MAKING THE MOST OF UPSIDE-DOWN REPORTING RELATIONSHIPS
One workplace reporting relationship that used to be fairly rare is older workers reporting to younger managers. This is a growing phenomenon and will become more prevalent until the younger Boomers stop working in any form. As Boomers transition from leader and top expert roles to new roles that allow the next generations to move up the ladder, we will see what traditionally have been unconventional structures.
Though some people deal with it well, in many cases at best it is awkward, at least at first. At worst, it has led to a lawsuit. But serious tensions and confrontations can be avoided.
Both the younger and the older parties to the relationship can feel uncomfortable. A new young manager may feel insecure and even intimidated. An older team member can be unsure of how to react as well. Having worked extensively with all the generations, I will offer some tips in a 2-part blog post.
In this first piece, here are some guidelines for the older subordinate.
- Establish common goals. Focus on the purpose of your work.
- Be open to new ideas and methods. Don’t obsess on differences in how you were taught, what always has served you as the best method, or whether the manager has preconceived notions about how you think and operate.
- Be generous about giving advice – when asked. Create a non-threatening environment so you will be asked. Don’t be pedantic about advice and unsolicited opinions.
- Seek out younger co-workers, and learn from them in a mentoring partnership.
- Find opportunities to disprove myths and perceptions of older workers.
- Be appreciative of how your young manager gives you support and provides tools to allow you to achieve top results.
- Be clear about preferred communication styles and media and about appropriate boundaries.
- Identify the younger manager’s motivations.
- Be appreciative of recognition you are given, and reciprocate.
These tips will help start the relationship off on an even keel and minimize expending of negative emotional energy.
Next up: what the younger manager can do to build a collaborative and non-threatening environment.
Phyllis Weiss Haserot www.pdcounsel.com