The High’s and Low’s of Having a Boss that’s Younger than You

Two years ago I was out of work and landed a catering job at the University in town.  It was quite a drop in wage but it was exactly what I needed at the point.  My wife and I had opted for vacational (as opposed to vocational) ministry for the latter half of 2015.  The plus side of this hustle was that I was well versed in setting up and tearing down events.  I’d catered in college but my then boss could have been my mother.  It’d been a few years since then when I discovered that my now boss was a good ten years younger than I!

It had nothing to do with me answering to the opposite sex.  She was very good at what she did and earned every penny of her salary.  The problem was simply that I’d never had to answer to anyone THAT much younger than I was.

What do you do when you’re boss is younger than you?  With many not able to retire as early as they’d like, some are staying in their industry for 10+ years in order to get what they need in order to stop working.  The longer you’re in the work force ensures that somewhere along the way you’ll have an overseer that predates you but this is not bad news.

I remember watching the movie In Good Company, starring Topher Grace from “That 70’s Show” a while back.  in-good-company-movieGrace plays a young entrepreneur who represents the new industry standard.  He is a part of the potential demise of the older one that he replaced played by Dennis Quaid.  There was so much about this movie that I didn’t like at the time and I allowed it to paint a bitter image in my mind toward all younger people in charge.

I had a ways to grow up when I saw that movie the first and only time 10+ years ago.  Mark Twain wisely said:

“Age is like mind over matter.  If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

Having a boss that is younger than you can create a couple of different scenarios based on how you look at it.

  1. Hostility
    This is nothing better than an old fashioned turf war and runs rampant in the workplace.  If you fear that the new kid in the office is your replacement than being a bit unsettled is par for the course but should not be able to pick you off like sniper fire.  If you’ve led with the sword be prepared to die by it.
  2. Hospitality
    On the other hand, this could be a way to provide for you a way to grow.  God forbid that you learn something new from them.  Chances are they are eager to please and willing to share their findings.  For all you know this person may look up to you and may be willing to receive your counsel!  This is to be understood in context of younger coworkers and younger bosses.

I’ve been fortunate to have a boss at my current place of employment that is younger than I am but only in age.  He creates an environment of learning and has wisdom beyond his years.  Having good leaders in our workplaces lends to long seasons of uninterrupted health and vocational prosperity.

The Apostle Paul encouraged the young pastor Timothy, saying:

12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.

What can you do if you have a boss that is younger than you?

Give them a chance.

Maybe your experience hasn’t been the best but that doesn’t mean that it has to stay that way.  In the end, you will only be held accountable for what and who you are and how you respond to others.  If you are one of the lucky ones that actually have a job right now, be thankful.  Give your boss a break and a lot grace like God gives you.  If God waits to exercise judgement until the last day this is our cue to allow things to come full scale in our lives as well.  Maybe God is teaching you something through this dynamic that He wouldn’t be able to in any other way.

When I started catering at Ashland University two years ago I thought that having a boss 10+ years younger was going to be a bigger deal than it actually was.  I gave her a chance and found out that she’d been in my youth group that I led 10+ years prior!  We had great  discussions about people we both knew very well which brought some walls down simply because of establishing common ground.

Don’t forget that your boss is human.  They have a history, a family, hobbies, incredible strengths, weaknesses, and a common interest in the same industry.  Find out what you can about them, not to use it against them at the right moment, but as a fellow coworker and potential friend.

This is also a great way to meet yourself all over again!

Every person you meet has the ability to reveal things about yourself that you’ve either forgotten about or have never known.  Consider this a potential accelerated course in self-awareness.  John Maxwell says:

“Every problem introduces a person to himself.”

It’s as if our inner turmoil has an oily sheen mirror that reflects back to us the contents of the soul’s junk drawer.   Younger boss problems = new personal revelation.

The question is not whether you’re younger boss likes you or has the hearts of everyone else that matters.  It’s the question of whether or not you’re willing to grow and be stretched in a way that you never thought possible.

I’d love to hear about your working situation if it matches the content of this post.  Thanks for reading and don’t forget to subscribe!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s