Don’t manage more experienced team members

In this blog, I will provide few tips for Managers on how to efficiently work with team members who are more experienced than you.

Srihari Udugani
5 min readNov 20, 2023
Photo by Centre for Ageing Better on Unsplash

Many managers face a situation in which they have to manage team members who are more experienced than themselves. There is always a dilemma on how to work with them.

Well, acknowledging that they are part of the team is a good starting point. Many managers make a mistake of ignoring such team members.

Making assumptions about more experienced team members on their expectations, thought process is not the right way to manage or work with such team members.

In this blog, I will share few tips on how to manage team members who are more experienced than you.

Reality check

Let’s first try to understand about the situation of these more experienced team members; only then as a Manager you will know how to manage them.

  1. Skill set may not be up-to-date
    Many more experienced team members are retained due to their knowledge and expertise on legacy systems and softwares. Since they are busy taking care of the legacy systems or softwares, the need to update the skill set might have not got created. But don’t mistake this as they don’t want to learn new skill set.
  2. Low motivation levels
    Such team members might have low motivation levels as they might have been left behind on salary hikes, promotions. Also, since they have been doing the same things for many many years, the boredom would have kicked-in. So, motivation levels will be low.
  3. Slower adoption to change
    Some, more experienced team members will have slower adjustment curve to change. The reason is that they are too comfortable where they are and what they are doing; and they are afraid of failures or risks that will occur due to change. Being slower on adoption to change is okay, so as a Manager try to show empathy about this.
  4. Odd ones out
    Some, more experienced team members will be on an age which may not match with the other team members average age. This will result in having the feel of being odd one out in the team. As a manager show empathy about this and don’t ignore.

With the above points in mind, in my opinion, as a manager don’t try to manage them, rather work with them as your peers.

Instead of making them to feel “left out”, work with them in such a way, then feel belonged to the team.

How to work with more experienced team members?

Follow the below mentioned tips to effectively work with more experienced team members.

Tip#1: Treat them as any other team members
This is one of the common mistake that young managers make. The more experienced members are always made to feel, they are not part of the team. They always feel, they are left out.

As a manager, treating them as any other team member, by having 1on1, or discussing with them about the technical challenges, inviting them to coffee or tea break etc. will make them feel being part of the team.

Note that not all such members will be open for this. So, check the pulse and then take steps to make them feel being part of the team.

Tip#2: Set expectations and goals
Like any other team members, set goals and expectations about their performance. Be mindful that these goals should give them the motivation to perform better.

Also, setting expectation about adoption to new technology or taking on slightly higher responsibilities like training team members, giving their inputs for certain aspects of the software.

While setting expectations and goals, make it as small as possible. This will help them to get quick wins. These quick wins will motivate them to do more. This will help you to get changes slowly and steadily.

Tip#3: Utilise knowledge rather than asking for permission
Some young managers, start asking permissions from more experienced team members. This creates confusion and irritation as you are the manager who must make decisions.

It also creates a wrong environment for those who are more experienced as they don’t want to become accountable for your decisions. So instead of creating this un-easy situation for them, find a way to utilise their knowledge.

One of the most precious information you can get is the history of different modules, complete details of E2E, challenges in the software, what was attempted in the past and so on. Use this information to better prepare for new work.

Tip#4: Create opportunities for them as any other team member
As a manger don’t make the mistake of not creating learning opportunities or growth opportunities for more experienced team members. They also want to learn something new in their career rather than continuing to work on the legacy platforms or softwares.

One thing to note is that such team members might not have the interest and motivation to learn quickly something new. So, take it slow, help and facilitate such team members to become successful while learning something totally new.

In this way you are making sure, slowly such team members are also catching up.

Tip#5: Make them feel part of the team
Many young managers make the mistake of not making the more experienced team members feel that they are part of the team. This takes them away from the team’s goals. This is when it becomes tough for managers to align such team members.

So, the best way is to find ways to make them feel being part of the team. You can do some of the following things.
- take them for coffee or tea break with other team members.
- motivate them to take part in group activities or soft skill trainings.
- allow them to present their achievements and reward it.

Final thoughts

The more experienced team members also add value to the team, so start treating them like one.

Ignoring the more experienced team members will only create difficult situation rather anything else.

Utilising their knowledge while making some changes or enhancements, will help you to better prepare for unknown risks.

Since they are also part of the team and you want them to deliver assigned tasks, setting short term, medium team and long terms goals will help you to keep them engaged and in-turn get results which are aligned to team goals.

Building an environment which is balanced for younger and more experienced team member will help you to achieve organisation goals and healthy team bonding.

Happy management!

Further reading

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Srihari Udugani

Helping new managers to become successful to grow in their careers. Happy Management.