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Improving Multi-Generational Communication in the Workplace

    It is widely accepted that respectful and productive communication is the key to team-building and workplace success. Juggling different value sets and communication styles is difficult enough amongst a team of peers, but as people work longer and as millennials enter the workforce, the modern office must confront ingrained generational differences.

    A multi-generational office might have a shared vision and goals, but when it comes down to communication styles, preferences across generations vary wildly. It’s no secret that millennials prefer texting and e-mails over phone conversations, which can frustrate older employees, and leave Generation Xers stuck in the middle. The secret to managing these differences lies in a mutual respect for each generation’s values and communication style. And of course, some compromise.

    Voicemail? What’s that?

    Most young employees arriving to the workplace come equipped with a certain set of common communication preferences. Millennials are less accustomed to making phone calls unless the situation is urgent; this can leave older employees frustrated, when a series of texts or e-mails accomplishes less than just one phone call. Younger employees should respect the workplace standards and culture, while also integrating their aptitude for new technologies. Millennials also are more likely to seek guidance, mentorship, and feedback, which can be perceived by older employees as a high-maintenance workplace ethos. However, this attitude is ideal for learning and training, as well as building strong inter-personal connections.

    Middle Child Syndrome

    Members of Generation X are comfortable with technology, and already acclimated to the workplace culture. However, these employees can be stuck in the middle between wildly distinct generational values. These experienced employees are preparing to move into higher positions, and will be tasked with bridging the generation gap between new employees and established professionals. The best approach to these new challenges is to open up various avenues of communication based on the individual needs of employees.

    Baby Boomers

    Boomers possess the experience and skill level that younger employees strive to attain, but can feel isolated by millennials’ communication styles and desire for feedback. Patience and openness will be fundamental to improving the tension between these two generations. Boomers can feel threatened by what they perceive as a radical shift in communication styles, and may not be open to embracing new technologies. However, Boomers possess invaluable industry-specific knowledge, and should be open to working with new employees to provide guidance.

    In acknowledging these differences, we can break down communication barriers and form more effective teams that can work together to share skills and grow as individuals.

    How are you dealing with the challenges of a multi-generational workforce? Let us know