Young Workers: How To Gain Respect Of Older Co-Workers

Do you sometimes feel like your older co-worker is treating you like a child? Or worse, meddling into your work like some pesky parent with an “I’ve always done it this way” attitude? Remember these quick tips to set things straight. Related: 5 Ways To Build Relationships With Colleagues

Determine If It's An Underlying Issue

Is it really age that’s driving the wedge, or could there be an over-bearing personality in your mix? Be certain that you’ve correctly identified the problem. And make sure the problem isn’t yours. Age excuses (whether “I’m too young” or “I’m too old”) are often masks for underlying insecurities. Age bears little relevance to a person’s intelligence, creativity, or work ethic. Look around and you’ll find exceptions to any unspoken age rule.

Try Influence On For Size

You’ve identified a problem. Now, do you envision as your desired result? Since eliminating the co-worker from your day-to-day activities is not likely an option, what would be a fair-game suggestion? For example, you may picture your senior co-worker responding respectfully to you during meetings. Or maybe you’d like to see fewer interruptions from her. Influence doesn’t work unless you have a desired outcome in mind. Only then can you use the power of influence to help this co-worker arrive at the same outcome you’ve already thought of. Here’s how it can work. Ask questions, sincerely listen, and respond with empathy. Then, craft your responses in a way that prompts the other person to feel the same way you do. People are much more likely to stick to ideas that they helped come up with. Example Dialogue: You: What do you think about those new report requirements? Co-worker: I can’t believe they are changing the process again! I just got used to the old way. You: I don’t know about you, but I feel overwhelmed sometimes with the fast pace here. I wish there was a way I could have 30 minutes of uninterrupted time every morning just to catch up and get organized. Co-worker (in a snide voice): Yeah, in an ideal world… Besides, that would mean you’d actually have to arrive on time for a change. You: What if I did? Maybe we can make a little bet. If I come in 30 minutes early, would you mind if I kept my door closed (or listened to headphones while I worked uninterrupted) for the first 30 minutes of my day? Co-worker: Sure, you’re on.

Isolate The Incident

Never confront someone publicly… if you want to win her over. Their focus is now on preserving their ego rather than solving the problem. If it’s time to have a talk, do it alone, one-on-one without distractions. Treat the problem with seriousness and respect, and you’ll be more likely to be treated respectfully in return.

It’s All About Delivery

Consider the power of confidence.
“You wouldn't worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt
If your demeanor in during interaction with a co-worker exudes paranoia, lack of self-confidence, or even cynicism, you’ve already weakened your position before your first word gets out. Make your presence at work more respect-worthy. Are your contributions in meetings insightful, intelligent, well-prepped? Do you engage co-workers in a productive manner with a positive attitude? These characteristics make employees stand out. In fact, they scream “management potential.” But if you’re hanging with the naysayers, going with the crowd, your senior co-worker will notice that, too. She may even be waiting in the wings for someone braver to step out and be different.

Remember—It’s Just Business

Do what you need to do to get the job done right. If your situation requires a conversation with another individual, do it now. Don’t delay. Be part of the team, but don’t try to win the popularity contest. At Neumann Realty Corp., I work in a market in which 95% or more of my customers are my senior in age, wisdom, and experience. Many have years of real estate investment experience and many run large corporations or successful businesses. Yet my 30-something-husband and I offer weighty financial and real estate advice to these seniors every day. In fact, our senior customers rely on our youthful energy and quick insight into our market to aid them in decision-making. Use your age to its advantage, and don’t be too proud to hear the advice of your older (or younger) colleague. This post was originally published on an earlier date.

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