In practical terms, your task is "to let your older teammates know that you respect their experience while still asserting your leadership of the group," says Finkelstein. Three ways to get on the right track:
1. Ask for feedback and suggestions.
"You never want to come across as a know-it-all, no matter what age you are," notes Finkelstein. "That's especially true when someone working under you may actually be more knowledgeable than you, in some areas."
In addition to being a sign of respect that might smooth more than a few ruffled feathers, getting the benefit of another person's experience can work to your advantage. "Seeking out information about what has worked, or not in the past could keep you from reinventing the wheel," Finkelstein says.
2. You are in charge, regardless of your age.
"You earned your current position by proving that you're capable of handling a managerial job. Don't question your own authority," Finkelstein advises. Employees who are older than you "aren't your parents. You can actually tell them what to do," he adds. In fact, sometimes you have to.
Some people (you may be one of them) resist that aspect of leadership. "Unless you're bossy by nature, telling others what to do and giving them honest feedback on their performance is always a little awkward," Finkelstein says. "It's infinitely trickier when they are old enough to be your parents."
If your personality type is such that you struggle with this, consider asking the human resources department if training is available for new managers (of any age). Almost all large organizations offer it since, after all, they have a vested interest in your success.
3. Keep the focus on the team.
As a manager, you're responsible for keeping everyone's attention on shared goals. "Instead of focusing on age differences -- or any other differences, for that matter -- among colleagues, constantly promote the idea that you are all working toward satisfying customers and making the whole enterprise more successful," says Finkelstein. "That's what counts. So don't allow side issues to become distractions."
It would probably help to recognize that, even when age is not an issue, learning to be a boss takes practice. After only a couple of months in the job, you may not yet feel secure enough in the role, which may in turn be causing your teammates to lack confidence in you.
The remedy for that: Time, and a few notable wins. "Concentrate on being a great leader," Finkelstein says, "and the wisecracks will stop. Eventually."
Talkback: Have you ever worked for a boss who was much younger than you? If you are a young manager, what has helped you gain the respect of older colleagues? Leave a comment below.