Older Worker vs Younger Boss. How can the two of you work together for mutual success?
This is a growing challenge and often ageism or outright age discrimination gets in the way. In both directions! The older employee discriminates against the younger boss, supervisor, or manager and visa versa.
Just like ageism, this is self-defeating for both sides and for the business, team, and project. So, how do you work together for mutual success? In this discussion, New Way Forward’s Paul Long gets answers from Leadership expert John Baldoni. John is a globally recognized leadership educator, certified Master Corporate Executive Coach, member of Marshall Goldsmith 100 Coaches, and author of 15 books that have been translated into ten languages.
Contact John at https://www.johnbaldoni.com/
You’ll also want to read:
Podcast Transcript: Older Worker vs Younger Boss – How to Work Together for Mutual Success
[00:00:00] Helping you find your new way forward to the best years of your life. This is a new way forward podcast with Paul Long.
[00:00:07] We’re going to have a discussion about the situation facing businesses and groups more and more nowadays, and that is younger bosses, older workers. And the latest statistic I got was only from twenty fourteen. But the thirty eight percent of the workforce in America was working for a substantially younger boss. Now John Baldoni is a leadership expert, author, speaker and many other things right, John?
[00:00:37] Yes, I’m an executive coach and work with men and women of all ages. And as to be expected, more and more millennials as I have
[00:00:46] And I have worked with, worked for and have working for me a lot of millennials. And this came up from a snippet from an interview that that I did with John, in which we were talking about how boomers can deal with the younger boss. And somebody said, Well, OK, what are millennials do with older employees? And it’s a big situation in the workforce today.
[00:01:11] What do you think? You know, and I think I think it is an issue, but I think it’s more of a perceived problem than it really is a problem so that if you ask someone cold, if you are a millennial and you’re you’re managing somebody who’s 64 years old, you’re going to maybe assume that’s a problem. A year from then or six months from now, you’ll probably see that problem dissipates. And I think when? And that’s a tribute to both sides. But you know, from the millennial standpoint, I always go into this and this is not rocket science with a positive attitude. Don’t make assumptions that the boomer, the older employee is stuck in the past because Paul, you and I have had this discussion that some of the youngest people I know are my age and going on. 25. You’re an example of that, Paul. You’ve got more energy than than anything. And you know, you run circles around people half your age.
[00:02:06] So but and I and I also think from the boomer perspective, too, and this is what you talked about in our interview was that, you know, I think I think it comes down to not having this attitude of, well, you’re young, you’re experience. You don’t know, I’ve been there, done that. And there can be a real arrogance in that
[00:02:30] Right, and I think that arrogance comes from fear of not knowing the other of, just as you know, we have cautioned of the the younger person to assume a positive attitude. Same with the boss. Same with the the elder. He or she must say, Hey, I’m going to go in this with an open mind. I’m not going to prejudge the situation and and that’s where the perception comes in. And I think a lot of these age issues are dissipated over time once individuals get to know one another. Well, now
[00:03:04] There might be the rub, though, because sometimes with prejudices or stereotypes, presumptions and assumptions of all sorts, people don’t end up getting to know the other side. You’re just automatically regarded. I mean, certainly in researching this, I was reading all these articles and you know, these these horror stories of the the older worker who gets the younger boss and the younger boss just immediately starts dismissing them. They aren’t invited to meetings and things of that sort. And so there was a really good article that called something the titanium rule, which is do unto others keeping their preferences in mind.
[00:03:46] Does that point of view and the difference is that while you’re comfortable, I may be comfortable with the technology, I still prefer face to face or picture to picture contact, and that’s less common with millennials and Gen Z. They’re equally comfortable. Technology for them is a seamless interaction, whether it be virtual or face to face. So that’s a difference
[00:04:14] And something else that you were mentioning a little bit earlier, and it’s the way that we regard each other from the point of view of our age, and I really think this is at the essence of it. I’m going to use a strong word here, and it’s maybe too strong in some cases, but it’s arrogance. Now, for instance, I will personally sometimes think with some of the younger people who have worked for me in the creative content business, the arrogance of youth which I had most of us had. When you’re younger, the world started when you started and you’ve got better ways of doing things. You’ve got a better clue on things. And by the way, there could be a lot of truth to that. But sometimes I found when I had the arrogance of youth that got in my way because I didn’t have the life experience that you can only get by living for a while to understand. Maybe I’ve got a better idea, but maybe I don’t know how to effectuate it and actually make it work. Conversely, on the flip side, there’s the arrogance of age. Well, I’ve been there and done that. I have forgotten more than, you know, and so don’t come to me telling me the way to do it. I already know the way to do it. So arrogance seems to be a core right.
