One-Third of Workers Are Older Than Their Boss

Chicago — Sept. 13

A new generation of professionals entering management means the correlation between seniority and leadership could be disappearing. One-third (34 percent) of U.S. workers say their boss is younger than they are and 15 percent say they work for someone who is at least 10 years younger, according to a new CareerBuilder survey. While most workers said it isn’t difficult to work for a younger boss, differences in work styles, communication and expectations illustrate the changing nature of office life.

The national survey was conducted by Harris Interactive between May 14 and June 4, 2012, among more than 3,800 full-time workers and more than 2,200 hiring managers across industries and functions.

“Age disparities in the office are perhaps more diverse now than they’ve ever been. It’s not uncommon to see 30-year-olds managing 50-year-olds or 65-year-olds mentoring 22-year-olds,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. “While the tenets of successful management are consistent across generations, there are subtle differences in work habits and views that all workers must empathize with when working with or managing someone who’s much different in age.”

Looking at managers and workers ages 25-34 and managers and workers 55 and older, the survey found generational differences in several areas related to communication, work style and career advancement.

Younger workers tend to view a career path with a “seize any opportunity” mindset, while older workers are more likely to place value in loyalty and putting in the years before advancement. Fifty-three percent of young workers said you should stay in a job at least three years, compared to 62 percent of workers 55 and older. Sixty-one percent of younger workers said you should be promoted every two to three years if you’re doing a good job, compared to 43 percent in older workers.

Twenty-nine percent of younger workers said arriving on time doesn’t matter as long as the work gets done, compared to 20 percent of older workers.

Different generations take a much more distinct approach to workplace projects. Younger generations are more likely to want to plan rather than “dive right in” to a new initiative.

However, there is one area where older and younger workers see eye-to-eye: Approximately 60 percent of both groups prefer eating alone during lunch hour, as opposed to dining with their co-workers.

Source: CareerBuilder