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Lead Your Team Leadership

Work for a Younger Boss? How It Affects Your Commitment

Work for a Younger Boss? How It Affects Your Commitment
Credit: Kinga/Shutterstock

The age and work experience of a boss impact how committed employees are to their employer, new research finds.

The study found that older employees who work for younger bosses with less education and work experience have a tough time developing loyalty to their employer. This is especially true when the younger managers are transformational leaders who try to inspire their subordinates to work for the good of the organization by motivating them through their strategic vision, communication of the vision and commitment toward the vision, according to the study, published online in the journal Personnel Psychology.

Orlando Richard, one of the study's authors and an associate professor at the University of Texas at Dallas, said transformational leadership is supposedly the best type of leadership to inspire followers.

"But what happens when your boss is less experienced or younger than you? You are less likely to respond to their leadership style," Richard said in a statement.

That negatively affects older workers' levels of commitment to the organization because they feel they are more qualified than their boss is, Richard said.

If employees are not highly committed to the organization, it can have serious consequences for employers: A lack of loyalty can hurt productivity, performance and retention rates, Richard said.

"From an HR standpoint, I think it's important to make sure that you have the right leader in place, because if employees feel that the wrong person is in charge, there could be negative consequences for the organization down the road," Richard said. "No one wants to work for someone who they feel doesn't have the credentials."

For the study, researchers examined workplaces in both the United States and Turkey. In both countries, they found that having younger or less experienced workers in charge of employees who were older or who had more tenure weakened the relationship between transformational leadership and the attachment that an employee had to his or her organization.

Interestingly, the research revealed that a boss's gender had a stronger link to employees' commitment to their employer in the U.S. than it did in Turkey. In the U.S., women had a tougher time than men in getting their younger subordinates to develop commitment to the organization, the study found.

"Women in management have to especially have the credentials in order to demand respect," Richard said. "If they do, and they display transformational leadership, they'll experience more commitment from their employees."

In Turkey, men had a tougher time getting their subordinates to develop loyalty to their organization than women when they had less experience and education and tried to display transformational leadership.

The study was co-authored by María del Carmen Triana, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Ilhami Yücel, an associate professor at Erzincan University in Turkey.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.