I am in my mid-50’s and have spent most of my working life in my profession. But I now have a much younger supervisor whose manner I find condescending, rude and abrasive. I like the work and am competent to do it, but am wondering about the fit. How should I handle this?
Leaving the company is a viable option, especially in today’s labour market, which values experience. But consider these important factors: How do you feel about making a change at this stage in your career? When are you hoping to retire?
Establishing yourself in a new company can take time. And you don’t know with certainty what environment you are moving into. Sometimes better the devil you know. You are already aware of the dynamics in your present company, what the policies are and who to speak to about your concerns. In a new company, you will be learning the politics and the ropes all over again.
If you were hoping to retire shortly, changing companies can bring a lot of headaches without necessarily that many rewards. It might make more sense to stick it out where you are.
Depending on how much younger the new supervisor is, he or she may be open to feedback, wanting to learn how to be better at the role; then again he or she may be trying to prove him or herself, and respond defensively.
Either way, you need to explain clearly what works best for you in a supervisor. This is quite different from point out what the supervisor is doing “wrong”.
You must have a frank conversation with your supervisor about your relationship, what you need in order to be most productive and some suggestions for how things could change.
Then, watch to see which of those changes are implemented. This may require using immediacy and letting your supervisor know, as it occurs, when he or she is being condescending, rude or abrasive.
Document your observations. If, within a reasonable time frame, you do not see movement in the right direction, ask your supervisor if you can have a 3-way discussion with his or her supervisor.
Here, you need to be honest about your concerns and that you will consider other options if the situation remains the same.
In most cases, the employer will value what you have brought to the company and will try to correct things. If that does not happen, it is time to look elsewhere.
And during those interviews for a new job, make sure you screen for those qualities in your supervisor that you know bring out your best.
Globe and Mail; August 29, 2007