How to Work with a Team Younger Than Your Kid

Oct 11, 2013
5 Min Read

Baby boomers everywhere are lamenting the same workplace development.  All of a sudden, the people working in their offices are younger than their children, who are now approaching the ripe age of 30.  And somehow, the same millennial traits of self-assurance and eagerness that were cute in their kids have become annoying in their teammates.  If you are in this boat, fear not.  Here are a few ways to work effectively with those twenty-somethings without losing your sanity:

Be a Parental Figure

This one may be controversial because many people believe parents (even surrogate ones) have no place in the work environment.  But twenty-somethings want an office culture that feels like family, and they want to have someone older to whom they can turn when things get scary and stressful.  So show interest in their lives and learn their individual styles.  If you can build trust by having an open door and a listening ear, you will be more successful at implementing the tactics below.

Rein Them In

A twenty-something just out of college with too many ideas and not enough political savvy is a dangerous thing.  Once you have established a personal rapport, tell them that they’ll be more effective if they try to solve one problem at a time instead of attempting to take over the company overnight.  Perhaps suggest ways that they can make a difference without stepping on toes.

Tell Them What You Know

You’ve learned and seen a lot in your decades in the business world.  You’ve made mistakes and lived to tell about them.  Even if it means expressing a little vulnerability, be willing to share your knowledge so that your twenty-something teammates can get things right the first time and begin to realize that they don’t know it all.  Serve as a formal or informal mentor to your younger teammates, helping them acquire critical skills and navigate sticky situations.

Help Them Network

It takes time to develop a robust army of internal and external contacts, and at this stage in your career, maybe you know who to call for almost anything.  Keeping in mind that your twenty-something teammates are the opposite, freely make introductions that will help them do their jobs better and build their own networks.  Make sure they know the go-to people in your organization and are briefed on the best way to interact with them.

Be Open to New Approaches

When a twenty-something asks why, the last thing he or she wants to hear is:  “Because that’s the way we’ve always done it.”  None of us are fans of change, but it’s necessary if we want to stay relevant.  When a younger colleague comes to you with a technique for doing something more efficiently (or even just differently), don’t shut it down immediately.  Think it through first.

Get with the Program(s)

Many twenty-somethings pick up a new technology every month, and it’s admittedly difficult and time-consuming to keep up.  There’s no need to be an early adopter of every new app or social network, but you should be well-schooled on technologies that have already been implemented in your office (online collaboration tools might be an example).  Having trouble?  Instead of avoiding the situation, ask the twenty-somethings for help!

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