Dear Rachel,

I just started a new job that I am very excited about. I am the executive manager of a very talented team of accountants. However, I am significantly younger than a lot of my co-workers and those I am directing. In most cases I am young enough to be their daughter! I am not uncomfortable about it, but it clearly seems that they are. Is there anything I can do?


Dear TC,

It must be hard walking into a work environment where you are trying to direct people who are the age of your parents. And understandably, people may be uncomfortable having someone their daughter's age telling them what to do.

Since you are new in this position, it is clear that the problem is not with you personally, but with your age. The advantage to this, is that if they can be swayed to like you as a person, then your youth might actually prove to be an advantage.

What is vital, however, is that you make it clear through your actions that you do not look down upon them for being older than you or feel that you are in any way better than them. Clearly you have the credentials, experience and knowledge to be in a position of management with them, but a true manager is one who works with his or her employees and not apart from them.

The Torah teaches us that the highest position is that of the king. And yet, the king is also considered to be the greatest servant. How can one be both ruler and servant at the same time? Because the true ruler is the one who aims to serve his constituency, to provide for them, to ensure that their needs are taken care of. So in truth, the greatest leader is the most humble of all.

The primary example of this is Moses who was the greatest leader of the Jewish people, yet who was known for his humility. It was his humility that gave him the clarity and ability to listen to G‑d and to transmit His messages to the Jewish people.

So, how does this apply to your job? You have a responsibility to make sure, as a manager, that your employees are happy and thriving. If you put your attention on their needs and work with them to make them better at what they do, they will come to respect you and feel satisfied in their work. Ensure that you find their strengths and guide them rather than making demands of them. The more you can work with them as a team, the more your entire team will thrive and move forward.

Additionally, there is no question that their age and experience have taught them things that you could benefit from. Having someone younger than them might be making them feel insecure, replaceable, unaccomplished. The more you can encourage them to share with you their ideas, their knowledge and their suggestions, the more they will realize that not only can they learn from you but they have something they can teach you as well.

This is why we learn from the Talmud (Taanis 7a, Makos 10a) that as much as we learn from our teachers, we learn the most from our students. Allow those you manage to feel that they having something valuable to add and to give to your projects.

I am confident that with the right attitude and concern, that not only will you succeed in your new position, but that your entire team will as well…because of you!