[00:05:32] I prefer a term and it kind of works on both sides. Excuse me, I’m getting over a cough. I prefer use the term an elder. You know, native cultures have this where the elders in the culture are respected. And if millennial looks at the boomer as an elder and the elder and the boomer takes on the the mantle of being an elder, there’s a sense of responsibility there. I have to. I’m with elder, with a sense of elder comes the concept of legacy and nurturing the future. So that’s something that boomers can latch on to that if you’re in an organization. Your legacy will be coming shortly. Actually, I believe we build our legacy every day, but it’s coming to an end and that organization sooner than later. So how can you be known for the good things you do for the organization and by assuming the role of a tribal elder, if you will, that’s a sense of responsibility. Conversely, from the younger person’s point of view, I view you as a tribal elder, someone from whom I can learn. And let’s be honest, someone I should respect that respect does not impose. Respect is earned.
[00:07:00] Well, something I’m working on right now. You know, there’s the meme that’s been going on for going around quite prolifically called OK, Boomer, which is pretty much whenever someone who’s older saying, Hey, this is the way it is or this is the way it should be, or, you know, it’s like, OK, Boomer,
[00:07:18] It’s like, What’s that mansplaining? That’s what it’s like. Yeah.
[00:07:23] Or, you know, there’s certainly can be reverse of it when a millennial is doing something like that and going, OK, millennial. And you know, when you and I were growing up, it was called the generation gap. It happens in every generation in the first place. You know, our view of the life in the world is different. And it’s like I told my sons, your job is to embrace the best that we did and improve upon the worst that we did. But that attitude right there, here again, is just it’s kind of it’s it’s almost dismissing anything that would be said. I mean, I take it as a responsibility that whether it’s somebody who’s working for me or some of the clients that I have that are much younger than me of taking a responsibility to, you know, look past the age, so to speak and without question.
[00:08:16] And that that I mean, looking at someone only through the their chronological age is a form of prejudice. We don’t we know it, but we kind of shrug it off. But then we say, Well, how have I been acting on that or not acting on that? And one of the ways to the cut through that is through active and open communication, and if and either side can initiate the conversation. So the boomer can go to the young. Your boss and say, Hey, I’d like to set up some time with you. Normally that’s the boss’s responsibility, but if the boss doesn’t do that, you go in gently and I say, Hey, I would like to sit down and hash out a few thoughts. And in that conversation, it’s the operative word is Converse. So you don’t say, Hey, I’m the expert. I’ve been there, done that. Just say I’m you’re new to the team or I’m new to the team. What whoever is the junior partner there and say, you know, I’m a team player and how do you see my role? Here’s what things I think I can offer, and you have an open and forthcoming discussion.
[00:09:26] Do you think it’s worthwhile to just flat out talk about the elephant in the room again, whether it’s I mean, just to say, you know what? I got to tell you. You know, we can role play here. You know, I’m the older guy. I mean, maybe I’m not. But if I would say, you know, look, I got to tell you, I’m a little concerned about this and I want to be I want us to be comfortable and I’m a little concerned that naturally, and I’d probably do it at your age, I’d be thinking, this is an older person, you know, I want to figure out how we can work together and just get past that and succeed.
[00:10:00] Well, Paul, I’m going to say that yes, you’re older than I am, but I’m going to say what you’re doing to me is making assumptions that I can’t look at you as a contributor.
[00:10:11] Ok, good point. Yeah.
[00:10:12] So let’s let’s get the age out of it. I mean, we’re in different life stages, but you’re on the team and until you act, otherwise you’re on board.
[00:10:29] If I’m a millennial boss. It’s really fundamentally, no matter what the circumstances are, what my age is or the age of my staff, it is my responsibility to be a leader. And as you teach, leading is about enabling your people to. It’s not about managing, it’s not about bossing them. It is about enabling them to be their best at what they are in order to achieve the results that you’re going for. Did I? How did I state that?
[00:11:01] Yeah, I mean, I would say you manage the systems. It’s less about managing people, but you enable and enabling them. That’s how the management gets done. You’re right on that aspect. And so, yes, and so as the boss, it’s up to you to set conditions where people can succeed. And so that’s why I came back to you in our role play situation, saying, Hey, let’s let’s get this out of the way and focus on the issue at hand. And so what can I do my ball? If you’re my employee, my role is to provide you with the resources and tools you need to succeed. I also need to coach and support you at the same time. What? There’s reciprocity if I’m providing you with the tools and the support you need to pull together, be a good teammate. This is what our expectations are. And so and if you have better ideas than I am on my door is open to you. I want to hear from you at the same time. Once a decision is made, we all need to pull together on that. Me or you, we can’t be going our own separate ways. We need to work together. Otherwise, we don’t have a team. We just have you and me and a bunch of other people looking for direction.
[00:12:17] Ok. You kind of barely touched on another thing that that that came to mind, and that is, is that I wonder if there’s a possibility in some context for a younger boss to maybe it’s kind of a for lack of a better term, a side relationship with that older worker to actually also be able to use them. Mentoring is too strong a term, but for instance, I’ve had younger clients who have wanted to have a cup of coffee with me just because I’ve been around the block, because I’ve got more life experience, more business experience, especially in my sector, to kind of be able to say, you know, Hey, how did you handle this? Or you know, or or being able to on the side, tap into that resource.
