Meet the Young(er) Boss ; Older Americans Are Increasingly Likely to Work for Someone Younger - Relationships That Don't Always Run Smoothly

By Marilyn Gardner writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, January 3, 2005 | Go to article overview

Meet the Young(er) Boss ; Older Americans Are Increasingly Likely to Work for Someone Younger - Relationships That Don't Always Run Smoothly


Marilyn Gardner writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


Until recently, Stephen Schechter had spent his 37-year career reporting to bosses older than himself. For six years, he even enjoyed the luxury of answering only to himself as owner of a small public-relations agency. So it came as something of a surprise a year ago when Mr. Schechter accepted a position as vice president of 5W Public Relations in New York.

His new boss, chief executive Ronn Torossian, is young enough to be his son.

"This is dramatic," Schechter says of the role reversal. "It's interesting, exciting, and challenging."

"Steve is older than my mom and my dad," adds Mr. Torossian. "He has a lot of years of experience that I don't have."

Welcome to the 21st century version of the generation gap. As older Americans delay retirement or return to the labor force, lured by the need for a paycheck or the desire for productive activity, they're increasingly likely to work for someone younger. A coming shortage of skilled labor will push employers to hire 5.3 million older workers by 2010 and 14 million by 2020, according to the National Commission for Employment Policy.

Already these new workplace relationships, casting youth and maturity in new roles, are creating a mini-industry of generational researchers and business consultants to help companies manage change. They're even the theme of a new movie, "In Good Company," starring Dennis Quaid as a middle-aged ad executive faced with a new boss nearly half his age.

No one pretends these topsy-turvy arrangements are always easy. Younger bosses may harbor stereotypes that older employees resist change. Older workers may regard their younger superiors as arrogant or less loyal to the company.

For Schechter and Torossian, their 30-year age difference became part of the discussion during Schechter's job interview. "He brought it up," says Torossian, who considers Schechter's age an advantage. "As a young entrepreneur, I need to have smart, successful people around me who can give a variety of insights regardless of their age."

Schechter says his initial challenges included learning to work within the boundaries Torossian has set for the agency and the staff, and being able to fit in with young colleagues. "I'm learning a lot from him and from the younger people here," he adds. "If anything, it's really energized me and made me feel younger."

Not everyone has such smooth sailing. Rose Jonas, an organizational consultant in St. Louis, is working with two female clients - a 26-year-old boss and her 52-year-old subordinate. "The younger one doesn't know how to manage, and the executive assistant has an MBA and an attitude about taking work from a younger person." Both women are good at their jobs.

Ms. Jonas is trying to teach the manager to be less rigidly authoritative. Even so, she thinks the older woman will eventually leave, "blaming all the way."

To prevent such situations, consultants emphasize the need to understand each age group: the Generation Xers, born between 1965 and 1981, who are now managers, and the baby boomers, born from 1946 to 1964, who work for them.

"Each generation experienced very different formative years, and as a result brings very different values to the American workplace," says Chuck Underwood, president of The Generational Imperative, business consultants in Cincinnati.

Baby boomers, Mr. Underwood notes, are a generation that has defined itself by work. "They made the 60-hour workweek normal," he says. "They took work calls at home and worked on weekends."

In sharp contrast, he continues, Generation X has grown up with a distrust of big business, big government, and older people in general. "Many Xers in their childhood saw their workaholic parents suffer from fatigue, illness, substance abuse, and divorce. So Xers entered their career years less loyal to the company and more determined to work a reasonable workday and leave the office sharply at 5.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Meet the Young(er) Boss ; Older Americans Are Increasingly Likely to Work for Someone Younger - Relationships That Don't Always Run Smoothly
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.