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My Boss Is Younger, Less Educated, and Shorter Tenured

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young man in business attire

In technological start-ups, being young may be a signal of technological fluency and thus a symbol of high status.

Credit: Hudson Valley Magazine

Subordinates usually find their supervisors to be older, more educated, and of longer tenure than themselves, a situation known as status congruence. However, a large percentage of the working population is increasingly experiencing status incongruence, in which the status markers (e.g., age, education, and organizational tenure) traditionally associated with supervisory and subordinate positions are reversed.

For example, 40% of U.S. workers had a younger boss in 2020,  up from 38% in 2014 and 34% in 2012, whereas managers, with an average age of 45, were younger than 50% of their direct reports.

The trend toward status incongruence is increasing as companies rely less on seniority-based promotions in their efforts to emphasize performance and to prevent stagnant hierarchies.

Researchers found that if subordinates view or recognize status-incongruent supervisors as highly competent, they will perceive the promotion system as fair and acceptable.

From Journal of Applied Psychology
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