Working for a Younger Boss? Make It Work!
It happens! In today’s business world, it has become quite common for managers to be younger than some of their subordinates. Being proactive in this setting is the key to having a successful and mutually beneficial relationship!
It’s not necessarily an easy arrangement, but here are some specific “To Do’s” that will make life at work a better experience for both you and your younger boss:
- The Past really is the Past – It’s very easy to say, “Well, the way we use to do “X” was…” That’s absolutely true…but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it was the best approach or policy. Worse yet, the signal you’re sending to your younger boss is that the past is where you were more comfortable, as opposed to the present. Not good. Any good boss wants to believe that his/her subordinates are at least comfortable, if not inspired by the current setting. If you’re perceived as “longing for the good old days”, you have quickly diminished any expectations of high performance from your manager. And no one should want to be perceived as the laggard or the under achiever in a work unit.
- R.E.S.P.E.C.T. what it means to everybody! Conveying respect for your boss’s position is essential. That doesn’t mean “brown nosing” or “schmoozing”, but simply a public recognition of the simple fact that your boss is in charge of the operation. Amazingly enough, you will find that respect is probably reciprocated to you in a very short period of time. Smart bosses realize that showing respect to subordinates is the fastest and most effective way to cultivate loyalty. Your tone of voice, your choice of words, and your body language will all signal whether or not you respect your boss. Make sure that they are all projecting the right message!
- Your wisdom is more valuable than your knowledge! Here’s where your seniority can really pay off. Guess what? You’ve been on this earth longer than your boss and have probably experienced more of life’s ups and down’s than he/she has. Being perceived as the “wise one” will win you a special place in your boss’s heart. Wisdom isn’t necessarily something that you volunteer…you make your wisdom readily available by being the member of the team who takes the “longer view” of an issue, or challenges everyone to think differently about a given problem or challenge. It’s human nature to expect older people to be “wiser” than younger ones. Don’t disappoint your boss or your teammates in that regard!
- Don’t hesitate to offer a helping hand! Younger bosses, especially “freshmen” may be too proud or too insecure to ask for help. Sure, you can let them flounder and even fail—but is that really beneficial for you and the rest of the team? Probably not. A better move is to simply ask your younger boss if your help on anything in particular is needed. Don’t become a pest on this one, but make it your business to ask, especially in crunch time, when the answer may be “I’m so glad you asked…yes I do.” Volunteering your services will send all sorts of positive vibes and even make your younger boss one of your most outspoken supporters. Nothing wrong with that!
- Keep yourself energized and engaged! This is an important tip regardless of age, but super critical when you’re the more senior employee in a work unit. Cultivate as many healthy habits as possible (and we all know what those are). Appearing “ready for battle” is your goal. You still want to be the “go to” person that everyone can rely upon to get the job done. You can’t afford to be perceived as a “bystander’—you’re always in the mix, participating and doing everything you can to make the team and your boss succeed. It’s a physical, mental and emotional commitment that only you can make. If you do, everyone, including your boss, will notice and appreciate it!
- Remain a “student of the game” – No matter what business you’re in, technology is transforming it almost at light speed. The same is true of your customers’ businesses. Since that’s a given, it’s your ongoing task to keep up with where your business and their businesses are going. The Internet has made tons of information easily accessible. Carve out some time on a regular basis to read up on all of the changes and trends that are affecting your industry. Processing that information will not only keep you sharp, but it will also become obvious to your boss just by what you say in meetings, conversations, etc. that you really know what’s going on. That will eliminate any possible assumption that you’re “burned up” or “over the hill” in your boss’ eyes. And you will probably teach him/her a thing or two along the way!
Age should not be a divisive element in the work place. Collective success is driven by the team’s ability to work together for a common goal. It’s your boss’ task to lead that charge. It’s your task to help make that happen too!
About Steve Bookbinder
Steve Bookbinder is the CEO and sales expert at DMTraining. He has delivered more than 5,000 workshops and speeches to clients all over the world and has trained, coached, and managed more than 50,000 salespeople and managers. Steve continuously refreshes his training content to reflect his latest first-hand observations of salespeople across industries and regions. Through him, participants in his workshops and coaching sessions learn the best practices of today’s most successful sellers and managers across industries. Steve understands that sales is a competitive game. To outperform competitors and our own personal best results, we need to out-prospect, out-qualify, out-present and out-negotiate everyone else, not merely know how to sell. Through his specialty programs in Pipeline Management, Personal Marketing, Great First Meetings, 2nd-level Questioning, Sales Negotiating, and Sales Coaching, Steve trains sales teams to master the skills they need to overcome the challenges they face in today’s world… and keep improving results year over year.