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How To Succeed with a Younger Boss

The Mindset Shifts You Need To Make

By Liz Bentley

Having a younger boss is a growing reality of the workplace today.  Talented people of all ages are rising in the ranks, while at the same time the older generations feel younger than ever and are pushing the retirement age to 72.  Considering that Sheryl Sandberg is 48, Mark Zuckerberg 33 and Evan Spiegel (Founder/CEO of Snapchat) 27, the likelihood that you will have a boss younger than you at some point in your career is very high. 
 
And consider this: the half-life of a learned skill is 5 years, according to University of Southern California researchers, John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas. When viewed in this light, your experience may not automatically equate to higher performance. In other words, doing a job for 30 years doesn’t necessarily mean you’re better at it.  If you haven't continued to evolve your skill set, it's likely you are falling short of your full potential.
 
Younger generations are advancing quickly because they are adaptable and tech savvy.  They are able to pivot easily and adjust to the changing work environment. Their lack of time in the workplace sometimes works to their benefit because they have not seen things fail, ‘remember a time when,’ or been stuck in a ‘this is how it’s done’ mindset.  They are fresh and see challenges as exciting problem solving scenarios.  They also have the stamina to work longer hours and accomplish a lot in shorter periods of time.
 
If you have a boss that is younger than you, here are some tips to make your relationship successful and potentially advance your career:

  1. Get over it – First and foremost, you need to move past it. Your younger boss got there for a reason.  You need to treat them like any other boss.  They are the ticket to your future in the organization and you need to work with them and make them happy.
     
  2. Don’t focus on their weaknesses – Just like all bosses, they have strengths and weaknesses. Focus on what they are good at.  If you focus on their weaknesses, they will feel it and not like working with you.  When a boss is younger than you, maturity can become an issue to contend with in some situations.  Don’t draw attention to the age gap or mock them for it. Instead, make your boss feel great about what they are good at and play into their strengths.
     
  3. Beware of your ego – Don’t let your ego get the best of you.  Young people have a lot to bring to the world. 
     
  4. Be open minded – They will want to do things differently and that is great.  Take this opportunity to learn and problem solve from a new vantage point with new tools. 
     
  5. Don’t be intimidated – Even though younger people are rising in the ranks, older people are sticking around, adding a lot of value and balance.  We need all types in the workforce for diversity. Older generations bring a maturity that helps with people issues, emotional intelligence and calm.  They provide much needed wisdom.

As in any relationship, there will be an evolution, especially in the beginning. You’ll need to work through expectations and different approaches. But remember to stay open to all you can learn from your younger boss and be ready to show your full value.

Our TrendSpotter Alert is this:   Having a younger boss is becoming a more prevalent scenario in the workplace. When in this situation, you need to adopt a mindset that focuses on the person and not their age.