Practical Communication

Communicating Across the Generation Gap (Part 2 of a 2 Part Series)

Communicating Across the Generation Gap (Part 2 of a 2 Part Series)

Last week’s post, Identifying Generations in Your Workplace,  focused on identifying and understanding the five generations in the workplace. Now that you’re able to identify the generation a coworker represents, here are some specific guidelines for bridging the generation gap at work.

Learning to adapt your communication style to those with whom you communicate is an important key to success in the workplace. Although I’ll provide some tips below for communicating with each generation, here are some general guidelines for communication that will work with anyone in any generation.

1. Understand a person’s generational characteristics, but avoid stereotyping.

2. Communicate respectfully and choose your words wisely.

3. Listen well and with an open mind.

– Communicate directly and follow formal communication procedures
– Have in-person, face-to-face conversations whenever possible
– Be honest, but be polite
– Show respect for their experience and the traditions they helped create
– If you call, be sure to call their office phones, not their cell phones, unless they’ve specifically invited you to do so
– Show them the benefits to the greater good of the team or organization


Baby Boomers

– Involve them in problem solving, they love a challenge and “play well with others”
– Believe them when they say, I’m here for you if you need help- they’re great team players
– Give them time to make decisions, they like to do their homework and won’t make decisions impulsively
– Praise them for their accomplishments and give them opportunities to be involved in projects that will help them advance their careers, which is important to them
– Focus on what’s fair to everyone
– Focus on the bottom line
– Communicate face-to-face or via telephone


Gen X

– Show them WIIFT (What’s In It For Them), such as achievement of personal goals or benefits
– Prove your ability, they won’t care about your title or position
– Focus on outcomes and avoid micromanaging
– Give them the flexibility in scheduling whenever possible
– Provide plenty of opportunities for interactive communication
– Communicate informally, but personally


7K0A0426Generation Y

– Focus on the positives
– Show understanding of their 24/7 tech lifestyle
– Inspire them
– Provide opportunities for collaborative problem solving
– Include them
– Provide variety, the get bored easily
– They expect feedback and reinforcement
– They want to know their input matters
– Focus on goals and outcomes, not rules and procedures
– If procedures must be followed, explain why
– Use technology to communicate, they’re more likely to respond than if you leave a voicemail

Generation 9/11

Communicate in the same way as you would Generation Y, with special attention to Gen 9/11’s need for personal security.

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