Imagine for a moment you are getting up in age and find that you might have lost the filter you didn’t realize you have. You know, the one that prevents you from speaking your mind or “telling it like it is.” You aren’t being mean-spirited, it’s just that getting straight to the point is so much more efficient, right? No so fast: Let me share my first-hand experiences about what it means to “manage up.”
Now imagine for a moment your 30-something pastor has invited you, a 60-something volunteer, on a road trip. His treat, his car. Now imagine he gets a flat tire. What do you do?
- His trip, his car
- Start dialing AAA
- Offer to fix the flat
- Walk away without explanation
- None of the above
Before you answer the question, suppose that when you posed the same question to the 30-something pastor, he jumped in and added an additional choice:
- Hover over the young pastor and criticize how he changes the tire.
Apparently I am guilty of hovering. (As are many Baby Boomers.)
The Basis of My Notions
I am 63. I not only love the idea of church, I love my church on the southwest side of Chicago. And I love my 30-something pastor. But if I am honest with myself, I have not treated him with the same grace I might have treated my own son with who is his age. Don’t get me wrong, in the service of my church I throw myself fully into my duties as head usher. I take appropriate initiative, extending my influence beyond the boundaries of my job description when necessary to protect the interests of my church. My 30-something pastor is the beneficiary of my efforts and would agree that I have had a positive impact on the operation since I arrived in 2016.
At this stage of life, I should know that competence is not all there is to it. Grace matters. Regrettably, my “efficiency” has had a bruising impact on him.
Although my previous church volunteer experience was limited to children’s ministry, I have a professional background in hotel management which provides not just an eye for hospitality, but for building safety as well.
It is human to have and exercise what I call bias. In my many years of outplacement consulting I learned that older workers have a greater challenge finding work due to age-bias. Of course, the issue is not usually age, it is manageability. Teachability. (My pastor calls it perspective.) Those are very reasonable concerns of a younger pastor. Seasoned staff like me are accustomed to running things, but because the pastor has taken on the responsibility for the outcome, he should expect to be able to execute his plans the way he imagines them, and without the second-guessing of his staff. I know this, too.
My counsel to senior job candidates was always the same. Express your experience in a way that might possibly allay the concerns of a younger manager with an age bias or different “perspective.” For example, to convey your manageability during a job interview, make passing comments about such things as the college grad (younger teacher) who taught you a key skill; of how well it paid off when you were receptive to new ideas (flexibility), and of how much you value the role of chain-of-command to achieve goals (follows orders).
In short, do not reinforce age bias with what is anticipated: stubborn, inflexible behavior or habits.
This bias or differing perspective dynamic is what my pastor and I now face.