Managing Older Workers

Managing Older Workers

Why don’t you want to manage older workers?

Managing older workers! We hear a lot about the efforts required to get young people into work. And, of course, that is important. But spare a thought for those managing older workersat the other end of the age spectrum. There remain those who dismiss the suggestion of hiring at older without even thinking about why!

There may be lots of reasons given, of course, as to why older workers are not a first choice. For example, employers often quote a lack of mental flexibility and an unwillingness to learn new things. But, those reasons may not be valid for large numbers of older workers. Check out the age profile of those choosing to follow online courses provided by organisations like FutureLearn in the UK. You will be surprised how many are over 60.

Sadly, though, many of those making hiring decisions continue to believe older workers don’t perform as well as those between 25 and 35. In fact 25 to 35 appears to be the new “golden zone” for recruits. Older workers are said to demand higher pay, cost more in terms of resources, resist change and aren’t prepared to fit in with a team. As a result , carefully disguised, age discrimination is widespread.

Managing older workers: does it require a different approach?

Managing older workers does not require a hugely different approach from managing young people. But some younger managers still find the prospect daunting. So they do their best to avoid it. And, the biggest concern employers’ express about hiring older workers is that there will be conflicts when they are managed by younger supervisors. In the US, it is said that an incredible 88 percent of employers worry about hiring older workers because they fear such conflicts.

Managing someone older than you, seems to touch a very raw nerve. And there can be a high level of distrust on either side. So how can managers get the best out of their older workers?

Getting the best out of older workers!

In most circumstances, older workers are just like other workers. They are unlikely to respond well in a command and control culture. Except in an emergency,  most workers don’t respond well to being “given orders”. But, they will respond well to an intelligent and enlightened leadership style. This means communicating clearly about issues and challenges.

Older workers, like others, welcome being involved in decision making and having tasks delegated to them. Give an older worker responsibility and most will give you their all. Older worker will a wealth of experience. Why not give them the chance to share it?

Like others, they will expect you to give them recognition for what they have achieved. But why not reward the wisdom they share with you. If you give your older workers the opportunity, their work and the intellectual capital they bring, will shine for your organisation, just like the grey hair on their heads.

Wendy Smith is a career consultant, life coach and business coach with depth of experience in management, coaching and personal development. That experience means she is equally at home helping clients find a new career direction, starting-up new businesses or dealing with life’s more challenging personal issues. You can contact her at

Wendy has written a little eBook on how to get on with your boss and a book on job search – you can find her books on Amazon at this link


2 thoughts on “Managing Older Workers”

  1. Hi Wendy -I’m actually observing a shift and seeing an increased willingness to consider older candidates. But this depends very much on the individual.

    One of the most important factors for older candidates to take onboard is to make sure they are up to date, not just in terms of general technology, or their own sectors but also in appearance and mindsets.

    Many candidates let themselves down by giving the impression that they are out of touch and inflexible which is usually a deal breaker for younger managers. They fear they will be difficult to manage.

  2. Hi Dorothy – thanks for this. It is very good news that you are seeing a shift. Your advice on keeping up to date is very important – you need to show you will fit in and that you have the skills needed today

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