[00:13:05] Yeah, and I think that’s, you know, that’s important. You raised a good point, and it’s you know, again, it’s it’s let’s get outside of our preconceptions and you’re right. I mean, it’s easy to say that Paul and you rightly raised it as an issue. But again, the only way we’ll get outside of our walls of of preconceived thinking is to actually identify it as you had said and break through it.
[00:13:31] You know, would you necessarily alter the way that you manage someone because they’re of a different gender, sexual preference, ethnicity handicap or something? Probably not, but maybe you are just because of somebodies era. Conversely, as a boomer, I hear the advice don’t act like a parent as well.
[00:13:54] Right? Well, I think the rule of management and leadership is to treat everyone equitably and fairly. So high achievers have the opportunity to excel and be promoted. You give them everyone an equal starting point. But Paul, if you prove yourself, it’s up to me to provide you with greater opportunities. On the other hand, if you’re just comfortable going with the status quo, then fine, you’re doing the work. But I’m not going to be offering new opportunities for you. And that’s an interesting issue because there’s a perception of the older worker is tried and true and will stay in place. And sometimes that’s true. We all are comfortable with our own status quo. I mean, none of us like to change unless it’s you do the changing. And that’s I think it’s pretty evident from at any age group. That said, you you, as the boss can say, Hey, I’m going to need a little bit more of this or how can I get this or what? What tools do you need to be able to achieve what our team can do? And you know, if you’re not shaping up, then that’s going to be an issue. And maybe there’s maybe you can’t be part of the team anymore. And that’s the cold, hard reality.
[00:15:14] Your advice for the boomer who is or the older worker who is working for a younger boss. What would be what would be your key mindset advice for them
[00:15:27] If you’re if you’re the older person, don’t ask for one on one time. Don’t say things like we don’t do that like that around here, don’t, you know, drop the passive aggressive. In other words, be complicit in listening and then walk out the door and do something different. Follow through on what you’re going to do. Do show that you’re a team player by being available to help other people. And this is one of the great resources that older workers can offer is because they have a lot of tacit knowledge of how to do tasks. It’s not based on some manual, it’s based on their experience. And if it’s couched in a way that I can help you do your job. That’s a good thing. I like to think of something an organization is called this culture of service. How can I help my colleague do his or her job better? That’s where millennial excuse me, that’s where older workers can play in. And the millennial boss can help foster that by saying, You know, Paul, you may, you know, Paul’s been around the block a few times. I want you to go work with him for a little bit. Doesn’t mean you have to do everything he says, but he’s got some ideas. He might be able to help you avoid some pitfalls. Lean on him and I, and there’s kind of that give and take. And so basically, again, that’s that you’re the tribal elder. And that is a view that that is the old guy. But as a person to be respected
[00:17:04] And I want to take it from the millennial view. First of all, I want to be on record as saying, and I was responsible for this in this discussion that we’ve been talking millennials and boomers. Least we forget the Gen Z who can be at both ends of the spectrum. They’re calling them. As always, they’re caught in the middle, you know, because they could be working for the younger boss as well as the boomer could be working for the younger Gen Z or so it’s younger or older fundamentally. And then what’s your take for for the millennial? I mean, my first thought is that, you know, here again, it’s both about us getting together and making our adjustments and looking, just getting past the dadgum age thing, but also realizing and identifying in each particular case what that person brings to the company because of who they are in their unique skills and talents, as well as the fact that this person does have a lot of life experience.
[00:18:03] Absolutely. And and again, let’s view that rather than view it as a negative, pitch it as a positive, you know, and you know, look at it as something that can be shared with other people, and that’s a responsibility for the older worker to be willing to share and not hoard knowledge. This gets back to this passive aggressive, you know, I know what’s better, and I know I could save you some time to do this, but you know you’re not treating me right. So I’m going to keep the knowledge to myself here. We see that all the time.
[00:18:37] So, yeah, you know, if when I was younger and I was in television news, I had trouble getting into a bigger market because I look too young. And of course, now it flips around. And and the point is, is that we do not want to be judged by our age or how old or young we look, but rather our business intelligence and our talents and skills. That’s what we’re all in this together.
[00:19:03] We’re all in this together. And that is it’s back to your original thought. We have to keep an open mind and drop the preconceptions. It’s easy to say, but let’s work on that.
[00:19:13] Fantastic job. This is a discussion that needs to keep going on. I bet anybody who watches this, they’re going to say, Well, what about this or why didn’t you talk about it? Or You’re wrong about that? That’s great. Comment on it putting this out on social media. You know, John and I are both on LinkedIn. I’m also on Facebook Pro Boomer Jon. The way that people can find you
[00:19:33] And my website John-Paul Dotcom. I have a lot of books and newest one is Grace, a leader’s guide to a better US, which will have some tactical and practical tips for treating people with dignity and respect.
[00:19:48] Fantastic. Thanks, John. We’ll keep the discussion going. You’ve been listening to a new Way Forward podcast with your host, Paul Long.