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5 Tips for Working With a Younger Boss

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on March 17, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

As more and more Baby Boomers head toward retirement, the workforce is growing ever younger. For some, that means the twilight of their careers could be spent working under a much younger boss. Even mid-career professionals can find themselves reporting to a fresh-faced wunderkind.

Already, Generation X and Millennials make up two-thirds of the workforce, and their numbers are growing. As younger workers begin to take on more prominent roles, some simple tips can help more experienced workers adjust to careers underneath a younger boss. Here are five you may want to consider:

1. Be a Resource, Not an Obstacle.

Older workers' knowledge and experience should be an asset, not an impediment. Avoid telling younger bosses "this is how it ought to be done," and don't reject new approaches flat out. Allow your boss to seek out your expertise, or politely offer your own insights, but avoid looking stubborn or intransigent in the face of change.

2. Update Your Skills.

Take advantage of any training or educational opportunities to reinvigorate your skill set. Particularly when it comes to technology, don't let any potential unfamiliarity put you at a disadvantage. Keeping yourself up-to-date on technological advances will help you stay competitive with a younger work force.

3. Absorb the Company Culture.

If you're looking for a job or dealing with a new, younger boss, pay attention to the type of company culture being cultivated. How your boss communicates, both in person and electronically, can give you some good insight into the level of formality and types of relationships they are comfortable with.

4. Create Personal Relationships.

Many younger workers value personal connections in the workplace. Making small talk and showing an interest in people's personal lives can help you connect with younger workers.

5. Demonstrate Respect, or at Least Bite Your Tongue.

Often, younger bosses feel like older workers do not respect them. Even comments made to others can come back and embarrass you later, as happened to Mark Zuckerberg's real estate agent when a lawsuit revealed he had repeatedly referred to the young billionaire as "just a kid." My guess is he's no longer getting the Zuck's commissions.

Avoid condescending language and value the skills and experiences your coworkers bring with them. The more respect you show to your boss, the more likely you are to get some in return.

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