There’s always this sense of awkwardness in the workplace when a company hires a manager who is younger than the team he/she is leading. Older employees may feel like they’ve been passed over, or that the new manager’s youth equates to inexperience. This can cause some initial friction which ultimately affects team performance and productivity.
It should be noted that this experience is no less easier for the new manager/boss. Being the outside entity in a tightly-knit functional team is never a pleasant experience, less so when you’re the youngest of the lot.
Here are some essential tips to managing such teams:
Communication is Key
Now, communication is one of the most important abilities a manager must possess but it is a skill of particular importance when dealing with older individuals in the team. This means having the ability to share effectively but more importantly, knowing when to listen – after all, these individuals have a lot more experience and have likely spent more time at the organization.
By demonstrating the willingness to take in ideas presented by the team, or lending an air to their advice, not only will you gain important insight into the functioning of the team/department as a whole but also gain the respect of team members. By arranging informal one on one discussions, you can cement this feeling and move the team from “awkward silence” to fully productive machine that works well in synergy with each other.
Each individual under you will have a distinct work style – find out what it is by sitting down with everyone, separately, and discussing their jobs and how they accomplish their work. This way, you’ll know the best way to manage them without interfering in their day-to-day tasks unnecessarily.
Some employees prefer being left alone, others prefer working according to a list of planned assignments/tasks. Some employees require regular motivation while others don’t need to be managed quite so much. As a manager, you need to find these things out via frank, open discussions. Not only will these help build a rapport with your team and gain their trust, you’ll be able to get better performance out of them without having to constantly interfere in the workday.
Ultimately, You’re the Boss
Remember how we said, earlier, that your older team members will have a wealth of experience and advice you should listen to. Well, here’s the addendum: You shouldn’t listen to them all the time. Not even most of the time. While it’s important to listen to and accept their feedback and advice, you are the one in the decision-making position and the fallback is on you. Therefore, you should not disregard your authority and position – regardless of how your team feels, you will sometimes have to make the unpopular decision because your responsibility is to the organization’s targets and business objectives.
What can be done in such a situation to not undermine a manager’s relationship with his team while also consolidating his position of power? A great approach is to not negate the importance of feedback and keeping all communication channels, individual and group, open with your team, while taking the right business decisions which are demonstrably beneficial to the organization – a way of showing your team who’s boss.