How to work with people who are significantly younger than you areYi Ling
There are over 260 start-ups currently in active operations in Malaysia and the average employee age for these start-ups is between 25-35 years old. In comparison with traditional organisations in manufacturing, finance and banking, these corporations have a rather good mix of junior employees (below 30 years old), mid-level employees (30-40 years old) and senior employees (40 years old and above). The management team of these traditional companies also reflect the seniority of the employees but start-ups typically have younger senior management team, reflective of the age of the founders. If you are a mid-to-senior employee and if you find yourself working in a company with people half your age, here’s how to work with people who are significantly younger than you are:
Respect the position first
There’s nothing more that a person wants in a workplace other than respect, both respects for the position that they are in and as an employee. Regardless of age, the position they are in no matter if it’s a senior or junior position demands respect. The saying, ‘respect is earned, not demanded’ holds true. Therefore, if your co-worker who is 15 years younger than you are has earned your respect, show it to them.
Mentor them and not boss them around
Multigenerational workforce needs mentors and not bosses. While everyone can be a boss, be a manager or be a superior, not everyone is able to mentor the younger generation. Younger co-workers actually look up to senior colleagues for guidance and wisdom. Though sometimes they do not ask directly, most will appreciate your advice which comes from decades of experience.
Be receptive to ideas and opinions
Younger people are inherently better at the latest gadgets, latest trends and latest updates in the market. This is where more senior colleagues can benefit by tapping into what their younger colleagues know. Senior colleagues must not be too quick to brush aside what younger colleagues have to say by adopting the “We’ve been doing it this way for 10 years” mentality. Listening and providing feedback to younger colleague’s ideas will also promote open communication and better work environment.
Adopting different set of work cultures
Gone are the days where employees clock in at 9am and clock out at 5pm. Employees these days adopt the flexible working culture where they prefer to work remotely, working at their own pace and working outside the normal ‘office hours’. Although this might be something everyone needs to get used to, adopting a new set of working culture will attract younger employees and will promote a more harmonious working environment. Younger employees value their freedom as much as they value quick-paced results.
It is definitely important to keep your identity, your culture and your personality. However, do an in-depth review of your wardrobe and the way you generally display yourself. Try refreshing yourself to look more modern and avoid looking like how you did back in your 20s. The importance of this is to blend in and to be assimilated into the team. You do not want to stick out like a sore thumb in the group.
The younger generation basically wants to be heard and yearns to be treated with respect. Gone are the days where the subordinate blindly follows instructions and orders from the top. Younger people these days will question and evaluate the instructions that they receive. Therefore, part of the key to managing younger people is to show that you understand their needs, their wants and their goals.