During my first attempt at managing an older worker, I was rebuffed shortly after the interview. The interviewee called me back and said that she would have remove herself from consideration from the position because she couldn’t see herself being supervised by someone my age (I was 25 at the time). Despite the fact that she wasn’t my top candidate (and was only a few years older than me), my confidence was still shaken. Would I ever be taken seriously or would everyone see me as a fresh out of grad school rookie, even though I had more than 10 years of nonprofit employment experience at that point? I gave myself a little pep talk and offered the position to my 1st choice, who was older than me and more experienced in development but was looking for a flexible position, where she could use her fantastic grantwriting skills and not work 60 hours a week as a Director of Development. Once I fully understood that I had the skills needed to manage the department and could build on the expertise of my new hire to build our internal capability, I was able to be less self conscious about the age thing. Here are some tips if you are managing someone older than you:
Don’t broadcast your age. Be proud of what you have accomplished in a short period of time but there is no need to rub your age in people’s faces or say things like “wow, you're 2 years older than my mom.” It lowers team moral and doesn’t make you look like an emerging leader, it makes you look like a snotty kid.
Be open minded and willing to listen to the ideas of your older workers. Instead of thinking of people as “stuck in their ways”, give them the benefit of the doubt and be willing to try things their way.
Find a mentor who has supervised older staff. Learn from their successes and mistakes so your staff don’t have to be you guinea pigs. Developing good management skills in general will help you better manage staff across multiple generations.
What other pieces of advice would you give?