Are you more tenured and experienced than the person to whom you report? Is your manager the same age or younger than your children? These days, it's not at all unusual for older people to report to those who are much younger.
The sagging economy, reliance on rapidly changing technology, amped-up education requirements and the aging of baby boomers have all combined to increase the incidents of older employees reporting to younger bosses. A CareerBuilder survey found that over one third of US workers say that their boss is younger than they are. Fifteen percent say that they work for someone who is at least ten years younger.
If that describes your situation and you're frustrated by it, it's understandable. Bridging the generation gap—which turns out to be a values and communication style gap—can be a real challenge.
Here is a some advice I hope you'll find helpful.
As much as you'd like to put your young boss in their place, be open-minded and respectful. Don't approach the relationship, and therefore every interaction, with a mindset that says, "I'm right and she's wrong." Or, "I know better than he does because I've been there and done that!" Instead, practice sharing your perspective and really listening to and learning from theirs.
Build the kind of relationship that enables you to benefit from the way your individual and generational differences shape your worldview. To establish high-quality relationships with people who are younger and have their finger on the pulse of emerging lifestyles and technology trends, consider it reverse mentoring. With the pace of change in many areas being driven by the MTV Generation, and even Millennials, it's becoming increasingly clear that "the elders" are no longer the only source for valuable information, nor the sole owners of key resources.
Think of yourself as a trailblazer. Many of the privileges and opportunities baby boomers fought for are now privileges that Millenials and GenXers take for granted. Work-life balance isn't something they strive for, it's their way of life. Being treated with respect isn't earned after years and years of paying their dues. They believe it's their inherent, God-given right—especially if they've earned an advanced degree. They challenge authority because their parents taught them to stand up for themselves rather than apologize and shrink into the background. Coached to assert and lead, they comfortably and confidently step into roles with authority.
What you're facing day-to-day is a clash between a generation that struggled and fought hard to be heard and earn a seat at the table, and one that has benefited from your bra burnings, sit-ins, marches and consistent challenging of tasteless, discriminatory jokes. Your young boss is living the dream made possible by your sacrificing and sucking it up.
Find a young person you can trust and let them school you on the ways of their peers. Ask them what their generation values in communication and work style. Don't debate or dispute the merits, just listen and take in what they say. Trust that it's true. Then, try it out on your 30-something boss and see if it helps you to bridge the divide.
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