How to Survive at Work When You’re Managing Your Gen Y Peers

May 31, 2013 -

Thought “the boss” would be older, grayer and heavier than you? Think again.

It turns out that Gen Yers are increasingly being managed by... each other, according to Manager 3.0: A Millennial's Guide to Rewriting the Rules of Management. This guide explains how the whole world of work is changing as more of us find ourselves managing our peers. But how is this affecting Millennials?

The news is likely to divide employees into two camps. One camp will be uncomfortable at the thought of being managed by someone who’s essentially the same age as them—or even (wait for it) younger. There’s something unnerving about this. Even though older bosses might be the butt of the joke at the water cooler, it’s somehow much easier to accept direction and criticism (constructive or otherwise) from someone who’s considered more “established.”

On the flip side, because you are “peers,” it might be easier to challenge bosses who are your age. Remember the Friends episode where Chandler finds himself ostracized by his former colleagues as soon as he takes over the reins? This is what the old-school thinkers will fear, whether they’re the one in charge or the one taking orders.

Others, however, will celebrate that this surge in younger managers heralds the beginning of a whole new way of working. Brad Karsh and Courtney Templin, authors of Manager 3.0, argue that younger bosses will shake up the traditional working environment in a number of positive ways.

If you think you’re ready for a management position, consider these three key benefits:

Millennial managers encourage collaboration in the workplace

Rather than trying to assert your authority over others, as a young boss, you’re more likely to create a sociable and collaborative relationship in the office and foster a supportive team-playing attitude.

By making the office a fun, engaging and creative place, you’re bound to get better results from everyone. Plus you don’t have to miss out on the after-work drinks for fear of cramping anyone’s style.

Younger managers are likely to support flexible work environments

Just like the rest of Gen Y and your peers, you’ve grown up texting, Tweeting, updating and posting. You’re always plugged in, and you know you’re sometimes more productive at your kitchen table than at the office.

So chances are you’ll be far more open to the idea of staff working from elsewhere and at different times of day. You understand just how important it is for people to work flexibly, which in turn makes employees happier and ultimately more productive.

Gen Y managers embrace new technologies and ways of working

As a Millennial manager, you’re just as up-to-speed with technology as those who work for you. So it’s more likely you’ll be keen to embrace everything from Skype to group texting when it comes to communication in the office. Of course managers and employees need to see each other from time to time, but at least you know there’s no risk of technophobia when you tentatively suggest a video call rather than a lengthy day traveling to and from meetings elsewhere.

In short, younger managers make for a more flexible and creative working life, so embrace the change! Better still, go for positions you might otherwise have thought too senior, because if you can do the job, you deserve the job. Managing others is always going to present a range of challenges, whatever age or stage you’re at, but one thing’s for sure: the face of management is changing. It’s getting younger.

Amy Noble is a freelance writer, copy editor, proofreader and general grammar-obsessive living in London, England.