How to Cope with Having a Younger Boss

Maybe you have been out of the workforce for a while (especially if you've been at home with the kids for a time) and have returned to a younger crowd in the office. Or perhaps a youthful star performer has risen through the ranks quickly and is being promoted faster than you can bat an eyelid. Whatever the reason, if you are faced with taking orders from a boss who is younger than you, it might not always be easy. It is important to gain some youthful perspective in this case and learn how to cope with grace and enthusiasm.


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    Treat your young boss like you would any other boss: with complete respect from the word go. Your boss got the position because he or she has the right skills and impressed the superiors. It won't get you anywhere to spread rumors, gossip or innuendos about the boss and his or her age. It is far better to respect the evident skills the boss brings to the job and to concentrate on the ways that you can genuinely help him or her. Be open to the new possibilities of working with someone who is likely very talented.
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    Focus on the positives of having a young boss. You will continue to feel uncomfortable if you look at all the negatives of the situation. Instead, see the pluses - the energy, dynamism, fresh ideas and new perspectives that a young boss can bring to a workplace are all great assets. And it is highly likely that you have an intelligent boss, which is definitely an asset.
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    Take stock of your own skills. Although your boss is younger, you have plenty to offer - experience, maturity and the knowledge of how things will often pan out. In addition, it is likely that you are well-rounded at taking on numerous tasks at once and that you already have a well-developed and extensive network of personal contacts and professional contacts from prior work. Focusing on your own strengths may ease any feelings of insecurity or resentment towards your boss.
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    Update your skills. Especially if you have been out of the workforce for a time, there is likely to be a need in some areas of your career skills that need polishing or extending. It's particularly important to keep up with any market trends and technological developments that could improve your effectiveness. Request to attend courses that will improve your skills and knowledge base. This will not only bring you up-to-speed quickly but may also result in you being the key person the boss comes to for implementing the new skills.
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    Speak up about your skills. Do not be shy to let the boss know that you have good skills in certain areas. Without bragging or boasting, let him or her know what projects, activities and sales you have already accomplished in your life. Do this when it's appropriate--such as when making a case that a certain project should be assigned to you--rather than to convince someone that you're right.
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    Dress well. Just because you are older doesn't mean that you should present a frumpy, older image to the world. Instead, continue to update your style and fashion sense so that it continues to reflect a professional, up-to-date image. Don't try to copy the boss and dress in styles that are possibly unsuited to your age but do keep your existing wardrobe abreast of current trends and styles.
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    Be a mentor. The natural tendency to help the young with the wisdom of the elders is not a bad thing to instigate with care and gentleness. Be someone that the boss can rely on for advice and sounding of ideas. Take care not to come across as condescending or intrusive, but do impart your knowledge with humility, goodwill and in the way of mentoring.
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    Be known by all the bosses. When you get the opportunity to work with other bosses in the workplace, ensure that they are aware of your skills and worth so that this will reinforce your importance and value amongst the entire workplace.
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    Raise issues assertively. As with any boss, do not feel that you cannot discuss issues directly with your boss. If you experience discomfort because of your age gap, ask for a private moment and raise it tactfully and respectfully. You may be surprised to find that your boss has similar feelings about the age issues, or may have some very interesting perspectives that settle the issue satisfactorily for you. You won't know until you ask.
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    Invite your boss to social events occasionally. Take the boss to drinks or dinner with the office crew Friday night and get to know one another better. It'll probably make life a lot easier for all of you.


  • If you are the younger boss, treat the employees with real respect. Recognize their good work, and do not let yourself feel threatened by experience. Lead by example, and people will understand why you're qualified and work with you much better.
  • If your younger boss is incompetent, it will show early on and you can be sure that the other superiors are watching. There will be as much pressure on a young boss to perform as there is on you to deal with answering to someone younger than you.


  • Avoid making snide comments about "people your age X, Y, Z" or "when I was your age I could do it all by 5pm and then still do some". This will just make you appear boastful, unrealistic and probably a tad jealous.

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