Would you be comfortable reporting to a younger supervisor?

Canada
January 16, 2007 7:59am CST
My father was a skilled electrician. He used to get really upset when his company would hire new blood, right out of school, and they would come to work - literally with their textbooks in hand - and try to tell him how to do his job. He felt that his extensive years of apprenticeship, on-the-job training and actual work experience made him equally, if not more, qualified than someone who had learned all the theory but had little or no practical experience. These days, a university degree can be a ticket to a higher starting point in a company than was available years ago, when a person had to "work their way up." As a result, there may be individuals in junior management and higher who have yet to really cut their teeth in their chosen field. They may have the theory but not the practice. Are you uncomfortable with a supervisor, manager or boss who is significantly younger than you are? If you were 40-45+, directly reporting to a 25 year old, would this impact how you feel in your workplace?
1 person likes this
9 responses
@ginny36 (267)
• United States
1 Feb 07
I could deal with a younger supervisor IF he or she came to the table with an equal or greater level of knowledge and experience than me. It doesn't sound like that was the case in your father's situation. This question intrigued me because I deal with the opposite. I'm a woman in her mid-30's and supervise a staff of 5. Two of the 5 are in their 50's and one is in her 40s. I think there was some resentment at first, but as we get to know each other and appreciate each other's strengths and weaknesses things improve and we've actually become a pretty solid team. But I think that was in part because I realized I'd be a bit wary of me in their shoes, and came into our situation feeling I should work to prove myself to them as much as they should to me.
• Canada
1 Feb 07
I think you show sensitivity, ginny36 :) I do believe it's natural for an older person to feel some resentment, especially if they believe their knowledge is not being respected... but you sound like you acknowledge all the strengths in your team equally and that's probably a critical key to your success as a group! :)
@ginny36 (267)
• United States
2 Feb 07
Thanks! I agree that the resentment is completely natural. We are now in the process of finding someone to replace my boss, who will be retiring soon. I am used to having my boss be an older person I consider a mentor, but I very well could get someone my age or younger. If they are significantly younger, I know it will take some adjustment for me. Knowing I feel this way makes it easier for me not to take how the staff in my unit felt about me initially too personally : ).
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• Canada
2 Feb 07
Great point you've raised here! I think that the work relationship can often mirror the parent/child relationship. Many of us have been groomed to expect our boss to be older, to expect - as you've said - to learn from them and to grow our own knowledge base. It may be hard to be open to that kind of learning relationship if the boss is younger... we can all get our backs up and think "what could he/she possibly teach me at THAT age?!"
@Inklings (1257)
• United States
1 Feb 07
I've been self-employed for so long that I think I may have a hard time reporting to ANY supervisor!
1 person likes this
• Canada
1 Feb 07
You and me both, Inklings! LOL! That's probably one of the most motivating factors for me not to be working for someone else... I really don't miss "office politics"
• United States
1 Feb 07
The age thing doesnt matter really. I have worked in many hospitals that hire women that are less experianced than me and pay them more money. This happens because nurses were doing the hiring and the men were minorities in the nursing field. The nurses learned this from men who used these tactics back in the day. Or if I have to train an RN to do my job and she makes twice what I am making. But has No training in my job what so ever.
• Canada
1 Feb 07
I, too, have been in the unpleasant position of having to train someone who was ultimately going to hold a higher position with a better salary... I feel your frustration, coolbreezes.
• United States
1 Feb 07
That would piss me off reporting to a younger person especially if they're bossy. But it's just the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.
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• Canada
1 Feb 07
I appreciate your honest feedback! :) And you're right... attitude has a great deal to do with how a person is perceived and accepted.
@dana234 (2126)
• Spain
1 Feb 07
What you´re discribing here is more or less what happened to a friend of my father. He´d been gradually working his way up and got to a good position. Then the company hired 30 year olds with a degree for the top jobs. In the end he was the oldest person working there. From then on he started to feel uncomfortable at work. He could never get used to it. We told him about a hundred times that age didn´t matter with no result. He always saw it as an insult to him. I can understand it to a certain extend. I wouldn´t feel happy about having to report to a much younger person, but I wouldn´t go as far as leaving my job for that reason.
• Canada
1 Feb 07
You make a great point here, dana234. It seems that it may well be a generational thing. Like the man you're describing, my father was one of the more senior employees at his workplace. In his generation, many people opted for (or had to!) work rather than pursuing higher education. Their years on the job WERE their education and, as you said, they could be really insulted to feel "replaced" by someone younger who didn't have the same time working their way up the ladder. These days, I think there is less focus on a person's physical age compared to their knowledge base.
@mohanforu (266)
• India
16 Jan 07
I may be not comfortable initially but we have to make that transformation if he got more skills than us.
• Canada
16 Jan 07
Good point, mohanforu... sometimes it just takes getting used to. If you have the chance to see that the person really does have more skill, in spite of their younger age, it's probably much easier to accept that relationship.
• Philippines
5 Feb 07
There's no issue for me whenever I am reporting or not to a younger person. The thing is, I will do the best I can to help him or her. If I see that his / her opinion is not that right or I am not convinced, I will try to explain my understanding and get also my supervisors opinion. It is just a matter of respect.
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• India
3 Feb 07
i think now a days there are lot of such cases where a person senior in age has to report a person younger to him. where the promotions happens on the basis of merit and not age there these cases are more common. i think it should not look awkward to me if i had to report to a more meritorious,more qualified but younger supervisor.
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@cooky28 (742)
• Australia
17 Jan 07
if he new what he was doing it would not matter
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