Probably one of the most important challenges for a young manager is dealing with subordinates that are older than him or her. When you start on your managerial career, you will have quite a hard time handling your seniors who now have to accept you as their boss. Instead of stressing yourself over such details, you should learn how to deal with them.
Accept that you are the boss because you earned it
The first step you need to take in order to handle your older subordinates better without feeling like you are sabotaged by them at every single decision you take, is to accept that you have earned your position because of your skills. If you do not trust the fact that you got to be the boss because you worked hard to get there, it will show right away. This will only lead to a wave of mistrust from your subordinates, especially those that are older and consider they have more expertise and experience than you.
Show them that you value their opinions
Your subordinates are assets placed at your disposal. For a manager to be successful, especially a young manager, it takes all the team’s experience and expertise. Do not disregard your older subordinates; they have invaluable information to provide you with, and, if you know how to handle them, you will increase your success and your team’s success.
Show them that you respect them and that you value their opinions. Older subordinates often react in a hostile manner towards a younger boss, because they feel left out and threatened. Instead of cultivating mistrust in your office, make sure that each of the team members you are working with knows his or her place and how to contribute to the success of the entire team.
Create a culture of trust by setting common goals
Your team should be a team, regardless of the projects you are working on. There is no better way to cultivate trust inside your team than by setting common goals. Encourage everybody to share opinions, especially older employees that can bring a lot of value to the team work with their take on a certain subject.
Take their special needs into consideration
Senior subordinates may have, at least from time to time, certain special needs, such as medical leaves, or better medical coverage. Show them that you are flexible and that you take such special requirements into consideration. This way, they will feel appreciated and they will be willing to share their expertise with you, for the success of your common projects.
Situations that may lead to conflicts between a young boss and older subordinates stem from the way each generation sees things. While young managers are very energetic and ready to implement new ideas, older subordinates feel compelled to be sceptical and recommend caution.
In order to have your point of view understood by the employees under you, you need to show confidence in your own ideas. For this, body language is very important. If you do not think you get it right, do not hesitate to practice at home, in front of a mirror.
Keep your body in a relaxed pose, but do not slump your shoulders. Do not show rigidity, either. Also, when you talk, do not raise your voice, and do not try to overcome the others. Let them speak their minds, but bring arguments to your position so they can understand your point of view, as well.
Senior subordinates’ feelings can easily get hurt, especially when they are dealing with a new, younger boss. Sometimes it may feel like you are walking on thin ice when talking to them. Show them that you are willing to listen to what they say, without feeling to back down from your initial position. However, make sure that they do not feel like you are trying to impose yourself on them. As long as you succeed in maintaining this delicate balance, you will be able to work with them, for the good of the entire team.