How to Manage Employees Who Have More Experience Than You

July 11, 2022
How to Manage Employees Who Have More Experience Than You

Managing employees who have more experience than you is quite common, but it’s still challenging. According to the Pew Research Center there are still around 40 million employees from the Baby Boom Generation (those born between 1946 and 1964), while there are around 55 million employees from the Millennial generation (those born between 1980 and 1995). Considering that the entire U.S. workforce is around 160 million people, that means that every 4th employee in the workforce is from the Baby Boom Generation, while every 3rd is from the Millennial generation. As a result, there will be a lot of instances when the manager is someone from the Millennial generation while the team member is from the Baby Boom Generation. Considering there’s a minimum of a 15-year age gap between those generations, there’s also an experience gap. Someone from the Baby Boom Generation has been in the workforce for more than 30 years so they have accrued plenty of work experience. Having employees who are more experienced than you isn’t that uncommon, but it’s still quite challenging. This article will help you deal with that by presenting 8 tips that will help you manage workers who have more years of experience than you.

8 tips for managing employees who have more experience than you

Managing employees who have more experience than you can be challenging, but the following 8 tips will help you make that an easier process:

1. Leave ego to the side

The 1st thing you need to do is leave ego to the side. The team member is more experienced than you and you need to acknowledge and accept that. The faster you do so, the easier the process will be. Leaving ego to the side means understanding that you will need help from the team member and that they know something that you don’t. But that shouldn’t be a problem since you’re both working for the same organization. Your objective is to make the company and your products better instead of competing to see who has more knowledge and experience.

2. Acknowledge that they’re the expert

They will be the expert in a certain field and they will have more experience in that field than you. You should acknowledge that (internally, with your ego) but also externally and publicly to other team members. First of all, this will show humility from your side since other team members will see that you’re not afraid to speak about your shortcomings. Secondly, you won’t hide your lack of knowledge in something so others will speak up when they don’t know something. Last but not least, the team member who is more experienced than you will respect you more since you acknowledged their expertise in front of everyone.

3. Lead by example and with passion

Even though you can’t compete with that team member in knowledge and experience, you can compete with them in hard work and passion. Even though you’re less experienced than some team members, others in the team will still look up to you and copy your behavior. So you should lead by example and work hard (and with a passion) which will indicate to everyone that you’re ready to overcome the experience issue with hard work. This will also help the experienced team member respect you as a leader.

4. Help employees learn and grow

Having mastery over a certain field is a never-ending endeavor. You can get close to knowing everything, but you may never fully get there. So when you’re working with a more experienced team member, find ways to challenge them to grow further. Maybe they’re stuck in a comfort zone of their knowledge and you seem to see a blind spot that they could fix. If you can help them identify this blind spot and push them to overcome it, they will be grateful to you.

5. Ask team members for advice

Since you will be lacking experience in the field, you will need to ask for advice and feedback from team members, especially the ones that have more experience than you. If you have an industry expert in your team, then you should use their knowledge.

Before implementing a change in the process or in the way the team operates, you should ask for advice from a more experienced team member. Maybe they know about similar initiatives from the past and the reason they failed so you can use that knowledge as a learning experience.

6. Behave like a leader and feel confident in your role

Even though there’s a team member in your team who has more experience than you, don’t forget that you got picked for a reason. Don’t become frightened about your role and start behaving like a leader. You’re in this position because someone higher up on the ladder saw your leadership potential and they placed you the role. Think of the experienced team member as an additional challenge for your managerial role and style. Make sure that you treat it as a learning experience. Who knows how many times in your career you will need to lead a member who is more experienced than you?

7. Keep the numbers for goals and KPIs in mind

If you get frightened by the sheer thought that you will need to lead a more experienced team member than you, just remember to keep the numbers in mind. This will pull you from the subjective, fear-induced state into a rational and logical state of mind. Then you will focus on the numbers in front of you. This means that you look at that team member’s objectives, goals, and key performance indicators and rate their effectiveness and productivity according to the numbers, not their years of experience. This will help you stay calm and collected when leading your team members.

8. Focus on the team’s success

The last tip is to focus on the team’s success. When you have an employee who is more experienced than you on the team, you need to remember that they’re only 1 piece of the puzzle — you need all the other team members to help the entire team meet their goals and to positively contribute to the company. The team’s success comes 1st. It's vital to structure the workload and employees to ensure that the entire team succeeds. If the team succeeds, all of the individual members of the team will succeed as well.

Implement these tips to lead team members with ease

Even though managing an employee who is more experienced than you is a challenge, it can still be done if you follow these eight tips. If you need more information on how to lead a more experienced team member, you should first learn how to lead yourself better.

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