WORKPLACE / DEC. 01, 2014
version 3, draft 3

How to Handle Older Subordinates

Dealing with older subordinates is one of the main challenges of management. Older employees are likely to doubt the wisdom of young managers, which results in lack of respect. On the other hand, many young people see the older subordinates as outdated and stubborn. To be effective therefore, it is very important to learn how to deal with such employees.

The following are guidelines for managing older colleagues:

1. Understand their needs

To lead older people effectively, you should first understand their needs. For instance, their physical capability might not allow them to take huge workloads or work for long hours. Therefore, you could consider reducing their responsibilities, as well as offering flexible work arrangements. In addition, it would be advisable to make arrangements for special medical coverage.

2. Show respect

Most cultures around the world require younger people to respect the elderly. This respect should also be shown in the workplace. For instance, whenever you are chastising an older subordinate, you should not raise your voice. Don’t give instructions in form of orders, but rather in form of requests. This will make compliance much easier.

3. Be firm

After taking up the managerial role, the first few weeks will be very important. Let your subordinates know what is expected of them and what they can expect from you. When you make decisions, stand firm and don’t allow your older colleagues to intimidate you. Eventually, your team will learn how to respect you.

4. Glean from their experience

It is easy to dismiss older employees as people who are out-of-date and have nothing much to offer. However, such employees have a lot of experience which should not be taken for granted. Learn to view them as mentors and take time to tap into their experience. Before making major decisions, seek the counsel of these employees. This will help you build relationships of mutual trust and respect.

5. Offer training

With the rapidly changing trends and technologies, many older employees find themselves lagging behind. Therefore, you could consider offering training to help them upgrade their skills. Don’t underestimate their ability and desire to learn new stuff. However, they might not be able to learn as fast as their younger counterparts. It would therefore be prudent to arrange for them to be taught separately so that they can learn at their own pace.

6. Be calm in challenging situations

Older employees are likely to dismiss young managers when it comes to good judgment and wise counsel. As a result, they are likely to dismiss any decisions made. When facing such situations, learn how to be confident and calm. Maintain a composed body language and avoid becoming emotional. This will help you restore confidence in your leadership.

7. Don’t tolerate uncooperative behavior

At times, despite your best efforts, an older colleague might refuse to respond positively to your leadership. In such a case, you could begin by issuing a stern warning. If the uncooperative behavior persists, you might have no option but to terminate their services. This could serve as a warning to the other team members.

Handling older subordinates should be a delicate balance between tolerance and strictness. Treat them with respect, but don’t allow them to intimidate you.

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