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5 ways to work with a young boss

Young boss

Don’t worry — you’re not the only worker facing an age gap on the job. According to a survey by CareerBuilder, one-third of U.S. workers have a younger boss. Most of those surveyed said they had no problem working for a younger supervisor. But the situation can be startling at first.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” is the usual reaction from older employees and students when they first meet Alicia Smith, 33, she says. “I do look fairly young,” acknowledges Smith, a human resource consultant for McDonald’s Corp. and an instructor in the business program at the University of Phoenix Indianapolis Campus.

Smith says having a younger supervisor can be a benefit, and offers five ways to work with young bosses:


Respect their skills and forget their age.

“It’s important to remember [younger bosses] have the necessary skill set, and that’s why they are in that role,” she says, adding that they also likely possess abilities you don’t. She suggests taking advantage of what they know and learning from them.


Find out their preferred way to communicate.

Your boss may prefer text or email messages while you’re used to phone calls or in-person conversations. It’s important to understand and adapt to a younger manager’s communication style, Smith points out. Not only will it make dealing with the boss easier, she notes, but you may find communication is quicker and more effective.


Reach out to them.

Younger bosses generally appreciate directness, Smith observes. “Be open and honest if there’s an issue at work,” she recommends. For instance, if you have questions about the way the office is being run and it’s affecting how well you do your job, it’s key to discuss your concerns. Smith notes that the direct approach may be better for you, too. “There’s nothing worse at work than holding onto something [that’s unresolved],” she emphasizes.


Join them in networking.

“We do a lot of networking,” especially through social media, Smith says of herself and other young managers. Pay attention to how young supervisors use social media to advance their careers. For example, she points out, older job seekers may send a resumé to a company human resource department. Younger people, she notes, are more likely to go directly to someone in the company with whom they connected online.


Embrace their informality.

Younger bosses often have a more relaxed approach at work. You may be used to a kind of corporate caste system that dictates speaking to the CEO only when the CEO speaks to you. But Smith says she’s comfortable approaching the top boss and engaging in conversation. “I’m the first one there to talk about myself and my team,” she says.

You could learn a lot from a young manager’s self-promotion style, Smith notes, adding, “We try to have an elevator speech everywhere we go.”

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