Why don't you want to manage older workers?

Why don’t you want to manage older workers?

We hear much about the efforts required to get young people into work. And, of course, that is important. But spare a thought for those of us at the other end of the age spectrum.

There may be lots of reasons why older workers are finding it difficult to stay in, and find new opportunities for, work. Lots of those reasons may not be valid for the majority of older workers but they have built up into a prejudice.

Unfortunately, it is true that many who are making hiring decisions believe older workers don’t perform as well as those between 25 and 35 – that seems to be the new “golden zone” for recruits. Older workers are said to demand high pay, cost more in terms of resources, resist change and don’t respond flexibly to fit in with a team. As a result , sometimes carefully disguised, discrimination against older workers is widespread.

Managing an older worker does not require a hugely different approach, to managing a very young person. But some younger managers find the whole prospect daunting – so they do their best to avoid it. 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, does seem to touch a very raw nerve in managers and there seems to be a high level of distrust on either side. So how can managers get the best out of their older workers?

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

They welcome being involved in decision making and having tasks delegated to them. Give an older worker responsibility and most are likely to give you their all and share with you their wealth of experience. So, then they expect you to give them recognition for what they have done, including for the wisdom they share with you. If you give your older workers the opportunity, their work will shine just like the grey hair on their heads.

Wendy Mason is a career coach.  She helps people reach their goals and aspirations, without sacrificing their home and personal life.  Before working as a coach, Wendy had a long career in both the public and private sectors in general management and consultancy as well as spells in HR.  She now divides her time between coaching and writing. You can contact Wendy at wendymason@wisewolfcoaching.com and find out more at http://wisewolfcoaching.com

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2 thoughts on “Why don't you want to manage 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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