Tips to help new manager, younger than employees, to establish him/herself in the leader role

Dear Joan:

I am a 21-year-old chemist; a fresh graduate from a reputable university in the Philippines with no experience in my field.

I had an on-the-job training experience before in a pharmaceutical laboratory but that is quite different from where I am working right now. I am working in a Testing Laboratory for construction materials here in Dubai, UAE. I am a Filipino; just arrived here in Dubai four months ago. I started working as a chemist and then after two-and-a-half months, I was promoted as the technical supervisor in our company. That's where the problem started.

I have to be a boss of more than 30 people who are older than me based on age and experience (in our company). The General Manager of our company believes in me that I can handle this and she believes in my skills.

Talking about work, I think I can handle that because I can cope easily with a job that is given to me. But I think I will have problems with the relationship with my staff. Can you advise me on that? Or can you provide some articles that I can read to inspire me or at least advise me how to deal with them?


Your manager believes in you and she wouldn’t put you in a leadership position if she didn’t think you could handle it. As a younger manager, you will be faced with skepticism—they’ve been in the workplace longer, been in their field longer, and have more life experience than you. But if they were qualified to lead this group, I’m sure one of them would have been selected. Instead you were chosen—don’t forget that—it will help you when you second-guess yourself.

Here are some suggestions that might help you establish yourself in the leader role:

  • Acknowledge their expertise and experience. Since they have been on the job longer, you will win them over if you give them credit for the experience and knowledge they have. If you push your own ideas too quickly, they will bristle: “What does she know?” Don’t be afraid to say, “Tom what do you think? You have a lot of experience in this area.” Introduce changes only after you have built some rapport and trust; take a learning stance first.
  • Assert yourself when it comes to setting a direction, guiding and offering opinions on their work, accepting no less than good quality. Don’t let them intimidate you when it comes to setting high standards and giving them feedback on their work. When ever possible be sure to praise their efforts, but don’t shy away from coaching them, too.
  • Don’t try to micromanage them, unless someone is a poor performer. Nothing will irritate a seasoned professional faster than micromanaging. Give them enough room to complete the job in their own way—as long as they reach the desired outcome.
  • Share praise and give them visibility with upper management. Some of them may feel bitter that they didn’t get your job or that they were bypassed by a young woman. If you share credit with them and give them plenty of exposure to people above them, they will not feel cut off.
  • Preserve their ego and self-esteem. Imagine if you were working somewhere for years, toiling away, thinking you were doing a good job, hopeful that you will get promoted one day. Then a young college grad swoops in and takes the job you wanted. Your ego would be bruised—“What did I do wrong?” “What does she have that I don’t have?” It’s human nature to find fault with you, rather than be introspective about what they might be lacking. Tread lightly and give them credit and recognize their value.
  • Keep them challenged. Morale may take a nose dive if a few of them wanted your job. The best way to keep them motivated is with challenging work that suits their strengths and feeds the need to add value.
  • Don’t let anyone walk on you. Insist on respectful treatment as the leader. If someone gets insubordinate—makes snide comments, ignores your requests, talks behind your back—nip it fast. Do it privately but have a heart-to-heart conversation. “It appears you may not like the fact that I am your manager but we have to work together as professionals. I need you to come half way and give me a chance. These comments reflect badly on you and make you look bitter and unprofessional. Do I have your agreement that they will stop?”
  • If someone wanted your job, have a heart-to-heart with that person and offer to help that person grow in their position and even qualify for other opportunities.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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