I have seen it couple of times, so do many of us.. I think. Say either its due to work culture or its different phase of someone's life to move in career. But if you work in IT and work as a Lead role for resolving team issues, advice for process improvement, work on better communication between them or play the role of mentor with many of them are visibly older than you, you may hear these sayings… sometimes
“It feels very strange to get mentored by someone younger than me.”
“You know what, working with young people would be inconsistent and awkward”.
If you have that kind of workspace, and especially if you are in New York City, you also may hear different versions.
You can feel weird to be managing people who have been working longer than you – but it doesn’t need to. The challenge is not uncommon and it’s not insurmountable either. It takes just the right mix of thoughtfulness, tact, and strategy. After experiencing back in days, I thought to note down the couple of valuable insights, which may be helpful to others.
Be a good communicator.
Being a good communicator means knowing when to listen and when to share. Many times we cut out the listener points and give them early ideas, but everyone on all sides feels their ideas and opinions were being dismissed. It really takes a good amount of effort to be quiet and listen. Nothing wrong to take time to process the response to make it digestible. One thing is sure If your colleagues feel valued, and heard, you become mature by their eyes.
Become a source of stillness.
One of the common behavior with young minds is they get overwhelmed very easily and that's the worst thing mentors has to deal with. Certainly there are mentors of all ages who share this trait, but being youth and inexperience make the situation more worst than others. If you become a source of stillness for your team, you win the game and your age never matters.
Know your stuff.
Knowledge doesn’t just come only from book or training but it mainly from years of experience. You have to work harder to gain more knowledge and experience to be a person of worth trust to your colleagues because they don’t think you have enough credits. Knowledge is also one of the keys to creating trust. People respect people they like, but they respect more people they trust.
Ask great questions.
It's very likely in initial days you may get upset to say you don’t know something. But you know what, its always great to be open. When you ask questions, they will be less likely to think of you as a “ Smart pants”. Also, asking questions opens the bridge with both sides and comforts.
Understand differences in lifestyle.
Every person goes through a different phase of their life, many of them do have different priorities in life like families, kids. Expecting similar level of commitment or enthusiasm like yours from them to learn new technology or process is not good. It's better cut them some slack. Try reorganizing social events to be inclusive for all.
Be clear on goals while in discussion.
Micromanagement is the real killer of management structure. Being a mentor and not to be in a loop of micromanagement is a real challenge. If your colleague is doing some kind of work for years and you’re suggesting new process or better way of doing, they might feel awkward about trying to guide. Best way, in this case, is to get aligned around to big picture goals and stay focused on what matters is most important. Better give your colleagues a room to use their experience to get the work done.
Be ready to answer the age question.
Technically it’s illegal for someone to ask your age in the workplace, but in reality people ask it anyway. So its better give some serious consideration to how you want to answer the inevitable question. If you don’t want to disclose your age, then say something like “old enough to do the job.” If you are comfortable with sharing, go ahead. I prefer it!
Know what motivates them.
I really recommend working hard and figure out the motivation points for each individual. They may want flexible hours, or they just want own space. Make it realistic and try and see how you can match that with company's and employees expectations.
Improve a mentorship program.
I have seen in most of the mentorship programs is active been participated by younger crowd only. For seniors, it may not be the right fit socially sometimes, but by strategically there can be a case for a senior employee can mentor younger ones or interns. Best thing I would like to do is to partner with organizations and school if the employees they are willing to make it more motivation and peer pressure only is their experience. It may be good for the company as well as society.