How to Manage Team Members Who Are Older Than YouChen Wan Lim
These days, multinational corporations have very structured merit-based promotion system where it is entirely possible for 30 year olds to head a department of 40 year olds. There are even fast-track promotion systems where employees can be promoted after completing certain courses such as an MBA programme. However, all the qualifications and experiences will still not fully prepare you to manage staff twice your age. Older employees might feel uncomfortable being supervised by a younger employee and some might even feel that they have been passed over for a promotion in favour for younger blood. Staying true to keeping things professional, here’s how to manage team members who are older than you:
1. Respect comes first
Respect amongst elders is one of the most pivotal values in the Asian culture. Regardless of your corporate rank, respect has to be shown towards staff who are older than you are. Respect in this context can be displayed by the way you speak with them, the way you relay orders to them and the way you correct them. Always be mindful that although you might hold a higher corporate rank, they still deserve the respect as an older person.
2. Stay humble
If you are managing and put in charge of people who are older than you are, then clearly you are being compensated more than they are. This is by no means for you to exert power and authority over them. The key is to keep things professional and only behave as what the job requires you to do. Avoid showing off with expensive items and avoid asserting the fact that you are the boss. Stay humble and be part of the team working on project together.
3. Appoint an ally
Appoint an assistant or rather, a co-leader who is older than you are. Appointing an older assistant has two benefits. The first is that you have an older person to learn from and to seek guidance from. Secondly, an older person could act as your mouthpiece to rally support from your staff in an event that you are forced to implement an unpopular action.
4. Communicate your vision effectively
From the moment you are tasked to helm the position, make it clear to all your staff that you are taking your role seriously and there will be nothing personal about any decisions that you will make. You will need to further clarify that your goal and mission is simply to uphold and achieve the goals of the company. By communicating your vision effectively, you will leave little room for older staff to assume things which could be untrue. Also, effective communication is two ways. Allowing them to speak up will also save you the hassle of fire-fighting in an event that there is a crisis amongst ranks.
5. Entrusting important tasks to them
As a leader, you will need to empower your staff and to be able to place an acceptable level of trust in them. One sure-fire way of doing this is by giving them certain authority to make decisions on their own. Entrusting your staff will not only make them feel empowered but it will allow them to have greater sense of ownership on a project.