Let me preface this entire post by saying, I’ve only had the experience of being the young manager, but I promise your manager is feeling just as awkward about the whole thing as you are.
I was lucky enough to have a company believe in me as the manager of a developing department at 27. I know, I know… this post isn’t about me, and now I have played into stereotypes that millennials can be self-centered. Apologies to you, dear reader, and to my fellow young’ins; I only mean to provide some background on my experience on this subject.
So, we’ve established that you have Doogie Howser as your manager, how are you supposed to interact with them? Do they even know what it’s like to be in the work force? Do they even know what you do or who to go to for issues? In all honesty, they probably don’t know everything, even if it feels like sometimes they act like they do. Read on for 5 things to help you be successful with your new leader.
Stay Open Minded
Remember that being a manager does not mean someone has to be an expert at every aspect of the job, they only need to know who those experts are: like you. They will have learning to do about the job, about the corporate world, and themselves. There was a point where you were learning the same things at the same age, so provide them the patience offered you.
Keep a Sense of Humor
I promise they mean know harm when they try to relate, but sometimes it comes out in phrases like “My mom really likes that too.” They honestly want to connect with you and build a professional relationship. They took on a leadership role because they felt they had something to offer to improve the process and contribute to a successful team, but they are still young, so they don’t know shows you may reference and may try fist bumps or high fives, but they mean well. Take things as they were intended and you’ll both be happier for it.
This is true of any relationship, professional or otherwise, but especially true when you’re feeling uneasy about things. There are always professional ways to discuss topics, and your manager is probably eager to hear your thoughts. Bringing up roadblocks in the process with ideas on how to remove those are a great way to show your initiative, and give your manager the chance to lead you. This is a great way for both of you to feel more comfortable. Don’t have any life changing ideas at the moment? Simply ask if you can have regular one on ones with your manager (i.e. monthly) so you two have time to discuss your accomplishments, concerns, or anything else that comes up at the office.
This is so hard, especially if the relationship is new; however, your organization saw something in this person. You may not have seen it yet, but without keeping an open mind, and trusting the hiring/promotional process your company has in place, you’ll never allow yourself to see these great characteristics. Additionally, anytime management changes, other changes follow. Trust that your manager (although young) has thought through a vision and is working toward this. If you’re having a hard time trusting, I refer you to topic 3: Communicate. They can only help if you tell them what’s going on.
Focus on the Positive
I think the easiest way to find a connection with a young manager is to focus on the positive. Their excitement is contagious, hold on to that. They’re not so stuck on working 8-5 so you have more flexible hours now, hold on to that. Team meetings are totally different, and maybe weird, but fun, hold on to that. Allowing yourself to find the positive and internalize it is really one of the best ways to make a situation better. I hear my mother now: If you can’t change the situation, then change your attitude. Thanks, mom!
What tips or tricks have you found helpful when dealing with age differences in the workplace? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!