How to manage workers who are older than you

  • Article by: MATT KRUMRIE , Star Tribune Sales and Marketing
  • Updated: August 1, 2011 - 9:23 AM

Dear Matt: I'm a younger manager who is working with a lot of more experienced and older employees. I don't consider my age to be an issue, but how can I get my team to believe in me, and how can I be the leader this department needs when people may be cynical about my ability because of my age?

Matt says: The answer is to treat them with respect, understand and work with them to obtain their professional and personal goals and to make sure that everyone works together to get the job done.

Of course, we all know it's not that simple.

Is this an actual issue, where co-workers have blown you off or not taken your advice into consideration, or is it just your "gut feeling" that your age is affecting everyone's performance or your leadership capabilities?

Regardless, the first place to start making your age a non-issue is with you, said Danielle Burgess, an assistant consultant at The Bailey Group (thebaileygroup.com), a Minneapolis-based company that offers coaching and consulting services in leadership, team and career development.

"You say you don't consider your age to be an issue, yet you are worried about what your team thinks of you," said Burgess. "You won't prove yourself to them in any other way than by doing your job well and by leading confidently, intelligently and with excellent communication -- just as any good leader would do, regardless of age."

One of the best ways to gain respect from your team is to give respect, said Burgess. Be open to their ideas, thoughts and input. By opening up lines of communication you establish a sense of cohesion and collaboration, and the team establishes a feeling of accountability to each other. These are all feats of a great leader.

At some point, you showed the company you have the talent and ability to lead. What did you do to get you there? Keep those principles in mind and apply them to your current team. What it all comes down to is everyone wants to go to work and be given the opportunity to succeed at the job they were hired to do. As a manager, your job is to find what makes each individual tick. Some will need more from you, some less. But I can guarantee that if you help them to be successful, age is never going to be a factor.

"Believe in yourself and be confident in your own experience and [the] style that got you where you are today," said Burgess. "Remember, no matter how old you are, it always takes time to establish yourself with your team as being a leader they can stand behind and believe in."

Matt Krumrie is a Twin Cities freelance writer specializing in career advice.

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