3 Tips for Communicating Across Four Generations

The Ultimate Workplace Hazard: Communication Breakdown

phone girlThe evolution of the workforce has reached a point that has never been seen before: four separate and very different generations of employees working together under one roof. While this can be great for combining traditional wisdom with fresh ideas, it can also lead to some performance disruptions.

Amidst the tech-savvy skills required for new jobs and the rash of changes, younger co-workers find themselves butting heads with older, established co-workers. Before the internet, nepotism was the largest disruptor to the career ladder. Today, technology changes the very nature of offices, job descriptions, and duties. Understandably then, most managers may have a problem with finding ways to get everyone to just get along.

Start with Communication

As with everything in life, communication is the keystone to a thriving living or work environment. In the office, however, the means through which you communicate are just as important, a fact made even more apparent with the differences in generations.

Each generation grew up communicating in different ways. Senior employees grew up with rotary phones, Baby Boomers value face-to-face conversations, and the youngest generation prefers e-mail, text, and social media. Providing your employees with multiple ways of communicating will encourage them to actually want to communicate.

Address the Dress Code

cel-phoneDiffering generations also tend to disagree on formality within the work place. Baby Boomers, and even some Gen Xers, grew up in a time where suits and ties were required in the work place. A well-pressed suit and a firm handshake signaled a hardworking employee. Nowadays, younger generations have grown up in a casual atmosphere, where physical appearance doesn’t necessarily dictate work ethic.

To older generations, an informal atmosphere and casual dress may seem disrespectful. Get everyone on the same page as to what is acceptable attire in the workplace. If older employees know that casual dress is okay and should not be considered disrespectful, they may be a bit more accepting. Likewise, if younger employees understand where their older mentors are coming from, they’re much less likely to view them as stuffy and out-of-touch.

Understand Work Ethic and Motivation

All generations have different values and different motivations. Generally, senior employees are more work-driven because that’s how they were raised. Baby Boomers tend to work for personal growth and development. Gen Xers often see their careers as a series of challenges to overcome. And the youngest working generation, the millennials, are often categorized as people who simply work to pay the bills.

Digging deeper, the factors that actually motivate different generations to work vary just as much. While some generations are motivated by success and a job well done, others are motivated by flexibility and guidance. Once you understand the differences between work ethic and motivation, you can communicate with your employees based on their individual needs and encourage them to recognize each other’s.

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