Role reversal

When young managers join the leadership ranks, they often find themselves dealing with entrenched workers old enough to be their parents
By Jane Hawkrigg
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 03/14/2006

An axiom of business has been that authority comes with age. But that is changing, and it’s not unusual to see young people joining the leadership ranks and supervising people who in some cases may have been born decades before them.

Picture an up-and-coming leader at a typical organization. She’s finally been given the opportunity she’s been waiting for, one the recruiters talked about when they hired her straight out of school. In five years with the company, she’s been on the fast track, taking on a variety of increasingly challenging assignments. The big promotion follows, and when she meets with her new team of direct reports for the first time she discovers most of them have been with the company longer than her and half of them are as old as her parents.

Suddenly, she’s faced with a leadership challenge she hadn’t really considered before: How can she establish mutual trust and respect and get the team to take her seriously? These are critical, sometimes difficult, questions for a new leader.