Help! My Boss Is a Millennial — and I’m Not!

Originally published 11 December 2015 By Lindsey Pollak.

We talk a lot about how managers can work with millennials — but what about when a millennial is your boss? It’s a situation that will become increasingly prevalent, since millennials are now the largest demographic in today’s workplace. In my book, Becoming the Boss, I help millennials with their managerial skills, but if you’re a Baby Boomer or a Gen Xer on the other side of the desk, you might need some advice, too. Keep reading for tips for successfully working with Gen Y managers.

What To Do When Your Boss Is Younger Than You – Fast Company. “When someone is younger than you are, it’s innate for many to take on an older brother or sister role. It’s okay to manage up, by all means, but you want to be careful not to come off as condescending. This will only irritate an already uncomfortable situation, and won’t do you any good if you are trying to show your boss that the age difference doesn’t bother you. If you have advice or recommendations based on experience that you feel will help your manager and your team as a whole, be thoughtful in your delivery and phrase it as something strategic for the business.”

4 Ways to Work with a Millennial Boss – Mashable. “It’s important to remember that your boss was hired to be a manager for a reason, and regardless of how it makes you feel, you need to learn how to work for him or her without those toxic emotions getting in the way. The bottom line: It’s up to you to make the relationship a good one. … If working for someone respectively young makes you feel uncomfortable, chances are good that your boss might feel a tad uncomfortable, too. And if your boss is also managing people who are five, 10 or 20 years older, you can bet he or she faces the occasional challenge or passive-aggressive ‘when I was your age…’ comment from subordinates. Consider what it’s like to be in his or her position, and commit to showcasing a respectful attitude when you’re at work.”

How to Work for a Boss Who’s Decades Younger Than You  – Inc. “Workologist reader Mary Jacobs wrote that the key to having great relationship with a much younger boss is to put your stubborness aside and recognize that you both need to learn from one another. ‘She saw how I could help her–but that didn’t mean she always wanted the hard-earned-wisdom point of view. If she didn’t follow my advice, I let it go.’ Additionally, you need to treat your younger boss just like any other boss–and that means not being outright disrespectful when your boss does something you disagree with. ‘Respect the authority of your boss,’ said reader William Cannon. “Be strategic about demonstrating your experience and wisdom. Hold your tongue and allow your expertise to slip out a bit at a time, and work toward consensus with your boss and larger work team.’”

Working for a Younger Boss – AARP. “When Ruth Sovronsky, 63, took a new job as development director of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, the fact that her boss was a decade younger didn’t faze her. … ‘It’s a question of attitude,’ Sovronsky says. ‘Age is irrelevant if you know how to be collaborative. As you get older, you let go of your need to prove to the world that you know it all and recognize that everyone has something to offer.’ This generational pas de deux plays a bigger role in the workplace today than ever before, as many people delay retirement. A big challenge for older workers is taking orders from someone who’s the age of their kids. Some older employees grumble that their younger supervisors act like they know more than they do. But by adopting a can-do attitude like Sovronsky, and by following a few rules of thumb, you may find that making it work is not as hard as you might think.”

When Your Boss Is Younger than You – Harvard Business Review. “Generational differences in the workplace are often a challenge, but dealing with a younger boss is perhaps the most difficult. ‘It’s not so much the age thing as the experience thing,’ says Peter Cappelli, professor of management at the Wharton School and coauthor of Managing the Older Worker. In another context it wouldn’t be such a big deal. Say, for instance, you are taking a ski lesson from an instructor who’s 20 years younger than you but has been skiing for 15 years.‘That’s not going to bother you. But if you’ve been in business for 20 years and your boss has been in business for 10, you might think, ‘Why am I taking orders from this person?’ His authority doesn’t seem legitimate.’ … ‘First, don’t assume he’s going to be a bad boss just because he’s younger,’ says Cappelli. “Why manufacture problems before you have them?’ Think positive.”

Have you worked for a boss younger than you? What was the hardest part and what did you learn?

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