Learning to adjust to a younger boss

Learning to adjust to a younger boss

CTV.ca News Staff

In Good Company, starring Dennis Quaid and Topher Grace, tells the story of an ad executive who gets demoted in a corporate takeover, then learns that his new boss, Carter, is half his age, a business school prodigy with fresh ideas.

While the storyline is played for laughs, Alan Kearns, the founder of career coaching company CareerJoy, says the movie depicts a trend that’s becoming more commonplace in corporate offices everywhere.

"You’re seeing more and more companies moving towards a model of expertise versus age," he told CTV’s Canada AM.

"More companies are looking at who is the best person versus who has the most experience. That’s the kind of the age we live in. It’s a very competitive marketplace."

David Sugarman was a real life Carter. At 32, he became CEO of Billy Bee Honey Products. He admits it must have been tough for some of his employees who had years more experience to adjust to working under him.

"I was lucky that the people were very accepting of me as the CEO of the company," Sugarman says. He adds that he believes he moved easily into his position because he offered respect to those with more experience.

"The most important thing is you don’t want to minimalize the older people in your company. They’ve obviously been there for a long, long time. They have years of experience.

"The last thing you want to do as a young CEO is make the mistakes they made 10 years ago. You really want to have them in and learn from them. That’s the kind of thing you can’t learn in school."

Kearns says while it may be hurtful to your ego to have a younger superior, there is little point to trying to fight the situation.

"My experience is, you have to accept who your boss is. That’s just a reality. The company’s decided who is going to run the show, and it’s up to you to figure out how to work with that person.

"If you’re an older employee dealing with a younger boss, you need to think about why they’ve assumed their position. They earned that right. And you need to work alongside with them.

"Also, realize that age doesn’t equal wisdom and wisdom doesn’t equal age. Just because you’re older doesn’t necessarily know more and just because you’re young it doesn’t mean necessarily that you know less."

Sugarman says it’s best if everyone shifts their focus from who’s in charge and who’s older than whom, to how to work together to provide what the company needs.

"At the end of the day, everyone’s on the same team. Everyone understands why they’re coming to work."

Sugarman says while assumptions about age and wisdom are changing in North America, there hasn’t been the same shift in other regions, such as Asia.

"When I travel overseas, they’re sort of looking past me, wondering if I’m there to carry the bags or if I’m someone’s son," he laughs