Managing Upwards and Downwards (In Age) | RefinerLink

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Managing Upwards and Downwards (In Age)

By Steve Pagani

Jul 29, 2013

Tips on managing refinery employees who represent varying age demographics   


Being an oil refinery supervisor is challenging enough, but managing large gaps in age between you and your direct reports can make it even tougher.


Here are a few tips to deal with much younger or much older direct reports.



Being the young supervisor and directing employees that are your senior in age and experience can be quite a challenge.  Gaining the respect of a senior employee and reaching a point where they are open to receiving your feedback can take some time. That is the reason why patience is the key. 


Don’t expect to step right into your position and have the senior members of the group fall right in line behind you. Win their respect with your abilities and don’t just expect it with your title. And winning their respect usually means giving them the respect they deserve.


Gain an understanding for the level of skill the senior members possess. In many cases these people have been doing their job well for years, which may mean your job is to stay out of the way.


Instead of telling them how to do their job, ask them what barriers you can help to eliminate.

Another issue faced by many senior employees is being pigeon holed into a role. They’ve done the same job for 20 years and are competent at it yet not spectacular… and no one feels the need to give them a new opportunity. Many times a new position can prove to be a fresh start and bring new energy to this senior member of the group.


Don’t think that the younger folks are the only ones that need to be exposed to different areas and new things. Many times the new is very necessary for the old.





Having younger direct reports is a different type of challenge but a challenge none the less. Younger members of the group are typically out to prove themselves and looking for greater responsibilities. 


Many supervisors make the mistake of shielding the younger members of the group from the more difficult projects or micro-managing them to ensure success. Yet this can be frustrating for an employee that believes they are capable of more.

So push the younger members of your group into more challenging

situations and wait for them to seek help before rushing in yourself. The additional responsibility and challenge will not only be more rewarding for the younger employees but will also help develop them for the future.


Also be open to new ideas from your younger employees. This is one of the most valuable skills they bring. Don’t shoot holes through these ideas but let your direct report work through the issues and present the benefits and risks. This will not only make the younger members of your team feel valued but the new perspective will often help develop great new ideas.



Understand the strengths and weaknesses of each of your employees regardless of age and use that knowledge to utilize and develop all the members of your group. Remove obstacles for the group and listen to the concerns they raise.  Whether you’re managing upwards or downwards in age, the key is respect.

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