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Generation Gap

February 2014

How to Effectively Manage Employees Older Than You

Roxi Hewertson

Roxi Hewertson

Your chances of managing people senior in age and experience to you are quite high given the delayed retirements and demographics we see today. This is not a bad thing; in fact, if you are good leader, you will welcome the diversity in perspective, experience and wisdom you can utilize from within your team. In my long career I rarely held a leadership role without managing people older than me, until I became the older one! There are a few key things to keep in mind to get the best from your more senior staff.

John Maxwell said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” This is true for all employees, and particularly true for those who are senior in age to you. Everything we do happens through relationships, and how we behave impacts each of those relationships. When you create a trusting, respectful relationship with your staff, you will reap the rewards over and over again.

Here are four things you can do that will signal you are listening and respecting:

1. Ask far more than tell.
2. Remove the word “but” from most of your conversations – say “and” instead.
3. Say “We” 10 times more often than “I,” including in your emails.
4. Do not say, “no” first. At least listen and say what you need more of or that you’ll think about it.

You already have the “authority” if you’re the boss, and frankly, if you pull the “I’m the boss” card out more than 10 percent of the time, and even then, only when it’s essential to get something to happen, you are blowing it. You, just like anyone else, has to earn respect and trust … it doesn’t come with your title. If you are feeling insecure, uncertain and less than adequate for your role, do whatever you need to do to learn enough to feel confident. Some of your greatest teachers might just be on your staff. Welcome their wisdom and make sure they know how much you appreciate it and them.

The fundamentals of building a highly effective team all come into play here, no matter the demographics or personalities. If you know how to create safety, trust and group synergy, you will engage everyone on your team and get the most of their talent. So ask yourself – do you know where you want to take your team? Do you know what they think? Have you made time to get to know each of your people, what motivates them, what they love or don’t love about their jobs? Have you asked for their wisdom, sharing that you know only by tapping the wisdom from each member of the team will you all succeed? Have you honored their contributions?

There are a few considerations beyond good team and relationship building you may want to keep in mind. It’s important that your employees believe you understand them.

Traditional – 65 plus
• Conformity
• Stability
• Upward mobility
• Security
• Respects Authority

Boomers – 48 to 64
• Personal and social expression
• Idealistic
• Workaholic
• Materialistic
• Questions authority

The right sidebar shows some common motivators the research tells us to consider when working with two age groups (65 plus and 48-64) in particular. (Note: it’s far more important to get to know each person than assume any generalities!)

Bottom line – every individual has a story, a whole life, and is motivated by different things. When you build a trusting relationship and establish that you truly care about that person, their wisdom and their contributions, you will get a boatload of help, respect, and you may just learn a thing or two along the way!

Leadership authority Roxana (Roxi) Hewertson is a no-nonsense business veteran revered for her nuts-and-bolts, tell-it-like-it-is approach and practical, out-of-the-box insights that help both emerging and expert managers, executives and owners boost quantifiable job performance in various mission critical facets of business. Through, Roxi – “the Dear Abby of Leadership” – imparts invaluable free advice to managers and leaders at all levels, from the bullpen to the boardroom, to help them solve problems, become more effective and realize a higher measure of business and career success. I95