Your Crash Course for Surviving in a Workplace Full of Older Adults

by JG White

It would be great if you could land your dream job right out of college and work among people near your age. Though this isn’t usually a realistic expectation, you shouldn’t feel discouraged. You may think you have no hope of getting along with people who are older and who don’t seem to understand your point of view, but there are ways to build positive intergenerational relationships.

Read below to learn a few tricks for holding your own and surviving in a workspace dominated by older individuals. Before long, you may realize your situation isn’t so bad after all.

Be Respectful Of Differing Opinions

When you’re around older adults, they may believe to always be in the right, even if you have evidence to the contrary. In that tricky situation, try hard to be as respectful as possible while explaining your side of things. When you approach a conflict with an open mind rather than refusing to listen — or letting things get out of hand — your older coworker will be more likely to eventually view you as a peer.

Seek Out A Mentor

Starting a new job is tough, but you could make great progress by teaming up with an older adult at the workplace, who can act as a mentor. Recently, some members of senior management at successful companies have partnered with millennials to gain fresh insight for high-profile projects. This technique is known as reciprocal mentoring, and you can look forward to mutual benefits.

Don’t automatically assume that the older person with whom you’re working will heavily rely upon his or her own acquired experiences and think you have nothing to offer. After all, there’s a good chance you can explain the ins and outs of social media or some other aspect of this tech-savvy world in which we live that may have gone over the head of an older person.

Exercise Patience

Perhaps one of the most effective tips you can try is to be patient even when your nerves are frayed and time is running short. Although it’s true that older adults have helped structure many parts of our modern world, most of them don’t understand it and they may be feeling very frustrated.

Something that seems like second nature to you could very well be akin to learning a foreign language for an older adult. Before throwing your hands up in despair the next time an elder at work fails to understand something you’ve already explained, take a deep breath and try to put yourself in the other person’s place.

Be Punctual And Responsible

You may have grown up in an environment in which it was considered permissible, even humorous, to show up to an event “fashionably late.” However, this doesn't hold true at the workplace — you’ll have a hard time gaining respect from older adults if you’re known for being consistently late. It looks undependable.

Try to get in the habit of arriving to work within a time frame that allows you to feel prepared for the day without being rushed. That will go a long way when you’re in the company of older adults, many of whom likely grew up learning that punctuality is a sign of respect.

Be A Self Starter, But Don’t Take On Too Much

Companies usually love it when young employees are energetic and willing to get things done without too much guidance from superiors. If you feel equipped to start a new task at work, don’t feel like you have to wait for someone to give you the go-ahead. On the other hand, don’t become so ambitious that you end up taking on too much work and doing a sub-par job in the process.

Although it can be difficult to communicate with people who are older than you are and remember that those individuals probably experience some of the same challenges when they try to relate to you. With help from these tips, you may find it easier than you imagined not only to fit into the workplace structure, but also to do well while you’re there.

Photo credit: Christos Kalohoridis/USA Network