Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Managing Older Employees

It looks like we're having quite the management seminar here on Surviving the Workday: managing an "overly sensitive boss" yesterday, and today, managing older employees. One of the general trends in the workplace, which you're going to see identified in popular media as well as work literature, is Generation X managers of Baby Boomer employees. It's part of a larger school of thought about generational differences in the workplace:

The impending clash of generational cultures has potential to create stress both for young bosses and their aging subordinates. Long-tenured veterans who have prospered for years in traditional top-down hierarchies have grown accustomed to the dictum, “With age and experience comes authority.” One can readily imagine a baby boomer’s shock and concern when someone twenty years younger is promoted over him or her: “Am I being tossed aside?” “How can someone with so little on-the-job experience tell me what to do?” “How in the world am I supposed to interact with a boss younger than my daughter?”

Young bosses may experience high anxiety as well: “Will a subordinate with twenty-five years in this business take me seriously?” “How do I overcome resentment?” “How will I authenticate my authority?” “How in the world can I inspire workplace senior citizens to abandon stone-age notions and interface effectively with the technology and culture of today’s information age?”

Roy Richard, described as "a long-serving representative of our graying North American workforce" identifies seven challenges for younger managers of older employees, and a number of solutions in Managing Older Employees. He summarizes them in statements from the older employees

“Tell us what you want.”

“Respect our experience, both in the workplace and in life.”

“Make us feel special.”

“Offer us the training we need.”

“Try not to lord it over us that you are the boss.”

“Please recognize that we have invested many years in this company and have a lot to lose.”

“Above all else, do not stereotype us or assume that we are unable to adapt to change."