From a young age we are taught to respect those who are older than us, and in many settings the age of a person is directly linked with the level of authority they hold. For a business owner, especially a young one, it can be a challenge to manage people who are older than them. Not only must you consider the employee's age, but also how the employee perceives your age and its impact on business dynamics.
Encourage employees to contribute their wisdom
One of the quickest ways to alienate an employee, regardless of their age, is to undervalue them. When dealing with older employees this can be of particular concern. Always be open to learning from the experiences of your older staff members and encourage their contributions when generating ideas; chances are they've seen the current issues in the past and will be able to offer effective solutions.
Respect different working styles
It is easy to assume that an employee is lacking in skills if you only value a certain type of working style. Just because someone is not up to date with the latest social media trends, for example, does not mean they cannot learn, or don't have alternate areas of expertise to contribute. It is important to have flexibility and adapt your leadership style to accommodate the various working styles of your employees. Always ask yourself, 'How can I improve my own management style?' before assuming an older employee is lacking in ability.
Lead rather than dominate
Many young business owners possess great enthusiasm and drive and, of course, these qualities can play a very positive role in their overall success. However, when it comes to managing your employees this drive must be delivered with grace, with tone and language both equally crucial considerations. Your employees, whatever age, are aware you are the boss, so avoid any dictatorial urges.
Business is advancing every day, so be sure to provide the necessary training to ensure that your expectations can be met. Just as you should avoid making assumptions that older workers are lacking knowledge or skills, avoid also the assumption that their age guarantees they possess all the required knowledge and skills. Tailor training opportunities and don't forget to ask them about the areas they feel they could improve on.
Be the boss at all times
Whilst you want to approach situations with an open mind, you do not want to hand over your control, or ask for guidance or direction outright. At the end of the day, you are the boss and you should not feel you need to forfeit your role within the business based on your age or the age of your employees. You should of course respect your older employees, however, you shouldn't feel intimidated by them. If you find an older employee stepping out of line, deal with them as you would other employees, tactfully and with respect.
The most important point to remember when you employ people who are older than you, is to avoid making assumptions. Motivation, qualifications and drive are not defined by age. Getting to know your older employees, understanding what drives them and taking their lifestyles into account, will all make the task of managing them an easier and more pleasant one.
This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.
Nick Petrovic is a registered psychologist and head of clinic at the Mind Profile Psychology Clinic and has more than 10 years' experience in the allied health and business. Nick has contributed to regular columns in more than a dozen business magazines and newspapers, advising on issues such as mental health, work related stress, strategic planning, business analysis and human resources.