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Younger Bosses: The New Normal?

A new CareerBuilder survey examines age disparity in the workplace.

Along with cubicles, screaming bosses and the boundary between home and the office, here’s one more thing to add to the list of things disappearing from the workplace: the correlation between seniority and leadership. According to the latest CareerBuilder survey, it’s becoming more and more common for younger workers to manage older workers.

More than 3,800 full-time workers and more than 2,200 hiring managers nationwide participated in the survey, which found that one third (34 percent) of U.S. workers say they have a younger boss, and 15 percent work for someone at least 10 years younger.

“Age disparities in the office are perhaps more diverse now than they’ve ever been,” says CareerBuilder’s Vice President of Human Resources, Rosemary Haefner, in a statement for the press release. “It’s not uncommon to see 30-year-olds managing 50-year-olds or 65-year-olds mentoring 22-year-olds.”

The survey broke down the age groups of participants into two groups: ages 25 to 34 and ages 55 and older. Among these two age groups, the survey found generational differences in several areas related to communication, work style and career advancement; however, the differences were not as drastic as one might expect. Here’s a breakdown of the key findings:

Younger workers are more favorable toward email/texts: While both age groups prefer face-to-face communication over all other forms, younger workers are more likely to favor email/texting as a form of communication than older workers (35 percent versus 28 percent, respectively). Phone was lowest on the list for both groups as well.

Younger workers are more likely to “seize the opportunity”: Perhaps not surprisingly, younger workers indicated a desire to move upward and onward more quickly than older workers. Sixty-two percent of older workers believe one should stay in a job for at least three years, but fewer younger workers (53 percent) believe the same. And while 61 percent of younger workers believe they deserve a promotion every two to three years (provided they earn it), only 43 percent say the same.

Younger workers are less likely to adhere to traditional 9-to-5: While younger workers are less likely to arrive by 8 a.m., they’re also less likely to leave by 5 p.m., and also tend to take work home with them more frequently than older workers. Younger workers are more open to flexible work schedules than their older counterparts, with 29 percent of younger workers saying that adhering to the office schedule is less important than getting your work done. Only 20 percent of older workers said the same.

Younger workers are more likely to be planners: According to the survey, younger generations focus more on the planning process than older generations. Sixty-six percent of older workers say they like to “skip the process and dive right into executing,” while only 52 percent of younger workers said the same. Nearly half (48 percent) of younger workers will write out a detailed action plan before beginning a project, while only 35 percent of older workers will do the same.

Does anything in these results surprise you? Tell us in the comments below.

Mary Lorenz

About Mary Lorenz

Mary is a copywriter for CareerBuilder, specializing in B2B marketing and corporate recruiting best practices and social media. In addition to creating copy for corporate advertising and marketing campaigns, she researches and writes about employee attraction, engagement and retention. Whenever possible, she makes references to pop culture. Sometimes, those references are even relevant. A New Orleans native, Mary now lives in Chicago, right down the street from the best sushi place in the city. It's awesome.
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