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Have You been Managed by a Younger Boss?

Article by Ceri Wheeldon

With an ageing population and the need for us all to work beyond the traditional retirement age, the issue of equal employment opportunities for older workers still needs to be addressed.
Legislation is in place to address age discrimination  both for employed individuals and those seeking employment, but seems attitudes towards employing older workers still need to catch up.

One theory following research conducted by the University of Pennsylvania in the US is that although recognising the value older workers can bring to the workplace, ‘younger’ managers are uncertain as to how to manage ‘older’  employees, and are more comfortable managing younger people.  This obviously highlights an interesting training need, but also presents a question as to how older workers feel about being managed by a ‘younger’ boss, and what advice they would like to offer in terms of what approach should be taken to address this.

As it is a situation which is likely to become more prevalent it is a scenario which needs to be addressed. Have you experienced being managed by someone far younger than yourself? If so, do you  have any thoughts on this topic ?

 Photo credit: Ambro

Ceri Wheeldon

Ceri is Founder and Editor of Fabafterfifty.co.uk She is a frequent speaker at events and in the media on topics related to women over 50 , including style and living agelessly. With 20+ years experience as a headhunter Ceri also now helps support those looking to extend their working lives.

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  1. Hayley Chalmers

    July 1, 2011

    Both the younger managers and the older employee need to ‘grow up’ and realise that this is business and it’s not about age! The way to deal with this is to ignore it, put age out of one’s mind. Anyone with plans to go into management, is an idiot if they think they will only ever have staff younger than themselves. Older staff can sometimes help younger managers by teaching them.

    I once had a manager much younger than I, so I helped him by teaching him. Some things he would take on board but his biggest problem was his arrogance that he knew best. He wouldn’t listen to me or others with experience, not sure if that was age or just him. I suspect it was just him.

  2. Jennifer Taylor

    July 4, 2011

    I was a Deputy Care Manager and both the Registered Managers I worked with were younger than me – the second one half my age. I don’t think we had a problem because in the latter case, I had helped to train her and was more than happy to see her succeed. She was a little diffident initially because she thought there would be a bias against her due to age but I felt I had a responsibility to make it clear that she was valued for her competence and experience not her age and that I would fully support her when she moved up to Senior level. I recognised that my role was to support her in the extra responsibility she was carrying and that I didn’t think I knew it all but was always willing to learn. Attitudes on both sides make a big difference and we have to see the person first and foremost at all times.

  3. Frances Evesham

    July 8, 2011

    I’ve been in both positions – I have managed older people and have also been managed by younger people. I agree with Jennifer that it’s important to understand that people are still people, even in a business situation. It’s worth thinking about how you interact with both older and younger people than yourself. What issues might arise where there is an age difference? What should you avoid doing? As older people, are we sometimes dismissive of younger people’s ideas? As younger managers, are we sometimes too quick to change things without evaluating them?
    A good manager surrounds him/herself with people who complement each other in different ways. That includes some experienced team members, along with younger, less experienced people who may offer new angles. By making it clear you appreciate each team member’s strengths, the age issue becomes less important.

  4. carol

    March 1, 2012

    Im finding my younger manager is encouraging me to use skills ive left unturned and challenging me to do more, so far its a good combo!

    • Ceri Wheeldon

      March 1, 2012

      Great to hear that its working out as it should Carol!

  5. Robyn

    March 31, 2014

    I have had a younger manager, she supported my initial application as I had experience that she was seeking, the older CEO had dismissed me as not suitable, so it was the younger manager’s support that got me the position. I also remember the CEO kept looking at me telling me that my Manager would be the younger woman, the fact the manager was younger never bothered me. We got on great, I still talk to her via LinkedIn and thought she was a great manager.

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