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First - I love the website; the discussion boards and the podcasts are two different ways to get great, tangible management instruction. Each on their own are great - together they help make this one of the most valuable resources to help people become better managers I've ever seen.

I'm 27 years old and responsible for three employees, all of which are older. I'm getting promoted and will be in charge of 2-3 more employees who are older, have more experience in the field (epidemiology), and may even have a medical degree. Having only a couple of years in the field and only a Master's degree, I'm worried about my direct reports accepting their supervisor being someone who is much younger and less experienced.

What advice do you have for young managers in these situations?

Thanks, keep up the good work.
-Ross

MikeK's picture

Respect. Patience. Behavior...

Ross, I'm only 28 myself and have several reports quite a bit more experienced and aged than me. I've had a lot of discussions with other peers about managing this and respect is a big one. Make sure YOU respect them. You want to earn their trust to manage them and DON'T ever want to play any rank cards as it will flame the fire...

It took many months for me to earn respect from one of my reports after he felt my position was owed him due to his experience. The way I have earned this is by having a lot of patience to help demonstrate my abilities and to also focus on behavior and results. He cannot argue against my actions when they are focused on results and behaviors of people and I've been constantly giving feedback to help him learn to look at behavior as well for himself and other's actions. This has helped immensly since we do not battle each other when coaching or leading is based on behaviors.

I hope that helps, and I would LOVE to hear other's comments on this as well since this is my limited viewpoint, but I do feel I've succeeded due to these points.

I agree with your comments on this site and podcast series. It has been an immense help to me also and after my yearly review yesterday, I can say that my boss has been extremely impressed by my skillset and initiate for improving the team focus, especially at my age! Thanks Mark and Mike, you are providing an exceptional service to all who take advantage of it and we owe you many thanks!!

Mike

merritr@gmail.com's picture

Thanks, Mike. I've found that things are better with new employees, as opposed to ones who have been around a while, and were my peers not long ago. I find it more difficult for them to even take me seriously. With employees whom I've interviewed and hired, it is easier for them to take me seriously because I've been their manager since before Day 1, literally.

Thanks for your thoughts, Mike.

Ross

tplummer's picture

This is a tough one. Most of my group is very senior to me (50+ and I'm 35). You have to get their respect. This is through good leadership. Be a great manager. They probably haven't had one of those in quite a while! Remember, that almost always they know more than you do. Respect them for their knowledge. You're job is to guide and improve. Most more senior people will really respect if you come in with a fresh look and new ways of doing things that don't directly conflict with them. Fine tuning. If you can get them to say, "Good idea" then you've suceeded. But if your ideas are in conflict with them and they've been doing it that way for 20 years, you are going to fail with them. It is very tough. In the end, some senior people will just ignore you anyway. Who is this young kid telling me what to do! What do they know! I've done it this way for 20 years and I'm not going to change! Or my favorite. You'll be gone in a couple of years so I don't really have to listen to you.

To them, I say the hell with them! You can't win. If you give it a good try. Do the right things like what's in the podcasts. And they still don't respect you. Get them out! New group or bad reviews (with feedback) and let em rot! Harsh. But a good manager (well by my definition) knows who he can help and who he can't. And more importantly, who is beyond help.

merritr@gmail.com's picture

Thanks, skinny0ne. What I really haven't thought of until you said it was

"Be a great manager. They probably haven't had one of those in quite a while!"

I'm confident that I can make them realize that they do good work, and that it is part of my job to make their jobs better. If I do a good job, their work lives will improve - as long as they are on board, of course. I've learned more than handful of tangible things that I can apply at work (haven't started the one-on-ones yet, but I will in June), and I'm 99.9% sure their previous bosses haven't done these things. They are going to have better feedback and communication from their boss, even though it is some young guy who doesn't quite have the wisdom yet that they do.

Thanks for the post, skinny0ne. I can tell by reading these discussion boards that many of the people who post on this website are very good managers who take pride in management, and that is a unique, extremely valuable attribute AND skill.

-Ross

Mark's picture

Ross-

Thanks for your kind remarks about our site and work. Glad you're getting value out of our efforts!

As well, thanks for taking the time to be appreciative of fellow members who offer assistance. I'm sure there are some who are hesitant. Your example will encourage others, I hope.

My advice:

Ignore the age issue.

Here's my rationale. What difference does it make? As far as I can tell, the inference we're to draw from all such situations is that more senior people somehow feel they have the right to ignore junior (in age) leaders. Well, that's certainly true, but so does everyone else have the right to .

I can't find anything that has been suggested (and don't get me wrong - it's ALL good!) that doesn't apply more broadly to ALL directs.

Treat them with kindness, ask them to do their jobs well, do one on ones, give them positive feedback to get them used to the model, expect them to do good work, hold them accountable for their commitments, communicate like crazy, be generous with those benefits and perks you can control. Stop what you're doing when they interrupt. Don't get ruffled when they get pissy. Ask for their input. Encourage them to share their wisdom. If they don't, give them feedback about that - it's not negotiable, boys - sorry.

In the beginning, if they make snide comments about their experience, just ignore them the way any intelligent person does with people who say stupid things.

Keep your head down, and be a good basic manager.

And remember the manager's two secret ;-) rules: You don't have to have all the answers, and you certainly don't have to have all the answers right now.

Finally, remember that you have ALL THE POWER YOU WILL EVER NEED. And power is inversely proportional to how often you have to invoke it. Don't use your rank unless you intend to win and can accept some collateral damage.

