For the next month I'll have someone over twice my age working under me. I'm 19, and I've never had anyone at a lower rank than me, let alone someone I need to train and direct.

These new employees are much more experienced than me, but I have knowledge specific to our site. I'd like to maintain our (hopefully) mutual respect. Any advice?

I live in the US.


I worked my way up to management at my very first job. I was in the very same position you are in now: a young shift manager delegating work to people up to 3 times older than me. It was a challenge.

But not a challenge that cannot be overcome. The important thing for you to do is strike a balance between delegation and seeking respect. Do not think about them being older than you when you ask them to do something, it's their job to follow your direction no matter your age. On the other hand, don't forget to tack on a 'please' before a task or a 'thank you' afterwards.

Show them you are mature through your work ethic and aura. Hold your head high. You were given a position in management because someone thought you are capable of doing so. If somebody doesn't like that because of your age, then let them dislike it, but do not tolerate open and malicious disrespect.

In all likelihood, you won't have any problems. In my 2 years of management, I only had one incident worth mentioning. However, if you ever get to the point where you feel like you aren't getting the respect you deserve, talk to your boss about it. He/She chose you for a reason, they will not throw you out there without any help.

Welcome to management! I wish you the very best of luck.


If not a manager, you will be at least carrying out carrying out management functions throughout your professional life. Managing employees who are far more experienced and skilled than you will be quite normal.

As a manager your job is to give the employees direction and support so that they do their job and they do it in a way that benefits the organization. Make sure that your job is done.

As a manager, you don't need to be the most experienced, most skilled and most competent person in the office. Others who work for you can do that for you. You get respect from them by giving them directions on behalf of the firm, while giving them enough leeway to exercise their skills and competence to maximum effect and giving them the logistical support i.e. making sure that they have the resources they need to do their tasks.

Your subordinates' experience, skills and competence is something you take advantage of and leverage on behalf of the organization through your decision making. It is NOT something that you compete with. Don't be intimidated by your subordinate's age and experience. Work with it. You are not (hopefully) trying to prove that you are more competent at their job than they are, Because even if you were successful at proving it, your success would be pointless.

Finally, as a manager, you gain respects from your superiors by working well with your subordinates and taking well to directions from your higher ups, who (hopefully) want intelligent obedience rather blind obedience from you. How well you work with your superiors has a direct impact on how much respect your subordinates have for you.


So you have a couple of issues to address here.

Dealing with people who are older then you.

The person older then you is going to have more experience (certainly more life experience). They will also have different expectations of what to expect from a manager.

So you need to set the expectation of your experience with them. I would recommend to start off with something like. "I have been in this role for [insert time] so what I am going to show you is more company process and why the company does X a certain way".

Older people may have dealt with different managers, so they expect you to lead rather then come with "I don't know".

There is a quick way to see if this is the case. If the person comes with a problem and expects you to solve it, then they have not had much manager interaction/experience (cover that later).

Example: "I ran the program but it is giving me error XYZ. What do I do?"

On the other hand, if they come to you with a problem and detail what they need to solve it then they have had experience with managers. In this instance you see what resources you can offer to help them. If it is outside your ability to give, point them to their manager.

Example: "I ran the program but it is giving me error XYZ. Can you tell me where I can get the error code list?"

Managing people in a non-management role.

The number one point you have to realise is that you are not their leader, nor manager. You do not have the ability to boss them around. So if a situation arises where rank has to be pulled, you need to refer them to their manager. Don't get involved with it.

You are there to grow their skills in the areas they are not aware of, and focus on that.

Where the person comes to you on how to solve a problem, I would recommend reading up on the GROW model. It is a technique to teach them rather then keep coming back to you like a search engine.

This can be a case of answering their questions with questions that lead to the answers. You get a better understanding of where they are at.


Them: "I ran the program and got error XYZ. What do I do?"

You: "What is the details of that error message in the manual?"

Them: "I don't have a manual".

... So the actual problem is they don't have the manual. Get them the manual. However if you know the answer isn't there, then read the answer with them and then explain how you find more information from there.

The main point is don't just answer their question (even though it is tempting).

Dealing with people with a technical stronger background.

This combined with the others can be the most troublesome. As mentioned earlier you set your expectation of your technical area, so they know where your leadership line ends.

If they start to question why something is done a certain way, avoid "Because it is always that way". Try to explain why that is, or refer them to management or a senior person if it is outside your expertise.

Likewise if they ask numerous technical questions on how the system works vs other systems (technical knowledge). Acknowledge that the question is a good one and that it is outside your area of expertise.

I can't stress enough be honest that is outside of your expertise. I would even go so far as to tell them that what they mentioned is interesting and write it down (to read up on later).

If they continue to interrupt in such a manner, ask them to make a note of the questions and you can find the answers for them offline (if in a training scenario).

The main point is not to get into confrontation with them on technical issue. Instead defer.

  • This seems to answer a different question..
    – enderland
    Jul 20 '14 at 13:24

Mutual trust leads to mutual respect.

Your focus should be less on delegation but more on building trust, less on managing them but more on settings goals which you can achieve together as a team.

As they are more experienced than you , adopting a directive approach could set things off on the wrong foot.

Adopt a more servant leader approach , where you enable them to achieve their goals (since you have authority now) and also train them with the site specific knowledge so that they can grow. They will appreciate that you are not hoarding knowledge.

If they see your actions aligned towards their growth , you will automatically when their trust as a "good boss" and then from their mutual respect will follow.


I would suggest treating them like a normal colleague except in cases where you are specifically asking them to do something or checking progress on tasks you have given them.

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