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How a Young Boss Survives 'Abusive Senior Employees'

A Millennial supervisor fires back about recalcitrant older workers after reading a Next Avenue article on young, abusive bosses

By Phyllis Weiss Haserot

This article previously appeared on the blog Next Generation-Next Destination.
A few months ago, Next Avenue asked me to write an article advising older employees “How to Survive a Young, Abusive Boss.” After it was published, a Millennial/Gen Y boss named Ziad Taha sent me the following email about his situation, which was exactly the reverse. In essence, Taha said he had to survive older, abusive employees. Here’s the cautionary tale that he wrote, followed by my thoughts about it:

Hi Phyllis,

What an amazing article — I just had to stop and read it even though I am slammed with work. Your article somehow represented my case, but the opposite.

I am a young professional employee for a Spanish media company, Newspan Media Corp. I have been working with them since I was 16; I’m now 28. I have held many positions with the company, moving up along the way.

Tussling With Older Employees

I was promoted to a vice president position last August and since then have faced many difficulties with the senior employees. When I was appointed to the VP job, I wanted to make all the changes necessary to catch up with the social media revolution and transform the company to digital.

(MORE: Boomers: America’s Least Engaged Employees)

By implementing changes, I forgot that most of the employees have been with the company since the '80s and '90s and were not knowledgeable about this new world. I did not want to let go of employees and hire new blood because, honestly, senior employees have taught me a lot through the years I have been working for this company and were family to me.

Refusing to Take Their Young Boss Seriously

I began offering them classes to learn the Mac and software, but they found it hard to take me seriously and didn't attend the classes.

I called a meeting and informed them that Newspan Media was my full responsibility and my vision to take this company to a different level was possible. I laid out my goals for the end of the year. As of this April, things had not been moving as fast as I had scheduled them and the senior employees continued not taking me seriously.

I came to the conclusion that it was necessary to hire new graduates well-versed in the way the media operates today and that I could not afford to keep paying those huge salaries to the old employees.

(MORE: How Boomers Can Prove Their Value at Work)

A Dramatic Management Move

I did a full evaluation of the company, interviewed all the staff and questioned each of them about their daily activity. After a long week of headaches. I had to fire 13 senior employees who could not accept the fact that I am their manager.

I had given them the chance to better themselves and take the company to a different level, but they could not fathom that Ziad, the one-time maintenance kid, was now their boss.


How Staffers Respond Now

Since taking this action, everyone at the office now obeys all the orders I give them.

I have hired 22 new graduates who are doing an amazing job. The company is moving forward and our third quarter is looking amazing.

I just wish the older employees had worked with me instead of against me. They made my life so stressful for a while and now they don’t have jobs.

I hope you write an article based on the above and name it “How a Young Boss Survives Abusive Senior Employees.” I hope you enjoy my story as much as I enjoyed yours.

Ziad Taha 

My Takeaway for Boomers

Evidence of real "abuse" (a strong word) by either younger or older bosses is relatively rare, but tensions over resistance to and fear of change, as well as a lack of respect for people of one generation by another, unfortunately are not.

Disrespectful behavior should never be acceptable in the workplace. When we work with multi-generational organizations to create awareness and understanding of what's behind the behavior, positive change and greater productivity occurs.

Ziad Taha seems to have tried whatever he knew to improve the situation in his company before firing his older colleagues, and therefore I thought his story deserved to be told. Emotions are very personal, and he felt "abused," whether or not that was the intent of his older colleagues.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot, a passionate champion of cross-generational conversation and President of Practice Development Counsel, helps organizations and individuals solve inter-generational challenges among work colleagues and with clients to achieve enviable productivity, knowledge transfer, engagement, retention, succession planning and business development results. Reach her at [email protected] and Read More
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