Younger employees are becoming a staple in today’s workforce as many companies grow.
Although growth is positive for revenue, teams may encounter communication issues because of age differences in employees, and how work ethics change throughout generations.
It’s important for companies to address inter-generational communication in the workplace if they hope to remain successful. If a company’s team can’t internally communicate, then the company will have a hard time prospering in the outside world.
By learning about each generation and the way other generations communicate at work, employees can better understand one another and work towards a collective goal.
Understanding the Generations
Generations usually span 20 to 30 years. A generation is an average period during which children are born, grow up, and have children of their own. Generational periods can vary because children in one generation may statistically have children of their own more quickly than another generation.
The Traditionalists are the generation of people born between 1922 and 1945. This generation is also called the Silent Generation because they were expected to be seen and not heard. The Baby Boomers are the generation of people born between 1946 to 1964.
Generation X are those born between 1965 to 1976. Generation Y, also known as Millennials, are those born between 1977 and 1995, which makes up the largest percentage of the current workforce. Just entering the current workforce is Generation Z, which are those born from 1996 until now.
Core Values of the Traditionalists
Traditionalists have different core values in the workplace than many other employees, so communication can become blurred if others don’t understand their work ethic.
Traditionalists are near retirement age and may work reduced hours at this time in their careers; however, they are usually as hard workers and have a high respect for authority. Some Traditionalists may cherish their jobs more than others because they were raised during the Depression.
How Baby Boomers Communicate
Baby Boomers are likely well-established in their careers and may be managers, chief executive officers (CEOs), law firm partners, or corporate executives. This generation believes both face-to-face communication and working in a team are important. Because Baby Boomers have a strong work ethic, they may not be as open to flexibility in the workplace.
Gen X in a Nutshell
Generation X has a different attitude towards work than their hard-working parents in the Baby Boomer generation. They may value work/life balance more than others; however, they have an entrepreneurial spirit. Gen X employers are often self-reliant, but they may need structure and direction to succeed.
Connecting with Millennials
Millennials are self-confident and high-achievers in the workplace. They’d prefer to communicate through the Internet about workplace tasks because they believe it’s a more efficient way of getting things done. Millennials are excellent multi-taskers and are usually very creative. If Millennials can work to understand their older coworkers, then they can help their companies grow.
Gen Z as Employees
Generation Z employees are just entering the workforce and may not have as much experience as others. This generation may not take charge but likely prefers learning from a mentor and taking part in work that feels fulfilling. Similar to Millennials, Generation Z prefers to communicate through the Internet, either by text or through FaceTime.
Examples of Good Communication at Work
Inter-generational communication in the workplace can be difficult when employees grow up in different time periods, have different core values, and have different levels of experience with technology. The common ground, however, is that all employees now work for the same company and have one joint mission.
There are ways employees can improve their communication skills at work that can easily translate across all generations. For example, staying aware of your body language when communicating with a coworker is essential.
If you ask your coworker a question but your body language is tense while doing so, you may appear hostile. Relaxing your body and presenting a more welcoming stance can let coworkers know you’re approachable.
Practicing active listening at work can transform the way you communicate with your coworkers, no matter what age they may be. Instead of having a defensive reaction to a coworker’s issue, try listening to their problem, logically thinking it through, and responding rationally. You can’t actively listen to a coworker unless you remain silent in voice and mind while they’re speaking.
Having empathy for others is an important part of effective communication in the workplace. Empathy is important when dealing with employees that span generations because you must try to understand their thought process even when you think differently. Instead of getting frustrated by another employee’s mistakes, for instance, try putting yourself in the employee’s shoes so you can release your frustration, talk through the mistake, and make sure the mistake doesn’t happen again.
Methods of Communication
Technology can be a helpful form of communication, but it’s not always the right form of communication depending on what you’re trying to say. If you’re scheduling a meeting, then sending a team email may save time; however, it’s important to understand when email or text is inappropriate at work. For example, if you’re firing someone or discussing a workplace mishap, then face-to-face communication is a more effective and more respectful way to get your point across.
The key to communicating with coworkers of any age is to be clear and confident in your message. It’s difficult for employees to receive feedback or take on tasks if you’re stumbling through your words, halfway asking a question, or unclear with your delivery. By remaining considerate, yet assertive, employees of all generations will surely listen to what you have to say.
Inter-generational Communication in the Workplace
There are three key components to inter-generational communication in the workplace: understanding, respect, and compromise. If coworkers can understand how others in their company communicate based on their generational differences, respect those differences, and then learn to compromise based on those differences, then they can work towards their company’s common goal and feel more confident in their individual job roles.
Take a look at the infographic from TurboTenant below for a summary of these basic inter-generational communication tips.
This infographic was created by TurboTenant.