You’ve probably heard it before. Millennials (Generation “Y”) are self-centered. They lack the ambition of, say, the Baby Boomers, who’ve ruined everything for subsequent generations. As for Generation X? They’re self-pitying cynics.
There are so many stereotypes about the different generations that you really have to take them all with a grain of salt. But some are founded on credible traits. And understanding those traits can facilitate workplace communication.
The other day I attended a presentation on the multigenerational workplace, delivered by Violeta Jerinic. Some of what she said made me stop and think about how tricky communication can be when you have three or possibly four generations working in the same organization.
My profession involves a lot of thinking and talking about workplace communication. So I’m keenly aware of how easy it is for poor communication to cause offence in the workplace. But the multigenerational workplace has its own particular pitfalls. It’s important to get beyond the stereotypes, as well as to recognize some of the generally held concepts about communication styles within each group. Knowing this makes it possible to work more effectively with people who are not of your own generation.
For example, when doing a presentation for Generation Y people, who have grown up in a digital reality, I would emphasize the following:
1. Communicate in short sound bites.
2. Communicate via technology, rather than on paper.
3. Emphasize visuals over text.
If you are an older person, working with younger colleagues, who may possibly find certain aspects of this arrangement frustrating, consider the following:
1. Learn from tech-savvy younger colleagues. They understand and are skilled in the latest technologies and social networking tools. Ask for help. People of any age like to share what they know.
2. Lead by example. You may find some younger colleagues who seem to lack thoughtful verbal communication. Be a mentor and recognize instances where younger colleagues can benefit from your patience and experience.
The fact is, when it comes to workplace communication, one size truly does not fit all. As a mature communicator, accept this reality and adapt your style to the circumstances. That’s not to say it’s always easy! Next time you want to get a Generation Y’s attention, don’t leave a message on voicemail that may be ignored; walk over and talk to that person. Demonstrate the value of face-to-face communication. Or go ahead and give in — send that text. Chances are you’ll hear back — right away.
Do you want to learn more about multigenerational workplace communication? Have a look at this article from Forbes: How To Communicate In The New Multigenerational Office.
You can also contact me firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how Language Lab courses will help you improve your communication style.