How to work with people who are significantly older than you areYi Ling
If you work in a large company, for example a multinational corporation or a government linked company, there is a great likelihood that you will have colleagues as young as 23 years old to colleagues who are nearing the age of retirement in your team. In addition, it is also uncommon these days for a manager to be 30 years old overseeing a team of people with an average age in excess of 40 years old. So how do we actually work harmoniously and effectively with people who are significantly older than we are? Here’s how:
It is simply about respect
When working with people who are significantly older than you are, you will need to show respect for the position that they are in, show respect for the seniority that they hold and to also show respect for the decades of experience that they possess. Showing respect comes in many forms, from the way we speak with them, from the way we seek advice from them, from the way we take orders and instructions to the way we interact with them outside the work environment. Showing people who are more senior the respect they deserve will cause a mutual two-way respect and bond to be formed.
You might be more senior in rank than your colleague who is about to retire soon or you might even be the only one who has a Master’s degree in your team. However, do not flaunt these things and do not in any way use paper qualifications to feel more superior than they are. In essence, work experience still matters a lot. In addition, being younger, you might be very ambitious wanting to climb the corporate ladder but do not let your ambition cloud your judgement by bragging about your knowledge and even your position.
Seek their guidance
People feel appreciated and valued when they are asked to give advice, opinions or to provide assistance. Therefore, show older and more senior colleagues that you value their experience by constantly seeking their input and advice. Besides, bouncing ideas back and forth amongst colleagues promote a more harmonious and effective working environment.
Respect the office traditions
The younger generation is taught to challenge ideas and always innovate on current processes, whereas the older generation is somewhat always contented with ‘how things have always been done’. There are undeniably some truths to tried and tested wisdom. Therefore, do not be too quick to dismiss how things have always been done and do not be too critical on wanting to change processes to increase efficiency. Do it tactfully and understand the wisdom behind old practices.
Do not bring age into the discussion
Treat everyone simply as another respected employee in the building. Avoid bringing the discussion of age and avoid using age as a consideration in any decision making (unless absolutely necessary such as when the job requires a younger person to accompany a client to run a cross country marathon). Bringing age into a discussion especially if its work related is unfair and could lead to certain people feeling offended.
In essence, the key to working harmoniously and successfully with older colleagues is to simply show respect as respect works both ways. In addition, older colleagues often feel proud with the fact that they have 20-30 years of experience under their belts – use it to your advantage! Pick their brains and learn how you can leverage on their strengths.