Now that 18-34 year olds (millennials, if you prefer the buzzy term), make up the largest single demographic in the American workplace, the chances of winding up with a boss who's decades younger than you are higher than ever. So how do you deal with the generation gap and get back to simply doing your job?

New York Times "Workologist" columnist Rob Walker recently tackled the generation gap in one of his columns, by asking his readers how they've handled these work situations. Below are words of wisdom from some of the best responses: 

Be open to learning. 

Workologist reader Mary Jacobs wrote that the key to having great relationship with a much younger boss is to put your stubborness aside and recognize that you both need to learn from one another. "She saw how I could help her--but that didn't mean she always wanted the hard-earned-wisdom point of view. If she didn't follow my advice, I let it go." 

Additionally, you need to treat your younger boss just like any other boss--and that means not being outright disrespectful when your boss does something you disagree with. "Respect the authority of your boss," said reader William Cannon. "Be strategic about demonstrating your experience and wisdom. Hold your tongue and allow your expertise to slip out a bit at a time, and work toward consensus with your boss and larger work team."

Workplace bias is a two-way street. 

You might be quick to assume that your younger colleagues look down on you because they think you don't know how to use the latest technology. But chances are, your boss is afraid that you don't respect him. Remember that both millennials and baby boomers are sensitive to being stereotyped.

Robert Goldfarb, an 85-year-old management consultant, said that he was surprised to be hired by a marketing firm where his interviewers looked like they were "fresh out of nursery school." But the company's CEO told him that the team wanted his wisdom.

Demonstrate your value in thought, not actions.

Goldfarb wrote that while he often gets surprised looks when he shows up to meetings with clients, he tries to combat stereotypes about his age by emphasizing his forward-thinking attitude immediately in meetings. "I'm there to talk about tomorrow, not yesterday," he wrote.

But you don't need to speak like a 20-year old or keep the office party going into the wee hours of the morning to be liked, and respected, by your younger colleagues. 

"You don't have to dress or talk like someone who’s 20 or 30 years younger," reader Leslie Wengenroth wrote, "but you need to negate the stereotypical views that people often have of an older person."

 

Published on: Aug 10, 2015