6 tips on being appreciated as an older woman with a younger boss

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Anna Letitia Cook

Energising International Executives for more successful, productive, fulfilling leadership
International Executive and Holistic Success Coach | Author | Podcast Presenter | 30+ years working internationally

6 tips on how to be appreciated as an older woman with a younger boss

When you are older, a woman, surrounded by younger colleagues, with a new and much younger CEO/director/manager, the idea of how to be respected and appreciated can be daunting — but it doesn’t need to be!

OK, you will always get some people who are negative and difficult, but that is true in any situation and at any level. Most younger people will be delighted to work with you and will come to you for support and encouragement if you have the right attitude!

A younger person, newly promoted, is often nervous, insecure and stressed about their ability to perform well, so offer to help/support them, but tactfully and with a gentle friendly approach — not like some old dragon

Often as an older woman, if we are unsure or concerned about a situation, we come across as a dragon. It is unintentional, but we need to be very aware of how we are projecting ourselves. Treat them with respect, as they should you.

They don’t have to do what you say, but at least they might listen to your ideas, appreciate you for your support and experience and then make their own informed decision.

Here are some tips that will help smooth that path:

1. Show the younger person/people that you value their knowledge, skills and their new, modern, progressive approach. Make them feel that you regard them as a real asset for helping your, and any other older team members’, progress. Make sure they know you appreciate them for showing you new skills and ways of doing things. DON’T fake it — be genuine! A younger person can help you as much as you can help them — it works both ways…

2. Understand and accept graciously that you aren’t always right, your way is not the only way or the best way. 20 or 30 years ago you probably knew the most innovative way, had the latest skills, the spark, the drive, but when we do anything for a long time, irrespective of promotions, we get set in our ways, which as well as not always being productive can also make our work boring — even in our own eyes. Have you considered that? Maybe you find your job hasn’t that same interest as before, it could be that changing you way of doing something will fix that! Seeing something through a fresh, young set of eyes can rejuvenate your interest and energise your creativity!

3. Take the time to really get to know the new young leader/team members, have a friendly and casual private talk with each new person, (remember, leave the dragon attitude outside!). Go through their career, their interests, their hopes, their objectives. Understand their views on leadership, management, teamwork, etc as from this you should:

     a) be able to see where you may have problems or lack skills in their eyes

     b) see where your experience could be of help and support to them personally

     c) see if they are negative, positive or neutral regarding age/working with older people

     d) see how your experience and expertise can benefit the whole team/project/company

     e) see how to get them on your side/support.

⇒ Don’t hesitate to ask them for help/advice — after all they have probably learnt the ‘new’ way of doing things, be it software, or the latest thinking on business skills, management, leadership… You might feel stressed because you don’t know or understand something, but keeping it a deep secret will only make you look stupid and create a rift in the smooth running of the team/project. You will gain respect and support by admitting if you don’t know something, or if you find a new skill difficult to pick up — and they will be happy to help. Accept their help with warmth and friendliness. Appreciate youth and energy!

⇒ Make sure you fully understand their objectives with the team/project. Don’t try and make yourself appear to be what you are not, or have more experience than you actually have, it doesn’t work and all you do is lose respect and make yourself look stupid. Equally don’t hesitate to speak up and be an active participant in discussions and meetings if you have ideas to contribute. Don’t forget you have seen a lot in your years at work, and you might very well be able to repackage some of your experience creatively and productively to suit their needs and vision.

⇒ For the first few months at least take this opportunity to review your way of working, to learn new tips and skills and to have fun getting to know your younger boss/colleagues and their way of thinking. If you feel you have been passed over for promotion, or ignored, this is a particularly useful exercise to learn why it is a younger person who got the position, what different skills or attitude they have and how you can refresh your image to make yourself more promotion-attractive next time round.

As an older woman you have a different vision than that of an older man. You have probably had to be creative in the successful organisation of your career/family life which gives you the advantage of seeing different solutions to potential problems. Women tend to see/consider all aspects of a situation before they act which can give a more objective overview. This can be very helpful to younger leaders, managers and colleagues.

Don’t think you haven’t got what it takes, you have great experience to draw on and women typically are versatile in their thoughts. So, bring your ideas from all areas of your life, adapt them to this professional context and be ready to offer as much constructive input as possible.

Embrace the challenge with energy, enthusiasm and clear focus. If you do it well, not only will you enjoy it, but you can also develop a position of respect and appreciation which could lead you into mentoring/advising younger people in the company. Being an older woman working with a younger leader/manager/team can be an incredibly rich and rewarding experience.

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