Dealing With A (Much) Younger Boss

Dealing With A (Much) Younger Boss
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Don’t miss Bev Flaxington’s upcoming APViewpoint webinar, The Difficult Client: Five Strategies for Resolving Challenges and Conflicts, on Thursday, April 13 at 4:15 pm.

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.

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Younger Boss

Dear Bev,

I work for a large asset management organization and have 25 years of experience. I have very strong credentials for the financial work that I do. Recently my new boss was hired. This guy is about 15 years younger than I am and thinks he knows more than he does. The most irritating thing about him is that he continually refers to the “next gen” in our department and in our organization. There are many of us, like me, in our late 40sand early 50s. We believe we are contributing quite a bit to the organization and take umbrage at the fact that only the next gen can save us.

I don’t know if it is time for me to move on, or if I should tell this guy he is alienating people. Is it possible to appeal to someone who doesn’t get it and might think I am annoyed I’m working for someone so much younger than I am? I really enjoy what I do and I’m making good money so I don’t want to walk out if I can avoid it. But don’t want to be treated like someone’s old news.


Dear P.O.,

We are living in interesting times when you consider there are four or five generations working side-by-side in the workforce. Each generation has its own norms, beliefs and approaches and bridging communication is a current challenge that is only going to grow. In your specific case, you aren’t the boss so finding ways to build team and bring everyone together can’t be your goal individually.

You might start by adopting an air of curiosity with your boss – “As an older employee, I’m wondering who you are referring to when you talk about the company’s future? Do you mean to imply that people like me are not contributing or won’t be able to in the future?” Instead of being angry or defensive, you might pose questions like this that allow your boss to consider the impact his words are having. In many cases when people are offensive, especially to team members or employees they need to be successful, it’s a matter of ignorance, not intention. If you can call his attention to it, and possibly help him reflect on the impact, he might have an “a-hah!” reaction and recognize that what he is saying isn’t very useful to him.

Generally though, the best approach is to treat him like he is the boss – because he is. Treat him respectfully and offer your support. He is probably also struggling in his role to figure out the right balance between being directive and in charge, to being a team player. If he is considerably younger, he might be dealing with his own confidence issues. I have people tell me all the time they are happy to find themselves in management, but then realize how woefully unprepared they were for the role. Most organizations don’t do a good job of training or offering support to help their new managers navigate and rise to a leadership challenge. Try and understand his struggles and become a partner, or supporter to him instead of a detractor.

In most large organizations things move in cycles and someone today who is your boss, may be transferred or move out and on to a role in another firm. Try to see every relationship like this as temporary – it could be months, or years, but eventually things will shift. If you view it as impermanent you can be more objective and more conciliatory. I don’t mean, as I often say, you excuse bad behavior – use the questioning process to help him see the impact – but try and align with him more closely so you can get on his side of the table instead of approaching him as an adversary.

Good luck!

By Beverly Flaxington, read the full article here.

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