“Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.”
– George Orwell
With the each new generation entering the workforce, comes new styles of communicating, new perspectives on the world, and new ideas of what is considered the right way to get things done. Oftentimes, ignorance about these varied ways of communication can lead to tension in the workplace and sometimes unfortunate perceptions of entire generations. Who is to say that communicating only via e-mail with colleagues is wrong, even when they are just down the hall? Who is to say that holding a meeting to prepare for the upcoming Board meeting is a waste of time? Each of these concepts is actually common among the generation of people that use these methods the most – Millenials and Baby Boomers, respectively.
Recently, Diversity in Practice brought in Amy Lynch, of BridgeWorks, to come address a group of attorneys as a part of our Professional Development Series. Amy stressed the importance meeting in the middle when working with colleagues from different generations. No generation has a monopoly on what is right, rather, each style of communication has its separate contexts, which make it applicable to daily life.
Traditionalists (born prior to 1946)
- Respect that many Traditionalists view their legacy at work as very important.
- Face time is key. Look to Traditionalists as mentors and allow them to pass on their knowledge to you, while showing your worth by imparting knowledge about how to use new pieces of technology that your office has implemented or other things that may be beneficial for them to know.
Baby Boomers (born 1946 – 1964)
- Baby boomers entered the work force before the idea of a work/life balance.
- While Boomers may have mastered the art of voice mail, digital everything may still be a little beyond their comfort zone. If you need something reviewed, try sending it via email and following up with a paper copy.
- Baby boomers love to meet, and holding meetings may be important to gain their buy-in. For those of you who dread meetings, be prepared with a precise agenda that limits the need for follow-up meetings.
Generation X (born 1965 – 1981)
- Gen X generally yearns for efficiency and doesn’t want to stay in the office all day. Limit ineffective meetings and be prepared.
- Feedback is important, and often wanted immediately. Set a time with Gen Xers to determine the best time for feedback.
- Millenials often do not look at work as a function of life, rather as part of their reality, and thus want their work to have meaning. Make sure to show them the importance of what they are doing.
- Millenials grew up in the era of the 24 news cycle and the Internet. They are used to quick and constant communication and being able to be heard with the click of the mouse. Give Millenials an outlet for their voice to be heard.
Interested in more ways to learn how to work with other generations? Check out the books written by the Bridgeworks team:
- The M Factor: How the Millenial Generation is Rocking the Workplace
- When Generations Collide: Who They Are. Why They Clash. How to Solve the Generational Puzzle at Work
Also, check out our Facebook page for photos of the Amy Lynch event!
What have you noticed about other generations’ communication styles? How have you adapted your behavior accordingly?