Does age really matter? How to manage older subordinates

Long back in our societies, the older people talked and the young ones listened.

By Emmanuel Zvada

Older people ruled younger ones and decisions were made by older people only.

Unquestionably, this is something that most of us have grown up knowing and it has always been practised at all levels of society and even at workplaces.

However, the wave is changing, especially in the workplace, due to skills and qualifications you might find yourself managing people older than you.

If you are managing older subordinates, the truth is that there is no need to stress.

There are ways to ensure that you effectively manage older employees for their success, your success and the success of the entire team and the organisation.

Normally, it is common that the older team does not want to be bossed around by someone younger, while the young grapple with how to establish authority without shaking things up too much.

If you do not manage older subordinates, they can sabotage your success as a manager.

There are some mistakes that people make when they get into positions of leadership, especially in positions where they manage people are older than them.

The first mistake you are not supposed to do is assuming that they will not respect you because of your age.

Since they are older than you, you are likely to find it difficult to reprimand them and be keener on their performance.

It is a point that older subordinates will respect you provided you do your job well, listen and respect them.

Creating a good working relationship with them is crucial, you will earn their respect and your age will be of little significance to them over time.

One mistake that has to be avoided is assuming you know everything since you are the superior.

Most people make the mistake of imagining that they are better than everyone else and only their ideas matter.

It also does not mean that you are the sole custodian of all knowledge in your team, young managers should also learn from their old subordinates since they have experience in the company and the industry.

It is wise to make them feel that their ideas matter and actively involve them in projects.

Gain the respect of your older staff members by showing your appreciation for their expertise by asking them for advice.

The following are advices on how to manage older subordinates:

Value their experience and benefit from them as mentors

Older employees have naturally seen and done a lot and their wisdom and life experience should not be casually discounted.

Young managers should show reciprocal trust and respect and confidence in their subordinates’ abilities.

Show that you value their presence and their experience and listen, ask suggestions from them.

Experience is, indeed, the best teacher and they have many more years of experience than you do.

It would be best to hear out their opinions before doing it on your own as they can sabotage you.

Show respect and be humble

A grateful heart is a beginning of greatness. No matter how good, experienced or knowledgeable you think you are as a leader do not let people around you to feel it through your negative actions towards them.

Respect for a superior both in age and hierarchy is imperative. There is no excuse for not observing good manners and courtesy, such as greeting your older subordinates in the morning.

Young managers should be wary of how they communicate their orders to older subordinates as this can affect their relationships.

A humble approach is cherished by everyone and this is even more important when dealing with the elderly at work.

Be assertive in your own abilities

Assertiveness is a skill in which you demonstrate confidence to stand up for yourself while still respecting the rights of others.

When you are assertive, you are neither passive nor aggressive, but direct and honest.

When you are younger than your co-workers, even if you are their manager, it is sometimes easy for them to take advantage of you thus you need to be very confident.

Imagine that you have found yourself in the position of leading or managing older employees, you have to be confident even if you are competent and capable.

One way to empower yourself to be assertive is to set boundaries, boundaries are the rules and limits you create for yourself that help you decide what you will and will not allow.

In other words, you do not want older subordinates to walk all over you, and at the same time you do not want people to think you are a bully manager.

Setting boundaries will empower you to know when you need to say yes and say no.

Create common goals and show flexibility

In order to build a culture of trust and transparency, common goals need to be put in place irrespective of the age difference between a leader and team members.

In other words, you should share your vision with your subordinates, so that you work towards achieving a common goal as a team.

Older employees might require a bit more flexibility than other employees, so you may need to handle them delicately at times.

Today’s management positions are not based on chronological age, as it has been in the past but on the ability to deliver results.

Our workplace has become multi-generational and managers and employees need to take notice that it is now very common to have a young manager with older subordinates.

Most of the times, there is a variance in mindset between generations and the fact that young managers may become responsible for older employees can lead to distress and unrest.

All it takes is the ability to pay attention to them, do your work effectively and build strategic relationships with them.

Experience is, indeed, the best teacher and they have many more years of experience than you do, if you manage them properly success will be guaranteed.

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