I'm Gen X, so almost no one I manage these days is older than me. But as a driven, achievement oriented 30-year old, I started managing lots of people who were older than me for the next decade. As a result, I learned a lot about how to piss the old folks off. I'd like to think I adapted pretty quickly.
Gather around the monitor, young ones, because I'm about ready to drop some knowledge. Here are 5 Ways To Successfully Manage Older Direct Reports If You're a Millennial:
1.Don't try to micro-manage them unless they really, really deserve it. You're young. You may think you need to follow up on every detail or task with the people who report to you. You don't. There's only one out of five who needs that, and micromanaging the rest of the old folks is more about you than it is about them. Take a step back and understand that you have to give them some space to work, which is something no one teaches you the first time you're a manager.
2. Respect the knowledge of your direct reports who are older than you. They know stuff you don't. You should acknowledge this early and often, even if it hurts your ego. You'll find the turds in the group may use that against you from time to time, but again - that's one out of five. Stating you realize that they know things you don't actually makes the other four want to help you succeed.
3. Learn their history. The Breakfast Club and Caddyshack are movies you need to watch. They'll have terrible production values. Try to see the art in the stories and understand that Danny is now grown up and damn, he's on your team. #rightinthelumberyard
4. Put them in charge once in awhile. Once you get comfortable with #1 and #2, you should let some of the older direct reports lead projects. You stay in charge by knocking down obstacles for them. Don't give up everything, but reward the best dinosaurs with this perk. They won't see it as weakness - they'll understand that you are ultimately promotable three levels above where you are now.
5. Assume positive intent. It's human nature to see threats everywhere related to how older direct reports interact with you, go around you, etc. Breathe deep. Understand the workplace is a scarier place for them than you because they have more to lose. They've got bigger mortgages, tuition to pay for and the red Miata they bought in a mid-life crisis making them feel like a jackass. Breathe. Most of what they do is about them and not about you.
The sun doesn't revolve around you, my millennial managers - yet. Take this guidance from a Gen X pro who once was where you are.
You can thank me later by hiring me when you've arrived in the C-Suite.