Home » General » Does Age Really Matter? [column]

One of the biggest challenges that new managers are facing is that of managing subordinates that are older than them.

Age-related scepticism is real and it is costing companies a lot of revenue. I remember at one time my partner was appointed to a civil management position in a rural district council straight from college.

At 26, he was placed in charge of a huge project, supervising over 500 subordinates, the majority of whom were way older than him, was given a company car, cook and a whole lot of other benefits.

He had to make a lot of adjustments not only to his personality but his outward appearance as well.

He had to grow a beard, put on a little weight and get some training on how to act as a boss.

There was no way he could simply walk into a station, with over 500 elderly men that had built bridges and roads their entire career spanning over 20 years.

Your appearance as a manager can be a liability. Having people comment about your looks can wear you down and you have to make serious adjustments.

Inasmuch as we may not want to admit it, people judge individuals not only on merit. There are more and more young people in management positions these days, and the trend extends to any type of industry.

The reason why some companies prefer to employ young people is because our recent graduates are more open to new ideas, they simply have fresh energy, vibe and perspectives.

I know issues of under experience and immaturity sometimes act against them but your company could find it valuable for some type of levels and subdivisions to employ young managers.

The reason why some people may object to appointing young managers is because of limited understanding of management.

Management is not nailing the final screw in the head, it is a co-ordinated effort, the finest managers collaborate with departments, personalities and ideas to come up with a best possible solution and implement it.

Some critics may not be aware that being an effective communicator is the best trump card any manager will ever have.

The dullest managers have triumphed because of their sharp communication skills. Literally a manager who may be in absentia can pull off a successful project because of their excellent communication methods.

Get me right though, sometimes young managers may have to exert a little more effort to gain respect from their subordinates as compared to others.

Young managers may have to prove themselves to gain a significant level of respect. Also try finding other methods of building respect for yourself, showing appreciation to a subordinate who has done something good helps in building relationships.

As a young manager you will discover that different age groups must be treated differently.

For instance, the younger colleagues are technology accommodative while the older generation is technology averse.

Important breaking news may have to be communicated verbally and explained inch by inch to the older folks, they prefer a more personal approach. So treat them that way, and you are bound to get more recognition and acceptance that way.

You would do yourself a favour if you take time to listen to your employees. One-on-one meetings are helpful in reading characters and personalities.

The biggest mistake a new manager can make is ordering people around unnecessarily especially those that are older than the new manager.

You may also be prone to young managers’ “jokes”. These should not deflate you, they are a point of reference for you to achieve even better than your older manager colleagues.

I totally believe in the notion that having the talent and skill and a desire to accomplish your goals can make you a success regardless of your age.

Our labour laws in Zimbabwe are against discrimination of employees regardless of age, colour, race, tribe, religion but it is easy for a lawyer to argue out a case against a more elderly worker who has failed to perform his duty.

I remember a friend who once told me that a certain troublesome worker had his contract cancelled on the grounds he was too old to drive public transport vehicles.

It was not going to be easy to let go of that worker had he been a bit younger. I am yet to come across hard-core empirical evidence that directly contributes to a young versus older employees that are rather slow in accomplishing work-related tasks.

The dynamics of older workers that forget to do their specific tasks come into play. How would you then evaluate a older employee that is deemed to be incompetent compared to a younger employee that is equally incompetent, do they even behave the same when their weakness is pointed out to them?

So what type of a manager is more respected outwardly and commands more respect in your organisation, a younger manager or the elderly manager?

How then would you rate individuals like Mark Zuckerburg, the founder or Facebook? In this regard the most important question is does age really matter?

Till next week, may God richly bless you!

Shelter Chieza is a Management Consultant. She can be contacted at shelter.chieza@gmail.com

Source : The Herald