Probably one of the most important challenges for a young manager is dealing with subordinates who are older than him.

When you start on your managerial career, you will have quite a hard time handling your seniors who now have to accept you as their boss. Instead of stressing yourself over such details, you should learn how to deal with them. Here are a few guidelines:

Accept you are the boss because you earned it

The first step you need to take to handle your older subordinates better is to accept that you have earned your position because of your skills.

If you do not trust the fact that you got to be the boss because you worked hard to get there, it will show right away. This will only lead to a wave of mistrust from your subordinates, especially those who are older and consider they have more expertise and experience than you.

Show them you value their opinions

Your subordinates are assets placed at your disposal. For a manager to be successful, especially a young manager, it takes all the team’s experience and expertise. Do not disregard your older subordinates; they have invaluable information to provide you with, and if you know how to handle them, you will increase your success and your team’s success.

Show them you respect them and you value their opinions. Older subordinates often react in a hostile manner towards a younger boss because they feel left out and threatened.

Instead of cultivating mistrust in your office, make sure each of the team members you are working with knows his place and how to contribute to the success of the entire team.

Set common goals

Your team should be a team, regardless of the projects you are working on. There is no better way to cultivate trust inside your team than by setting common goals. Encourage everyone to share opinions, especially older employees who can bring a lot of value to the team work with their views on a certain subject.

Take their special needs into consideration

Senior subordinates may have, at least from time to time, certain special needs, such as medical leave or better medical coverage. Show them you are flexible and you take such special requirements into consideration. This way, they will feel appreciated and they will be willing to share their expertise with you for the success of your common projects.

Mind your body language

Situations that may lead to conflict between a young boss and older subordinates stem from the way each generation sees things. While young managers are energetic and ready to implement new ideas, older subordinates feel compelled to be sceptical and recommend caution.

To have your point of view understood by the employees under you, you need to show confidence in your own ideas. For this, body language is important. Do not hesitate to practise at home, in front of a mirror.

Keep your body in a relaxed pose, but do not slump your shoulders. Do not show rigidity either. Also, when you talk, do not raise your voice, and do not try to overcome the others. Let them speak their minds, but bring arguments to your position so they can understand your point of view as well.

Be delicate

Senior subordinates’ feelings can easily get hurt, especially when they are dealing with a new, younger boss. Show them you are willing to listen to what they say, without needing to back down from your initial position. However, make sure they do not feel like you are trying to impose yourself on them.

As long as you succeed in maintaining this delicate balance, you will be able to work with them, for the good of the entire team.


Article by Susan Bennet, a writer and editor for magazines, newspapers and websites. She writes articles for Sandbox Advisors, a firm that helps people with careers, job search and training in Singapore.