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How to Work for a Younger Boss


Have you recently come into a position where the senior member of your team is actually, well, your junior? Are you having a hard time falling under their leadership because of the age gap? You’re not alone: About 34 percent of adults in the workforce have a boss that’s younger than them. If you’re struggling to navigate your relationship with a younger c-suite, the answer may lie in just a few simple adjustments.

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(Photo Credit: the UMF/Flickr)

Remember: Management Isn’t Purely Vertical

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You and your boss both have something to offer, so bring it all to the table. In one case study highlighted by HBR, the eldest employee at a social media brand was able to bring her experience with mergers and acquisitions to help facilitate some smooth departmental transitions. Her bosses in turn were showing her the best practices of social media and helping her to relate to target markets.

Don’t sit in a feeling of being patronized: just because someone younger than you is in a higher spot on the org chart, that doesn’t mean everyone believes they have more universal knowledge than you. It means you have something to offer in your role, and they have something to offer in theirs.

Be Solutions-Driven

In most cases, you probably aren’t hired because you’re young, hip, and get every pop culture reference. That’s not what most jobs require of you. So why focus on being the youngest person in the room? Your job is to produce solutions to for your company.

In fact, as this study shows, focusing on solutions helps you improve your performance. It makes you feel more confident in your job, promotes positive thinking throughout your whole team, and even decreases negativity. The more you focus on simply finding solutions, the less those superficial differences will seem to matter.

One Final Thought

According to one survey from CareerBuilder, the percentage of people who had a hard time being managed by a younger boss decreased as the surveyed group got older: for workers 25-34, it was 16 percent. For 35-44 year-olds, it was 13 percent. And for workers 55-plus years old, it was only 7 percent.

While there’s no way to be certain from the data, it’s possible that if you can’t be managed by someone younger than you, you might just have some growing up to do.

Tell Us What You Think

What’s your take on younger bosses? Are they a total nuisance? Are you sick of hearing from young people on how to conduct yourself in the office? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below, or join the conversation on Twitter

Peter Swanson
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