Young People: Use This Technique To Teach Your Boss
There are currently five generations in the workplace. Having employees from so many different generations means there are a lot of different perspectives, which can be challenging, but it’s also an opportunity to change the outdated ways workplaces have run for so many years. These varying perspectives can either be a tool to improve retention and increase engagement, or they can be used as a way to stay stuck in thinking that younger employees don’t have anything to add to an established organization.
What Is Reverse Mentoring?
One way companies can address this issue is by creating opportunities for more reverse mentoring. Reverse mentorship is when a junior employee mentors someone who’s a more senior employee. Reverse mentoring first came about in the 1990s when GE’s then CEO Jack Welch recognized he lacked critical technology skills and saw that his younger employees could help him fill in the gaps.
While this mentoring model has been in the workplace for quite some time, it’s more important now than ever before because there are so many generations working today, in addition to the rise in work-from-home and hybrid workplaces. This type of mentoring is critical so that everyone feels like their voice is being heard.
The standard has always been that mentorship is: an older executive giving “hard-earned” advice to the younger employees. This is important and valuable for young people entering the workforce, but it’s not the only way mentoring can prove to be beneficial. Younger employees have a lot to teach their bosses about a wide range of topics, not just about how to use the latest technology.
What Can Young People Learn From Reverse Mentorship?
There are many benefits for young people when they’re allowed to mentor more senior employees. This is a great opportunity for younger employees to show their leadership skills. Being a leader isn’t a title you give someone once they start leading teams. Leadership is more than what you do; it’s how you think about yourself and your role at the company. It’s a skill that needs to be championed at the start of your career.
Just like in the Broadway musical “Hamilton,” everyone wants to be “in the room where it happens.” Reverse mentoring allows younger employees to interact with executives and other more senior employees they would never have gotten the chance to meet otherwise. For anyone new in their career, to have the undivided attention of an executive is a special and unique opportunity. To feel like you bring something to the conversation is the icing on the cake.
What Can Older Generations Learn From Reverse Mentoring?
The benefits are not just for the younger generations; older generations have a chance to learn more about their younger new hires and what skills they can bring to the organization. If you’ve been working in the C suite for a long time, it’s easy to become disconnected from the rest of the company. Having a younger employee share their ideas can spark conversations about opportunities to innovate.
In the age of “quiet quitting,” it’s vital for senior leaders to understand what will help retain and engage their employees long-term. For instance, younger employees have valuable knowledge and perspective on social justice issues and how to support diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
The biggest benefit for both generations is this: empathy. Once you’ve had the chance to sit across from someone that you may or may not have preconceived notions about and really get to know them, empathy is inevitable. At our core, we all just want to be seen and understood by the people in our lives, and being able to have in-depth conversations with someone is a great way to bridge that gap.
How Can Young People Use Reverse Mentorship To Manage Up?
Reverse mentorship can be a great way for anyone, whether you’ve been at your company less than a year or for many years, to manage up. Managing up is a career development term that essentially means as a direct report, you consciously create value for your manager. The manager, in turn, helps their direct report become a better employee and future leader.
Managing up doesn’t mean you’re kissing up or trying to undermine your boss. It means you’re trying to understand your boss better, why they do the things they do and then being a stellar employee. Managing up is embodying the best traits of your boss and applying them to your role so together you can both support each other and make both of your jobs easier.
If you have a healthy and trustworthy manager, managing up is a great tool to use because you’re seen as hard-working, a natural leader, a self-starter, and so many of the other skills needed to set you up for promotions and raises in the future. The best way to start is by getting to know your boss better. Learn their communication style, what motivates them and what they value and don’t value.
Remember, the key to reverse mentoring is understanding so we can all better understand each other. In the short term, it will make your working relationship easier and more effective. In the long term, it sets you up for success because you’ve already earned your manager’s respect and confidence in you and your abilities.
If you have a manager that you don’t get along with or you’re not 100% sure you can trust them and their intentions, you can still practice managing up. If you start to understand what motivates your manager and practice empathy, you’ll learn how to best communicate with them so you’ll know what to say to get them to really listen to you.
Your manager has some good qualities, so focus on those and find workarounds for their weaknesses. You don’t need to point out or be a party to your bad manager failing because you’re a part of their team, so it may blow back on you. Take the high road, and instead of getting angry or anxious about their lack of organization or their inability to respond in a timely manner, figure out ways you can help them get organized and create a system that prompts your manager about pending projects.
Whether or not your organization has a formal reverse mentoring program, thinking about how to better understand the people you work with, no matter their generation and life experiences, is what will help you stand out, be seen as a leader, and make a big impact.