Who’s the boss? One third of U.S. workers have a younger manager, CareerBuilder survey finds

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The corner office may now belong to somebody younger than you, according to a new CareerBuilder survey. One third (34 percent) of U.S. workers say their boss is younger than they are and 15 percent say they work for someone who is at least ten years younger, noting a shift in the correlation between seniority and leadership.

“Age disparities in the office are perhaps more diverse now than they’ve ever been. It’s not uncommon to see 30-year-olds managing 50-year-olds or 65-year-olds mentoring 22-year-olds,” says Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. “While the tenants of successful management are consistent across generations, there are subtle differences in work habits and views that all workers must empathize with when working with or managing someone who’s much different in age.”

The changing face of leadership has brought other changes to the workplace, most notably a difference in work styles, communication and changing jobs. Managers and workers ages 25-34 and managers and workers 55 and older were surveyed, and while there may be distinctions between these age groups in how they approach their work, most workers said it isn’t difficult to work for a younger boss. Do you fit in with your age group or is age just a number?

Workdays and work styles
Younger workers (ages 25-34) are more likely to have shorter workdays in the office, according to the survey, but tend to be more open to working from home, when compared to workers ages 55+.

A snapshot of a younger worker’s day looks something like:

  • Works eight hours or less per day (64 percent compared to 58 percent of workers ages 55+)
  • Arrives later than 8 a.m. and leaves later than 5:00 p.m.
  • More likely than workers ages 55+ to work after leaving the office (69 percent versus 62 percent, respectively)
  • Believes arriving on time doesn’t matter as long as work gets done (29 percent versus 20 percent of older workers believing this)

Workers ages 55+ have a more direct approach to working on projects than their younger counterparts:

  • 66 percent of workers ages 55+ prefer to skip the process and dive right into executing workplace projects, compared to 52 percent of workers ages 25-34
  • Only 35 percent of workers ages 55+ like to write out a detailed game plan before acting, compared to 48 percent of workers ages 25-34

Communication preferences
Although technology tends to create a divide among older and younger generations, it’s a mutually agreed-upon area in the workplace. When asked how workers most like to communicate while on the job, the survey found:

  • 60 percent of workers ages 55+ prefer face-to-face communication, compared to 55 percent of workers ages 25-34
  • When it comes to email/text, 35 percent of younger workers prefer this method, compared to 28 percent of older workers
  • Talking on the phone is the least appealing option to both groups of workers, as only 12 percent of older workers and 10 percent of younger workers chose this as a preferable method of communication at work

Time and careers
Perhaps an indicator of why a growing number of bosses are younger than some of the employees they manage, younger workers tend to view their career path through opportunistic eyes, intent of moving at a quick pace:

  • Workers ages 55+ tended to believe that you should stay in a job for at least three years (62 percent compared to just 53 percent of workers ages 25-34)
  • In contract, the younger group of workers surveyed believe you should be promoted every two to three years if you’re doing a good job (61 percent versus 43 percent of older workers)
  • 47 percent of workers ages 25-34 believe you should stay in a job until you learn enough to move ahead, compared to 38 percent of workers ages 55+

However, the one time factor both older and younger workers see eye-to-eye on, with 60 percent of both groups agreeing, is the preference to eat alone during lunch hour, as opposed to dining with their co-workers.

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