Young Manager, Older Team

Get-It-Done Guy tackles the difficult problem of managing people older than you.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #78
Young businessman

Be Up-front and Ask Your Team for Help.

Since they're the experts, and your job is to help, ask for their expertise. Lay out the situation. “I'm new, I'm young, and I don't know as much as you do about your jobs. My job is to help you succeed at your job. Please help me understand what you do, and how I can help as your manager?” You're just telling the truth and asking for their help. Then, they can elect to give it or not. If they do, great. You now have someone teaching you how to manage them. They're doing the work, they're training you, and you're getting paid and promoted. How cool is that?

If they don't have anything to say, because they've never thought about it, or they're not ready to trust you, or they're plotting how to surgically implant electrodes in your brain so they can take over your mind with their cell phone, that's OK, too. You're no worse off than when you started, and they know you aren't trying to hold yourself up as somehow being better than they are.

Respect Your Role and Theirs.

Going forward, keep in mind that their jobs are to be the experts, and your job is to be the manager. And if you're going to manage to help them succeed, show ongoing respect for their age, experience, and skills. Have them help you develop yours. By turning them into your teachers, even as you become their manager, you can build a successful relationship despite your age difference.

(And just so you know, 1% of the population are psychopaths, but the number is higher in corporations. Who'da thunk? The psychopaths will pretend to be your friend and then stab you in the back when you're least expecting it. Welcome to the Corporation.)

Today's transcript has a link to a longer article I've written on this topic, as well as a link to the book Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work.


  • http://www.steverrobbins.com/articles/HBSWK – scroll down and click on “Young Leader, Veteran Team” fourth from the bottom in the righthand column.
  • http://r.steverrobbins.com/snakesinsuits – the book “Snakes in Suits” about Psychopaths at work

This is Stever Robbins. Email questions to getitdone@quickanddirtytips.com  or leave voicemail at 866-WRK-LESS.

Businessman image courtesy of Shutterstock


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.