It is a common situation in todays workplace: a younger, usually more well-educated boss manages a team of older workers. With the baby boomer generation losing money in the stock market and having to postpone their retirements, it is inevitable. We will see more and more of these situations and it is important for everyone to be prepared and make the best of it.
Among the things to consider are possible disparities in work style, work ethic, technical knowledge, and life experience, all of which might be the source of friction between a young boss and an older employee. Older workers tend to believe in face time at the office. They show up early, work through lunch and on the weekends. Gen X and Y-ers were raised in the Internet era, where it doesn't necessarily matter where the work gets done, as long as it does.
Technology can also be a differentiator. Younger workers are more intuitive when it comes to computers and software applications, while older employees who didn't grow up in the internet age might take longer to adopt new technology. However, there are many ways for both older and young workers to benefit from the new work order. For example, it may be a great learning oppportunity for the employee. There are always reasons why someone becomes a boss. So if you ask questions about new tactics and watch your boss to pick up skills you don't already have, it can become an easy and enriching experience.
On the other side, the young boss can learn from older employees also through feedback and opinions, as they have seen it all before. Communication is a two-way street and having a genuine exchange of ideas allows each generational worker to demonstrate their value to the other. Younger workers can bring fresh ideas and new techniques; older workers bring incredible insight and knowledge. If you can leverage the skills that each of you bring, your company will thrive. For the younger employee, it might be learning networking or sales skills, and for the older employee, it might be learning a new technology.
Always look at the positive. At the end of the day, whether the boss is younger or older, the mission remains the same - success of the company!