Managing the Age Gap as a Young Professional
With four different generations sharing the office these days, age gaps are bound to happen, and younger employees may end up with a direct report who’s twice their age. One YP shares some tips for managing that age gap.
Just a few days after starting with my association as membership manager, a new coordinator was hired to work with me. I work at a small-staff association, so bringing on two new membership staff was a big change.
Upon bringing on the new membership coordinator, I got the sense that the rest of the staff was wondering how well she and I would get along. One of the reasons for their concern was the age gap between us: Currently, I am the association’s youngest full-time employee, and the coordinator, whom I directly manage, has children my age.
I felt confident in the new coordinator’s skills and abilities after seeing her resume and meeting her, and after a few months, I knew we had hired the right person. But that didn’t change my initial what-ifs and worries. What if she doesn’t respect me because of my age? What if we disagree on decisions? What if our relationship becomes competitive? What if we don’t have anything in common?
Although my worries were unfounded, I learned a few ways to take the tensions involved an age-gap management situation to create a strong working relationship.
- Use the experience of your coworkers. Take advantage of the experience and skills of staff who may have encountered similar problems before and may have learned multiple solutions. Listening to and hearing about the experiences and opinions of your team shows that you value them and are interested in what they have to offer.
- Support your workers’ successes with praise and thanks. Your department’s success depends on everyone doing their work well. By highlighting their efforts and hard work, you let your team know that you recognize and value their contributions, and in return you will get the best work from them. Be honest: Who doesn’t like to hear that they’re work is appreciated? No one.
- Don’t ignore the age gap. If you attempt to avoid all mention of your age or the fact that you belong to different generations, you will miss opportunities to build a more personal connection. I found that most of the awkwardness was in my own head, and when I attempted to avoid topics about age differences that came up naturally, I was not making the age gap any easier manage. Own who you are and save yourself some stress.
At my association, being mindful of the age gap has worked to our advantage. After working together through a full year of membership renewal, conference registration, and the challenges that go with those major events, the coordinator and I have cemented a solid foundation. The worries about managing someone older than I am have gone away with hard work and confidence in what we have achieved. We have found many successes by focusing on creating a positive work environment and sharing the goal of serving our members.