Get started instead of midlife crisis: 40+ successful as an employee


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Our society has fallen victim to the youth craze and you often hear that with 40+ it is difficult to find jobs. Older and younger employees can complement each other perfectly. 10 tips how to do it.

Take off instead of Midlife Crisis: successful as an employee 40+ Take off instead of Midlife Crisis: successful as an employee 40+


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Simone Janson Simone JansonSimone Janson is publisher, German Top20 blogger and Consultant for HR communication.

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Typical collaboration problem

Old and young employees could complement each other perfectly, but unfortunately there are often problems ranging from communicative misunderstandings to skills wrangling. Everything could be so simple: old hands and ambitious newcomers could actually complement each other optimally in the office. Unfortunately, the reality is often very different: a lack of skills, different ways of thinking and communicative misunderstandings lead to major problems. But how can this be avoided?

Unfortunately, not an isolated case: Gerda is 63 and has worked in the company for 45 years: Always polite to everyone, whatever the Chef says is law and woe someone comes too close to her carefully tidy desk. Above all, it is something of the company's secret information broker: Gerda asks if you want to know anything!

Help, the new one is younger!

And then that: The new colleague Beate, 29 and fresh from university, calls constantly loudly through the office, offers every colleague the same and wants to profile herself at the meeting by interrupting everyone. Gerda is extremely annoyed. However, she finds it particularly bad that Beate suddenly draws her attention to errors: "The calculation is incorrect here, you see ...?", "Have you already got the supplier's offer - the boss still wants it today?" Or even: “Your presentation was really horrible, but I would like to show you how to do something like that.”

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But vice versa, Beate also has big problems with Gerda's authoritarian behavior, the distant behavior and her constant grumbling. Above all, it bothers her that Gerda withholds important information from her and lets her run up in the event of complaints.

Scientific findings

No wonder that the collaboration between the two colleagues is problematic: Gerda and Beate belong to two generations that could hardly be more different. The detonator is practically pre-programmed. For a study, the research institute IPSOS surveyed more than 2400 workers in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Great Britain and the Netherlands from four generations about their preferences and working habits. Result:

61 percent of older employees around the age of 60 are more traditionalists and place great value on clear hierarchies and a personal, clearly defined work space. The young colleagues up to the age of 35, on the other hand, prefer flat hierarchies and place no value on their own workplace: They work more informally and in changing places with an informal one: Only 27 percent of this age group would like a personal desk.

Accept peculiarities

But the “middle” generations also have their peculiarities: a total of 50 percent of 45-50 year olds feel massively bothered by noise of all kinds at work. A third of younger colleagues between 35 and 45, however, are bothered by unsuitable room temperatures, while noise or ergonomics are irrelevant. And every third colleague from this generation can hardly concentrate due to the lack of retreat options.

In addition to these different attitudes, communicative misunderstandings often lead to discrepancies: Older colleagues, for example, are often less exuberant than younger ones and are therefore often perceived by them as less friendly. On the other hand, competition is particularly strong among the younger generation: among the older colleagues, they are called ambitious and opportunistic, and this behavior increases fear of the job, especially in times of crisis.

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Discrepancies - and how to bridge them

Because of such differences, every age group likes to be among themselves when it comes to maintaining social contacts. Basically, every generation sees itself more in competition with the younger than the older generations, but at the same time believes that it cannot learn anything from the young generation.

In contrast, the age group up to 45 is perceived as particularly friendly, cooperative and efficient in the eyes of the other age groups. The somewhat older ones are considered authoritarian, but also exemplary and experienced.

Bridging misunderstandings

They pass on their know-how to the others. Because long-established traditionalists have a rather vague image in the sense of “less friendly or cooperative” and “less ambitious”.

But what can workers do to bridge these discrepancies? The most common answer that experts give to the question: talk to each other. Because the problems are often simply due to the fact that you simply do not understand the other person or cannot put yourself in the position of your colleague. But if you talk openly about fears and problems, you have the chance to solve them.

Old and young - How to work together harmoniously: 10 tips

Employees from different generations sometimes have problems understanding each other. Talking to each other can solve many conflicts. We'll show you what to look out for.

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  1. Don't rush ahead: Are you young, active and ambitious? It's nice! But even if you think you know something better, be diplomatic.
  2. Beware with criticism: Even if it is meant well: Be careful with criticism, never express it in front of others. Many older employees are reluctant to say anything about the younger ones.
  3. Respect distance zones: Older employees value their work area and you are polite and respectful.
  4. Respect traditions: However, younger employees should also appreciate the knowledge and traditions of older employees.
  5. Just no arrogance: Some older employees seem arrogant towards younger ones because they believe they have all the experience to themselves. Better check if you can not learn from others.
  6. Be curious about new things: Instead of just insisting on what they have always done, be prepared to learn something new.
  7. Praise! Especially older generations often have a hard time with praise. Just jump over your shadow and say a few friendly words to the younger employee. For those such gestures are self-evident.
  8. Learn from each other: Older employees have more experience, younger employees are more familiar with the latest developments. Benefit from each other instead of working against each other.
  9. Understand fears: Older employees are often afraid, younger people wanted to offer them. Younger employees are annoyed by the protection against dismissal that older employees often enjoy. Both are afraid for the job.
  10. Talk to each other! Speak openly about fears and trust that the other person will do the same. Then you have a good chance of overcoming conflicts together.


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