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7 Tips For Working With Younger Colleagues

May 14, 2018

In case you haven’t heard, the workforce is changing. As boomers continue to push back their retirement to continue working, we are seeing a professional world with one of the widest age ranges ever. Consider your own office. No doubt you are working alongside several different generations. And sometimes, relating and working with the younger generations can be a struggle for some boomers. With such a mixture of experiences, perspectives and opinions, making sure they all get along can be tricky. But if you’re willing to try, there are ways to build a strong professional relationship with your younger colleagues.

Be respectful

With any professional relationship – or really any relationship of any kind – respect is the most important thing. A relationship cannot strengthen and grow if there is not mutual respect coming from all sides. Now, you can only do so much to make the other people respect you, but in most cases, when you give respect you get respect in return. Don’t let the age difference become a reason that mutual respect is not being reached. The age difference does not matter and making that a point of contention between you and your coworkers is doing no one any good. Treat them as peers, listen to what they have to say, provide feedback in a helpful and constructive way. Respect is so important and yet it is so easy to give so you have no excuses.

Keep an open mind

We all have those pre-conceived notions that float around in our heads. They are unfair and they cause us to pass judgement far too quickly, and yet it can be a difficult thing to shake. What’s important is that you are smart and mature enough to recognize the problem with such snap-judgements and work to keep an open mind. Maybe you’ve had a difficult experience with a younger colleague in the past? Fine, but that can’t be used to paint an entire generation as difficult. Don’t be dismissive or intolerant of the way they work just because it’s different from your own style. Empathy is underrated and being able to consider the point of view of someone you might be in conflict with can really be a tremendous asset. Be willing to listen and consider their approach.

Stay up to date

While you might have reservations about working with younger professionals, you must consider why some of them might be worried about working with an “older” professional. There are certain perceptions boomer professionals have in the workplace, such as that they are behind on the times and unwilling to stay current. Regardless of how unfair this generalization may be, it’s up to you to ensure you don’t confirm it in their eyes. Stay on top of the current tech and software used in the industry. Be willing to adapt to change and learn new skills as necessary. Proving to your younger colleagues that you are up-to-date will help gain their respect and silence any concerns.

Show your worth

Employers are beginning to clue into the opportunities presented with an older, experienced workforce. While some may look at boomers as overstaying their welcome in the professional world, you know you have a lot to offer. Don’t be afraid to show that. Some older professionals in this setting grow bitter at not being valued and withhold their professional input. Why not instead let them see what your experience is worth and put your proven talent to good use? Knowing you are valuable is one thing, showing it is something that can’t be ignored.

Be a mentor

In an article from last week on The Hub, we touched on the great benefits of a multigenerational workplace, including the opportunity for mentorship. Yes, your experience is a tremendous value to your organization, but it is not just about putting that experience to work, it’s also about sharing the experience. Be open with advice, teaching and guiding your younger colleagues. Don’t push it on them, simply make suggestions, offer feedback and let them know that you can offer help if needed. Knowledge is meant to be shared, after all.

Don’t be a boss

Some more experienced professionals can take the idea of mentoring and use it to become the boss. You might be more experienced and knowledgeable than your younger peers, but you are still peers. Until you are given a position in which they answer to you, do not act as though they are children and you are the adult who tells them what to do. That kind of attitude will cause them to resent you and they will have every right to.

Accept advice

As we also discussed in last week’s article, mentorship is a two-way street. When you are giving advice to your colleagues, be willing to receive advice as well. Your experience does not mean you have all the answers. For example, a common obstacle boomers face in the workplace is technology. Some boomers are very good about staying current on tech, but the truth is that younger generations have grown up in a technological world so of course they are going to be more literate in that area. Why not take advice and help when needed? It helps keep your skills and knowledge up-to-date as well as strengthen those relationships.

As you can see, building and maintaining a healthy working relationship no matter the age difference is not that hard to do. If we can all keep these points in mind, it will only help to build a stronger, more effective workforce for all.

If you’re looking to get back in the professional work, sign up for FREE with BoomersPlus. We help match experienced professionals with job opportunities that fit your skills. To learn more, visit our website at https://seasonedpros.ca/ or email us at info@boomersplus.com.

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