The Younger Boss

Dear DW,

Do you have any tips for working with a younger boss?

Signed, Confused Baby Boomer

Dear Confused Baby Boomer,

That’s a question lots of people are asking! It’s not just baby boomers working for Millennials—the older you get, the more likely it is that you’ll be asked to report to someone younger.

When it happens for the first time, you may find yourself feeling defensive, anxious, jealous, or some combination.

But, says career coach Phyllis Mufson, who’s based in Sarasota, Florida, “It’s up to you to get your head on straight.”

That means figuring out why you’re uncomfortable and what you can do about it. If you think you should be the supervisor instead, maybe the new situation is a wake-up call to get some training so you can move forward, says Mufson. If you’re worried your younger boss doesn’t have the experience to manage you effectively, you may need to spend extra effort communicating what you need from him or her.

One key to working well despite any awkwardness is mutual respect. “Part of your job is to support your boss,” Mufson says.

It’s also a good idea to try to find points of connection. “It’s natural that if somebody is a whole generation younger than you, your social reference points are going to be different,” Mufson says. In casual conversations, look for things to talk about that aren’t specific to your generation.

Making these mental shifts may take some time. For some help along the way, find a trusted colleague you can talk with as you forge the new relationship.

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