Career & Money

How to Report to a Younger Boss

Dr. Anne Litwin
By Dr. Anne Litwin

I do not feel that my years of experience are valued or respected by my boss or coworkers,” wrote an employee on an employee satisfaction survey that I recently administered for a client.

Most of the employees of this organization are very young, with only a few older workers below the executive level. This comment surprised both me and my client, but I recognized it as a symptom of the generational shift change taking place in the United States.

Joanne Kaufman, writing for the New York Times, reports on a 2014 Harris Interactive survey conducted on behalf of CareerBuilder, a jobrecruitment website, which found that 38 percent of American workers now have a younger boss. Many baby boomers are choosing to stay in the workforce longer, and as large cohorts of millennials and gen Xers—highly valued digital natives—move into leadership positions, Kaufman notes that “the odds are increasing that older workers will be answering to managers young enough to be their children.”

Here are some tips for how to deal with what can be a challenging but valuable relationship in the workplace across generations:

  • Older workers need to recognize that younger bosses have valuable experience that is different than theirs because of technology and other experiences.
  • Younger bosses need to value the experience and reliability that older workers bring.
  • Older workers need to check their parental reflexes to offer advice if it has not been asked for.
  • Older workers need to reign in their reflex to talk about the past in a way that can sound patronizing to younger bosses.
  • Younger bosses need to appreciate both the work ethic and the absence of petty drama that most older workers bring to the workplace.
  • The generational divide is just another diversity issue, and we can all learn to value each other. As with any relationship, it takes two to tango.

What has worked for you?

Photo courtesy of WOCinTech Chat. CC by 2.0

Dr. Anne Litwin
Anne H. Litwin, Ph. D. Consultant, Coach, Trainer, and Author Dr. Anne Litwin has been a consultant, coach, and trainer for more than 30 years in a wide variety of organizations throughout the world, including Africa, China, Myanmar, Russia, Singapore, Europe, Canada and Mexico. Anne served as the CEO of her family business and was past chair of the Board of Directors of the National Training Labs (NTL) Institute.  She specializes in helping organizations leverage diversity, including women’s leadership development, for business success. Dr. Litwin specializes in women’s leadership development as a trainer, coach, researcher, public speaker and author. She develops and delivers women’s leadership development programs for businesses. She also provides executive coaching to help women leaders enhance their capacity by strengthening their interpersonal and strategic skills.  She works with clients to improve their ability to communicate their ideas, to listen, to give and receive feedback, to manage conflict, and to deal effectively with system power dynamics.  Dr. Litwin helps her clients understand how to take diversity and international regional differences into account as managers, colleagues, and with customers. Anne has published the findings of her research on women’s work relationships in a book entitled, New Rules for Women: Revolutionizing the Way Women Work Together, published Fall of 2014 . The findings from Anne’s life-long interest in the unique dynamics among women in a wide range of work environments is at the forefront of unlocking myths about women’s work relationships. Her clients have included:  Alibiba; Aera Energy; Chevron; Analog Devices; Siemens; Hewlett Packard; Microsoft; EDS; Texas Instruments; Hasbro; Parsons; Cummins; Berlex Labs; Lucent Technologies; Verizon; Agilent; EMC; and Pfizer Pharmaceuticals. Anne has a Bachelors degree from the University of Wisconsin, a Masters in Community Psychology from Marist College, and a Masters and PhD in Human and Organizational Systems from Fielding Graduate University.   Dr. Litwin is a qualified user of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Leadership Circle Profile, a certified Organization Workshop trainer, a World Cafe and Future Search facilitator, and a member of the Organization Development Network.  She is co-editor of the book, Managing in the Age of Change, along with numerous articles on gender differences, women’s leadership and consulting in the global context. For more information, please contact Dr. Litwin at:, or call 617-983-0923.  Visit her website at: to learn more about her services.

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