Office Hours: The Best Way to Handle Your Boss's Inexperience

Women in the Workplace

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Welcome to Office Hours. We're so glad you dropped by. This new column is an initiative of The Fine Line and Fairygodboss created to address the career questions of women 40 and older. The Fine Line is a lifestyle publication that provides cutting-edge guidance and practical resources for women who are redefining what it means to grow older.
Each month, a Fairygodboss expert will answer a question from one of our readers. If you have a question about finding a job, starting a new career, or an issue in the workplace, please write us at [email protected].

Q: Help! My new boss is half my age. What’s the best way to handle her inexperience?

A: For starters, it’s important to understand how and why she got the job in the first place. Before you’re quick to judge her because of her age or her youthful appearance, do a little research on her background. Find out where she went to school, what she studied, and where she's previously worked and in what roles.
It’s also important to acknowledge the way the age gap makes you feel and then ask yourself why it makes you feel that way. Is your new boss in a position you hoped to fill? Are you afraid she doesn’t have the experience to lead well? Are you worried about her priorities? Or are you just personally annoyed that she's younger than you are? Once you know why something is bothering you, you can better cope with it. If she's in a role you wanted, for example, you might consider looking for a new job if there’s no more upward movement for you at your current company. If you’re worried about their priorities, you might keep tabs on how she's prioritizing and, if she seems off, meet with her to work out a common vision, as you would with any boss.
More than 50 percent of all hiring managers are under 35, and they’re hiring people based on their experiences more so than older hiring managers. In a recent survey, Fairygodboss looked at how hiring professionals — both millennials and older employees — perceive female job seekers and found that 58 percent of respondents (comprising internal HR professionals, internal recruiters, hiring managers, external HR consultants, third-party recruiters, and staffing professionals) were under 35 years old. Those under 35 were more likely to hire women of heavier weights, women with tattoos, and much older women than older recruiters, largely because they focus on experience and don’t discriminate as much. This means that your new boss, despite her age, could very well have been recruited for the right reasons.
If you have a legitimate reason to think that she hasn't been hired because she's well-qualified and awesome, you might begin to question the company culture and values. Do they still align with your own? If not, is it time for you to move on?
Before you make any drastic changes in your own career, however, try working with your boss for a while. Try talking to your boss about how she works best — by phone, email, text, in-person meetings, etc. Set expectations as you would with any boss, regardless of age. Hold meetings with your boss if goals seem to get lost or communication seems to be ineffective. And, most importantly, keep an open mind.
If you missed The Fine Line's profile on Fairygodboss co-founder Romy Newman, read it here.