Until then, as the Space Marine said, 'stay frosty'.

Love is a good technique, too. Find something to like about all of them, and think about that. If they don't love you back, pray for them if you're so inclined... and if not, keep loving them anyway. It's ALWAYS the right strategy.

Mark[/b]

tplummer's picture

Thanks, Mark. I think in general age shouldn't be a consideration. But, there are two special cases. One is the cranky older guy nearing retirement who doesn't listen to anyone. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how you look at it) they have a vast storehouse of knowledge and wisdom. Trouble is they don't want to share it. Pissing them off too much will send them out the door without any succession planning or mentoring and will put their program in jeapordy. This is a situation I haven't completely figured out yet since they don't care about performance reviews or incentives (as long as they're good to great). If you then say "your not a team player, you've refused to mentor, you've refused to plan for your successor" they give 2 weeks notice and poof they're gone. Not a good situation. I've been subtly threatened by this in the past. In the long run it's probably better if they do leave, but in the short term...well, lots of hurt and missed deadlines!

The second is a well responsive older gal who is completely working for the fun of it. They too could retire tomorrow if they wanted. But, they are very receptive to mentoring and sharing. Treating them even better, maybe a few perks as incentives, gets them energized to helping the team and filling the void when they do decide to retire. I have great success with these folks!

Just some thoughts. Any thoughts on the first situation?

stuy119's picture

[quote="skinny0ne"]Thanks, Mark. I think in general age shouldn't be a consideration. But, there are two special cases. One is the cranky older guy nearing retirement who doesn't listen to anyone. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how you look at it) they have a vast storehouse of knowledge and wisdom. Trouble is they don't want to share it. Pissing them off too much will send them out the door without any succession planning or mentoring and will put their program in jeapordy. This is a situation I haven't completely figured out yet since they don't care about performance reviews or incentives (as long as they're good to great). If you then say "your not a team player, you've refused to mentor, you've refused to plan for your successor" they give 2 weeks notice and poof they're gone. Not a good situation. I've been subtly threatened by this in the past. In the long run it's probably better if they do leave, but in the short term...well, lots of hurt and missed deadlines!

The second is a well responsive older gal who is completely working for the fun of it. They too could retire tomorrow if they wanted. But, they are very receptive to mentoring and sharing. Treating them even better, maybe a few perks as incentives, gets them energized to helping the team and filling the void when they do decide to retire. I have great success with these folks!

Just some thoughts. Any thoughts on the first situation?[/quote]

It's probably over-simplistic, but place the gal and the guy together to work on a project, then as the project reaches it's conclusion, have them "brief" the newer crowd as to why they reached certain conclusions, how they completed certain tasks, what resources were at their disposal, etc. Put the gentleman in a command position of authority/teacher and see how he runs with it (or not).

Mark's picture

Thanks for the clarification.

I still feel the same way. I wouldn't do anything especially different. I'm a very supportive and relaxed boss. For instance, my firm has unlimited sick days, unlimited personal days, and unlimited vacation. We just ask that your work get done. I praise and give lots of positive feedback.

I would treat these senior folks graciously and as well if not better as anyone else, in part because of their contributions to the firm.

I don't think anything I would do with them or around them would be justification for them getting "pissed off". I'd simply be asking them to do their job. If they didn't, I wouldn't be doing MY job if I let them slide. And of course, how they feel is their fault ANYWAY.

If the issue is "lots of hurt and missed deadlines", well, I'd say if that's what's keeping you from addressing "not sharing", crankiness, etc... that's a bad deal. I'd deal with them directly, and if they quit, well... probably it would be a whimper and not a bang.

And just to be clear, I wouldn't DREAM of giving him a good or great review. Be candid there.

Treat both with respect. Differentially reward the one who responds well, and give feedback to the other when he doesn't play nice.

I suspect he'll leave. You can't control that... and his threats are limiting your options...something that won't sound good if you defend poor performance.

Treat him as well as anyone else, and give him affirming and adjusting feedback as he deserves it. Ignore his threats. Do whatever you can to mitigate the loss of his knowledge, and mourn it when he goes.

Mark

Todd G's picture

Ross,

One thing that has been incorporated in healthcare is the Standards for a Healthy Work Environment. Now, this is primarily written for nursing and healthcare settings, but I am sure you can definately make it work for your organization.

There are 6 essential standards developed by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses to help nurses. I know 5 of the 6 will help any manager or managment team in successfully bringing their team(s) together that doesn't deal with staffing or patient care issues.

Standards:

1. Skilled Communication-
2. Effective Decision Making-
3. Meaningful Recognition-
4. Authentic Leadership-
5. True Collaboration-
(6). [i]Appropriate Staffing[/i]

All of these create a healthy work environment when utilized together and I firmly believe the topics that Mike and Mark discuss are some of the best out there. Do your 1 to 1's, ask your directs what's going right?, what's going wrong?

It can only help and break the barriers you might have. I can forward the information to you as they are downloadable. Just want to make sure it's Ok with both Mike and Mark.

Thanks,

mauzenne's picture

Todd,

As long as sharing the info doesn't violate any copyrights or rights of the authors, feel free to post and pass on.

Thanks!

Mike

mhybers's picture

I agree with Mark,
You should just ignore the age. I am 38 and I have a 60 year old woman that works for me. After one year of being on my team, she admitted to me in a morning huddle that when she started she had a hard time dealing with a boss that is young enough to be her child.
Confidence in your abilities and always showing your team that you are in the trenches with them will gain a lot of trust and respect.
Mark