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Working for the (Little) Man: Young Bosses

Jennifer Lee, 31, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, manages workers two decades her senior in New York City.
John Guardo, NPR /
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Jennifer Lee, 31, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, manages workers two decades her senior in New York City.

There used to be a natural order in corporate America: Younger workers reported to older bosses. But in the past 20 years, that system has been turned on its head. Today, some middle-aged workers take orders from people their children's age.

A new comedy, In Good Company, takes a wry look at this role-reversal. And as NPR's Frank Langfitt reports, it's one many workers and bosses will recognize. In a recent survey, 90 percent of human resource managers said they had workers reporting to bosses at least a generation younger.

For the new breed of younger managers, one of the biggest hurdles is convincing older people that they know what they are doing. Jennifer Lee is a 31-year-old management consultant with an MBA from Wharton. She has spent much of her career telling older people how to run their companies better. But it doesn't help that Lee looks even younger than her age.

According to Lee, "Sometimes people say, 'Well, what do you know, you're 24 years old.' And that's going on right now with the job I'm working at currently and I'm not 24. I've had 10 years of experience."

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Frank Langfitt is NPR's London correspondent. He covers the UK and Ireland, as well as stories elsewhere in Europe.