove this in time," Hailstone said. "Be patient and assertive about what you would like to achieve and how you would like your team to support those goals, but avoid being pushy… In my experience, managers that shout about being a good boss usually aren't."
2. Focus on minimising friction.
One of your most important roles as a new manager is making it clear what you want the team to achieve. Hailstone recommends adopting a democratic style of leadership to help keep friction low between team members.
"By focusing on tasks rather than on your role as a new manager, you can remove much of the uncertainty and emotion that drives negativity that is often directed upwards," she said. "There is clear direction and your actions are in context. There is clear reasoning behind the requests and decisions that you make."
If everyone is moving in the same direction, you'll probably work in a much more amicable environment.
3. Don't underestimate the power of your elders.
It's important to remember that all the experience your older employees have built up is valuable to you too. Everyone can bring different experiences and knowledge to the table, so use it.
You can start team discussions off assuming you can all learn from each other, and a good leader takes everything of value on board.
"Summarising how each team member contributes to your vision for achieving your objectives can ensure buy in and will make people feel good," Hailstone said. "By acknowledging the strengths of your team members you can make them recognise their importance."
4. Understand what motivates your team members.
You need to know what your team members are after in order to keep them happy and working hard. Of course, everyone is motivated by different things, so you have to ask them how they want to be managed and respect their opinions.
"Some managers underestimate the drive of older employees to learn and stay relevant," Hailstone said. "Regardless of age, knowing what matters to your team members will help you support them in the rights ways — with appropriate development plans and meaningful rewards."
Older employees might value flexibility, whereas younger staff might want more money. It's all about having the right conversations.
5. Plan to get the best from your team.
"Nothing demonstrates experience, knowledge and confidence like success and results," Hailstone said. "With a clear set of initiatives and plans to back them up, you definitely do not need to feel intimidated by anyone younger or older."
A good leader will be able to create a healthy environment within the team that brings together all the different skills each employee brings. And don't forget, you are included in that.