How to Manage Old People

Old people are special. They require special treatment. You should treat them differently than the rest of your employees. They need extra care so they don’t leave. If you don’t cater to them, then you are missing out. Let me list all the ways they are different from the “rest of us” and how you should handle them from this point on…

Huh. Weird to see that spelled out, right? The strange thing for me is to consider how it’s perfectly acceptable to look at young employees and talk all about how they need special care, but it’s somehow taboo to do the complete opposite of that. Let’s cut that out, shall we? It’s annoying and serves no purpose.

People talk about the many, many faults of “Gen Y,” but they seem to forget that it’s not a generation, it’s an age group. All 20 year olds are goofs, whether the year is 1953 or 2013. More on that here.

No, seriously…

On to the real topic of today’s discussion, I was listening to a podcast the other day, and a reader had asked a question about managing new employees. The guy was looking to hire some more senior level employees, and he asked for ideas on how he should hire and manage his older staff when he was only 26 years old himself.

I’ve heard many comments on previous occasions from “experts” on how to manage that type of situation, but the comments from the speaker were the best I’ve heard yet.

His solution?

Hire for coachability.

And that’s it.

It’s not about age or experience. It’s about, as I have said numerous times before, making sure the people have the right attitude. The most experienced software engineer in the world is useless to me if nobody can work with him without having a nervous breakdown.

Let’s make a pact

I’m not interested in talking about generations in the workplace. Trying to lump everyone into one group or another is silly in most cases and illegal in some. People are individual, and each of us has our own strengths, weaknesses, needs, desires, etc.

Let’s talk about culture fit. Let’s talk about coachability. Let’s talk about attitude. When we all learn how to properly screen and hire for those attributes, then we can move on to more useless demographic-focused discussions.

5 thoughts on “How to Manage Old People

  1. Cari

    Thank you! Oh, thank you, thank you. As a Millenial, this is a subject that bothers me to no end. I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve read about the “neediness” and “narcissism” of Gen-Yers, as if we were a single homogeneous mass. No manager worth her salt would look at an employee and think, “I’m going to treat you this way, because you’re a Millenial.” She would think, “I’m going to treat you this way, because you’re Steven, and that’s what you need as an individual.”

  2. Angela

    Excellent post and good timing. This was the topic of discussion at our recent HR team meeting. Being that I am the only one in their 20’s on my team, it was a little ironic that we should be working on “understanding this Gen Y generation.” But when I point this out, the Director says that I am unlike those that are characterized. So why should we bunched in a bucket if there are always exceptions to the rule??

  3. Bea

    It isn’t easy at all, how to handle ’em the right way. And it also depends on their personality. We have to respect their ages and try to understand what they can feel and think about the world surrounding them. They often don’t feel like a member of the society, but our generation has to change that. They are our parents and grandparents and we have to take care about them. We will be old once as well…

  4. Alyson

    This is a great article! Thank you! I am a 25 year old HR manager and one of the youngest employees in the entire company, it is an interesting perspective being on my side of things. :)
    I am always pushing for coachability and culture fit when hiring or promoting employees, for some of the longer term employees here it is a different perspective but one that I can see being very useful in the long run.

    Thank you for writing this!

  5. Kyle Jones

    Ben, Kudos on a great article!

    I agree that it is an age group and not a generation. The specifics of the complaints may differ but the message remains the same from 1700-1800-1900-2000 to 3000 and beyond (if still we be here…well, not US..but people.) Ha ha.

    The older generation will always have issues with the younger and change occurs when the younger creates change.

    It is just important for both age groups to show respect.

Comments are closed.