There are multiple generations that work together in the workplace today.
Baby boomers are starting to edge toward retirement age and they may even be staying in the workplace longer than before, while millennials are just at the start of their careers, with generation X sandwiched in the middle.
This can cause some discomfort for people, especially in circumstances when the traditional hierarchy of the most senior person being in charge changes.
What happens when you have older workers and younger bosses?
Affects the Whole Company
The Journal of Organizational Psychology recently published a study based on a survey that examined the phenomenon of workers having managers that are younger than they are. In some cases, the younger workers were the same age as the children of the older workers.
Researchers noted some interesting results.
In this survey of 8,000 German employees at 61 different companies, organisations where people had a greater number of younger managers had 12% more negative feelings about the workplace.
A few employees feeling negative thoughts can have an impact on the company as a whole. The negative feelings may even affect those employees directly a part of a situation with unconventional age differences.
These businesses also did worse when it came to organizational and financial performance.
This phenomenon of having younger people promoted over more senior workers is part of what is known as ‘status incongruence’. Status incongruence is not a new phenomenon and was also seen when women began being put into positions of management over men.
In the past, older employees tended to be in executive positions within a company while the younger employees were the rank and file.
Now, the recession of 2007 changed this with more older workers staying in the workplace longer. One survey by Careerbuilder.com found that 69 percent of workers over the age of 55 had bosses younger than them.
The differences among the generations in the workplace today can have a positive effect by creating a more diverse workforce.
However, these differences can spark some issues. Among other things, for older employees, a younger manager may make them feel like a failure in their lack of upward movement.
The best solution to deal with this is in manager training. It’s important that managers be trained to understand status incongruence and learn how to deal with those that may feel uncomfortable with the age difference in a supervisory relationship.