I’ll admit it. Personally, I am facing that mid-century mark in a couple of years, and it has not gone unnoticed that suddenly, there sure are a lot of younger people in the workforce these days.
And my colleagues and friends are suddenly find ourselves approaching “Old Guard” status.
How did that happen?!!
Because I run my own business, I don’t have anyone else to report to, but there are a lot of people who are changing jobs that are in this same age bracket, and suddenly, during the interview, they are looking across the table at people who might be 20 years younger.
Handling age issues in the interview
During interviews, sometimes the question will come up: “How would you handle working for a younger boss?”
My answer would be to say something along the lines of: “Believe it or not, but I’ve always had a millennial mindset. I love learning, and have been an early adopter of the newest technologies. I find change fascinating, stimulating, and challenging.
If someone is younger than me who is my supervisor, I look forward to supporting their leadership in helping the company adapt to rapidly changing market conditions and customer choices.”
Hit it head on, but also make sure that you really ARE one of those early adopters.
The biggest objection or concern that younger managers might have when they see someone walk in with a few gray hairs on their head is: “Wow, is this person going to be still trying to understand how to turn on the computer?” This is a wrong perception, but persists.
Your job is to overcome those perceptions and show support for a leader who is trying to establish their authority and probably feeling intimidated by people double their age. Show empathy, support, and a willingness to partner up, and they will likely be grateful for this graceful gesture.
Understanding the younger mindsets
Read up about how younger people think. There are a lot of great books out there that talk about how technology has sped up how rapidly younger people acquire and consume information, and how that has shaped their interactions.
Coach without being the leader
With youth comes inexperience, and someone who has been working for a while can see mistakes being made by younger leaders who are unfamiliar with the “school of hard knocks.” Find a way to offer advice without coming across as condescending, patriarchal, or teacher-like.
Try saying, “I’m sure you have already thought of it, but have you considered…”
“This reminds me of the time that….”
Gentle coaching that inserts the lessons learned can provide leaders with a diplomatic way of asking for more information on how to avoid making mistakes without looking bad or inexperienced.
Adapt or die
How we work and who we work with is changing. That’s the rule of life, and if we don’t adapt to changing workplaces and leadership styles, we will likely find ourselves on the way out.
Working with younger leaders can infuse workplaces with energy, new ideas, fun, and a sense of adventure.
If you can be open to this and be willing to change, you have a much better chance of succeeding when working for a younger boss.