Q. I was recently put in charge of a team of four, all older than I am. While I am well qualified and well prepared for this role, my socialisation demands that I respect my elders always. I have not had any conflict yet, but to be forewarned is to be forearmed. How do I ensure that I exude authority and also show deference to these individuals?
I am glad you were socialised to be respectful. I am also certain that as you found your way and dealt with different situations, you got to know the difference between submission and respect to authority.
While this work situation is a first for you, you are surrounded by others who have been in similar situations and have excelled. Do not let your anticipation of the worst case situation weigh you down therefore.
We have been taught that respect is earned, and if there is one place where this statement applies totally, it is at the work place.
Winning the respect of these oldies, therefore, is your ticket to earning their unwavering support, and a ticket to a successful career.
I will give you some tips on how to earn their respect. Firstly, be mindful of how you communicate with them. Be respectful, use the right tone and avoid threats.
If using their first name feels disrespectful, be formal when you address them until they relax and allow you to be on first-name basis with them.
In doing this, ensure that they do not patronise you by calling you son or boy. Should this happen, correct them firmly and respectfully state how you would like them to address you.
Encourage openness in your interaction, stop by their work station to follow up on work-related issues or chat and encourage them to drop in at your office whenever they need to.
I have seen situations where the boss often stops by specific employees’ desks, which makes the rest misconstrue the gesture and feel more important than their counterparts. Avoid this.
In a nutshell, you have earned the right to be appointed to this position, but while this is important, be sure to demonstrate maturity as you provide guidance and make key decisions.
If they see you as a person they can learn from, they will certainly respect you, and be more willing to share ideas and suggest improvements within your department.
Do you have a question? Send it to our team: [email protected]