Can You Really Manage Someone Who is Older?

John Krautzel
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There are plenty of age-diverse workplaces, thanks to millennials entering the labor force in droves while baby boomers hold on to their jobs a little longer than expected. As such, younger business professionals may face challenges when managing older workers. This non-traditional juxtaposition does not have to be a burden to your team if you follow a few tips.

Listen Well

It's important for younger managers to be good listeners. This is especially important if you're managing older workers who want to share information about their decades of experience with the new boss. Simply listening to workers makes them feel valued. Listening also gives you insight into how things were done in the past, which can help you come up with ideas as you gauge how to move your team forward.

Grow Relationships

Help your team grow together using several different avenues. Arrange casual events outside of work, or plan weekly business lunches where everyone shares information about specific projects or tasks. Use shared experiences to grow closer as a team. This practice also helps younger and older workers form relationships that might continue after work hours.


Determine what motivates the older workers in your office. Perhaps they want to learn new things or spend more time with their families. Once you find out what motivates your team, you can push the right buttons to get them to be more productive.

Encourage Mentoring

Older workers have plenty to share, and the perfect way for them to that is to mentor younger employees. Older team members not only have decades of experience, but they have connections that younger people simply don't have yet because they don't have as many contacts.

The beauty of mentoring is that learning works both ways. Younger employees have just as much to teach older workers. Consider having a formal mentoring program to foster growth across the generations.

Celebrate Achievements

Celebrate achievements among all of your workers, whether they are big or small. Everyone loves encouragement, and showing appreciation to older teammates improves the morale of the entire office. Baby boomers may not necessarily want constant feedback about their job performance, but they deserve recognition from their peers as much as anyone else.


When it comes down to it, you have to be yourself and be a leader in age-diverse workplaces. Part of your leadership skill set is not second-guessing yourself. Yes, you make mistakes along your professional journey, but as a business professional you own up to your mistakes and ask for help. Taking in the countenance of older team members earns their respect when you say to someone, "Hey, I really could use your advice on this."

Remember that age is just a number. It's how you act that's important to everyone at the office, including older workers. Once you have the team's respect, you can delve into the specifics of how to manage your age-diverse department.

Photo courtesy of imagerymajestic at


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  • Derrick Kivlighn
    Derrick Kivlighn

    I believe you can absolutely manage somebody that's older. the key light with anything intelligent subtlety passion for what you're doing and

  • Jamie C.
    Jamie C.

    I think you can I mean just because someone is older than you does not necessarily mean that they known more than you, sometimes we can all learn from one another

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Les T great comment! Thank you. Yes, so true. Both the older worker and the younger manager have so much to offer each other. It certainly is true that the new boss has so much to learn - not only the ropes of the position but what his/her subordinates actually do. At the same time, the worker has to be tolerant and help out his/her new supervisor. It's definitely a two-way street but it is certainly doable. My manager is younger but we have mutual respect and it works out great! Anyone else have experience with a younger manager? How is it working?

  • Les T.
    Les T.

    I feel like this article dances very carefully around the real issue of managing someone that is older and more experienced. A younger manager, especially someone 10 to 20 years younger and maybe with a an MBA and 5 years experience will struggle with managing someone that has 20 years on the job and held many positions. I think there are several keys to success in this. One, realize you, as manager, are the new kid on the block and have a lot to learn from your subordinate and show them the respect due their senior status. Allow them the leeway to do their job without a lot of looking over their shoulder. Show a real desire to learn from them. If you spend too much time telling them how they should do their job, your going to lose them. If you do show them the respect they deserve you will find your subordinate watching over you and protecting you while you learn the ropes. Once, you have their respect, then and only then will they follow you anywhere. What I read above would turn me off in a heart beat. It's more the assumption that you can manipulate your senior. That will never happen!

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