Ask Aubrey: Behavior of the Ages

A blogger up for a new postition recently posed this question to Aubrey:  

"How would you advise approaching and managing a new staff that could possibly be older than you?" 

Aubrey's Answer

My advice on your question is:

  1. You don't manage people older than you any different than people younger than you. If you know the positive reinforcers for each employee and are able to deliver them contingently, age is irrelevant. The kinds of reinforcers that are effective for older people are often different than younger ones but not necessarily. Of course that is true of all. Every person is unique in that regard.  Read more on finding and creating reinforcers in my book Performance Management.
  2. When I was in the Army, many of the soldiers and most of the sergeants and non-commissioned officers were older than me. After making several mistakes by listening to what turned out to be bad advice, my Captain counseled me that I was chosen to be an officer for a reason. That is, that my training, experience and ability to manage people was better for the job than those that I managed. If you are chosen for the job you need to understand that you have skills, personal and technical, that position you to do the job better than the incumbents. Go with confidence.
  3. One final point. When you go into the job you can position yourself as a positive reinforcer to young and old if you let them teach you something. Let them show you how they do their job and what they are good at doing. Rather than start by telling them how you are going to change things, be a student first.

Posted by Aubrey Daniels, Ph.D.

Aubrey is a thought leader and expert on management, leadership, safety and workplace issues. For the past 40 years, he has been dedicated to helping people and organizations apply the laws of human behavior to optimize performance.