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7 Strategies For Managing Staff Who Are Older Than You

7 Strategies For Managing Staff Who Are Older Than You

Almost right out of college I stepped into a management position and became responsible for managing staff. For the first 10 years or so of my career, every one of my staff was older and much more experienced than I was.

It’s even more likely now that you may be younger than some or all of the staff you manage. New graduates from the Generation Y or Millennial generation continue to enter the workforce at management levels or are rapidly promoted because of their recent educational background.

If you are a manager with  older staff working for you, it’s important to consider the gap as you adjust your management and leadership style to gain respect and get results from the staff you are now responsible for guiding and leading.

The traditional way was to build experience in the area you are responsible for, work with more experienced staff and report to managers who you could learn from before being elevated to management levels and becoming responsible for managing staff.

Like my situation, however, many new graduates enter the workforce into roles with staff reporting to them and often they aren’t adequately prepared for it, or are soon elevated to a management position with mostly older and more experienced staff.

You simply needs to do things differently when you find yourself in that position with older staff. If you are younger and less experienced than the staff working for you, here are 7 techniques you can use:

1. Learn how to manage staff

Often, new managers don’t have management training. They are often highly trained at the function or technical requirements or have a high level of formal education but haven’t had sufficient training in management and leadership. The first step is to get it, either inside your organization or from a local educational institute. It isn’t necessarily something that comes naturally and it’s best to avoid learning hit-and-miss while on the job with others reporting to you.

2. Find a Mentor

Whether it’s your boss, a colleague or someone else in the organization with more experience, a mentor will provide you with a sounding board when necessary to help you understand how your older workers react to issues, management approaches and styles.

3. Put your staff at ease

Your older staff will likely be wary of you, wondering what changes you will make and how it will impact them. Some may even be resentful. Meet with them and ask about them and listen to their issues and interests. Ask them for their advice. Be honest with them, respect their contribution and continue to communicate with them as you work towards changes you might want to make.

4. Sell your benefits

It’s important for your older staff to understand the value of having a younger manager as their boss. You bring with you a fresh way of looking at things, new ideas, different experiences and certainly a different level of training and knowledge provided as part of your education in areas the older workers may not know about. It can actually be a joint learning experience if done properly.

5. Recognize their value

Your staff has a great deal of knowledge and experience you should tap into. They’ll know the business, the issues, customers, other departments and even the politics in your organization better than you. When managing staff, you will be more successful when you incorporate their knowledge and experience with what you know whenever you make decisions. Talk to them to get their input. If you don’t agree, never dismiss their experience; simply challenge them to apply their experience differently.

6. Don’t assume you need to know everything.

As a Manager, you aren’t expected to know everything or have all the answers. You simply need to know enough about the activity and work with your staff to enable them and support them so they are successful and productive. Ask them when you aren’t sure. They can provide you with background, information, details and even risks or issues you may not have considered and will help you develop your ideas better.

7. Don’t make sudden changes

While you should try to apply your new ideas and new ways of thinking based on your education and fresh outlook on the job, you still need to take into account the current situation and your staff. Listen, learn, probe and discuss issues first before considering changes and then work to get your staff’s buy-in and understanding rather than forcing what may look like arbitrary changes. Adapt your approach to changes when necessary and make your changes carefully.

About Michel Theriault

Michel is the founder of Success Fuel for Managers. He is an author, speaker and consultant focusing on topics relevant to Managers and aspiring Managers in businesses of all sizes who want to get results, get attention, and get ahead. He is also a contributor to Forbes and AllBusiness Experts . Michel is available for speaking engagements, training and consulting. Connect with him or send an email.

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