Young Boss 101: How to Make the Relationship Work
Is it just you, or does your manager look a little…young?
Nope, it’s not you. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, one in every five managers now is a Millennial. That number is usually even higher if you’re at a tech company.
Let’s be honest, working for someone who’s younger than you can be tough. How are you supposed to act? Will they have different expectations?
Fear not: You can definitely have a productive, healthy relationship with a younger boss. These rules of thumb will make it easier.
Don’t Mention Their Age
It might seem harmless to make comments about your manager’s age, such as, “You’re only four years older than my son!” or “When I was your age…”
Yet as innocuous as they may seem, your boss will feel like you’re threatening her authority. She’s probably insecure about the arrangement as well—she doesn’t want to be reminded about her youth all the time.
Be Respectful (Even in Your Head)
On a similar note, don’t push back simply because your boss is young. You might not always agree with her; in fact, it would be unusual if you did.
But stay away from thoughts like, “She’s only saying that because she’s [X years old]” or “An older person wouldn’t make that mistake.”
This type of criticism is unfair and unproductive. Your supervisor can’t control her age.
However, she can control her performance—and it was clearly good enough to earn her a managerial role.
So rather than focusing on her age, focus on her abilities. A positive attitude will improve your relationship. Plus, you’ll have an easier time learning from your boss if you’re not mentally critiquing her.
Make Your Boss Better
Recently, we heard an excellent piece of advice: “Use every meeting with your manager to make them a little better at their job.”
This suggestion applies to every professional, but it’s especially relevant when your boss is younger. You want to show them you’re 100% on their side.
And thanks to your relative experience, there are many unique ways to help her.
For instance, you’ve probably seen the industry change over time. Giving your manager this historical background would be highly useful.
Or maybe you’ve got a good sense of the office politics. Rather than letting your boss figure things out on her own, you could get her up to speed five times more quickly.
The key? Don’t be patronizing. No one wants to accept help if it’s extended condescendingly.
Your manager will probably have a different working style than you. As with any boss, it’s your job to figure out their optimal style and roll with it.
Let’s say your boss likes delivering feedback over email. You might prefer face-to-face discussions, but you should go with the email route—it’ll be better for your professional relationship.
Plus, you may discover you like her “new” ways better. Suppose your manager is always asking about your five-year plan. These questions put you off at first, but in time you find them motivating and useful.
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