4 Tips for Managing Employees Who Are Older Than You

If you’re in management there are often situations that may feel awkward or require extra thought to determine the best course of action to handle it. One of these situations could be if you’re managing someone older. It’s a multigenerational workforce now, and millennials may find themselves managing older workers as they near retirement. These workers are highly valuable to the organization but if you have the title but not the experience it can feel intimidating if you’re in charge. How can you successfully manage an employee when you’re half their age? The answer is to exhibit some of the same skills you should use for any employee.

Here are five tips for managing an employee that’s older than you are. 

1. Listen more than you talk.

This is an important tip for anyone going into the management field, no matter the age of the people you manage. But with older workers, they have experiences, skills, and corporate knowledge that you may not have. The chances are high that they also have tips that can help you succeed at your job, too. Don’t rush in your eagerness to do the job, to make big changes right away that affect these workers. Instead, ease into the role by learning as much as you can from these older mentors while you determine the best course of action to make changes. Learn what went well in the past and capitalize on it then seek an understanding around what didn’t go well. Older workers with tenure in the organization can help you learn these things. 

2. Determine motivations.

As you’re listening and learning, determine what motivates your employees. You’ll notice that it’s likely that older workers may have different motivations from younger workers. Your job is to figure out team morale and what motivates each individual to perform well. Typically, we see that millennials want constant feedback and support while older populations are motivated by job flexibilities and autonomy. Pay attention and determine these different work styles and motivations then do your job and give employees what they want and need to succeed. 

3. Help your workers learn new skills if they need them.

Don’t assume an older worker isn’t techsavvy or that a millennial always likes to communicate by text. Be wary of making any demographic-related assumptions that pigeon hole your workers by stereotype. But as you’re listening and learning about your team, make notes of anyone who needs extra help to improve their productivity. Give them the tools they need to improve and offer training or mentoring in anything they need. Pair older workers with younger workers so that the older person can teach the younger worker skills such as compartmentalization or organizing tasks or the art of diplomacy or any other characteristic that your younger workers need to learn. The point is that everyone learns from each other to strengthen the entire organization. 

4. Dump your ego.

One fine line that managers must walk is the divide between being liked and respected. Remember that your new employees (of any age) may feel resentful of your job title. But you are not there to make friends, only to help your team do the best work they can within the circumstances of their abilities and the job at hand. Leave your ego at the door when managing workers and recognize that there is the team and the individuals that make up the team. Managing everyone in the same way will not increase your output and instead blow up productivity. Instead, listen, watch, and learn how people like to be managed—and then give it to them, stand back, and watch them shine. 

5. Lead.

You earned the promotion, no matter your age, so let go that feeling of worry that’s been nagging you. You were put in this job because your boss thought you could handle it. Now you need to show them how right they were. Expect some trial and error as you get to know the team; that’s normal for any manager at any age.  

 Blackstone specializes in providing managers with the teams they need to succeed. Start the conversation. 

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