Editor’s note: In Part 1 of “How to Thrive—Not Just Survive—as a New Manager, Irum Mona Idrees, BSc, MD, director of rheumatology at AnMed Health in Anderson, S.C., addressed how to manage relationships when transitioning from employee to manager. In Part 2, she and other experts elaborate on how age can affect one’s transition to management and what it’s like to join a new practice as manager.
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Overcoming Age-Related Obstacles
Being younger than your direct reports can pose a unique set of challenges. In fact, Alan Phelan, PsyD, psychologist and executive coach at Execuwise Leadership and Executive Coaching Consultants in New York, says younger managers commonly complain about feeling disrespected and judged by older employees. The employees may feel that, because of their age, the new manager knows nothing and cannot possibly be effective.
If this occurs, Dr. Phelan says the younger manager needs to address the issue of disrespect with the offending party one on one. “Reference the specific, concrete situations that gave rise to the feeling,” he says.
For example, “When I was laying out my proposed plans for greater efficiency in the staff meeting last week, I noticed a flash of irritation come across your face as you shook your head and began playing with your phone.” The employee will either own the apparently disrespectful response, disclaim the veracity of the assessment or perhaps admit to something in between. Whether or not the employee is being truthful matters less than the fact that the behavior has been expressly noted, and this conversation is likely to lessen similar occurrences in the future. If these instances continue to happen, the manager may want to ask a more senior colleague or rheumatologist—who may have more influence in the situation—to intervene or simply accrue evidence for a stronger disciplinary action at a later time.
Implicitly, the situation of older employees disrespecting their younger manager can be addressed over time by earning their respect through such attributes as a strong work ethic, demonstrating that you care about your employees by getting to know them, working collaboratively with your employees and asking for input with regard to particular decisions, giving credit where credit is due and praising good performance, and treating others with the same degree of respect that you expect in return.
Lastly, to the extent the supposed disrespect is more reflective of the manager’s insecurity, you should reach out to a trusted colleague, friend, family, therapist or good coach for support. “A trusted advisor may be absolutely vital to successfully negotiating this new role and, ultimately, developing mastery at it over time,” Dr. Phelan says.