Tips for Communicating Across Generations in the Workplace
How to Create a Collaborative and Effective Working Environment with Colleagues of All Ages
Workers today come from three very different generations – Millennials (born 1981 – 2000), Gen X (1965-80), and Baby Boomers (1946-64). As a result, communication can falter and the work can suffer. Dr. Sabra Brock, Interim Dean at Touro College Graduate School of Business, shares her top five tips for creating a collaborative work environment when teams include people of all ages.
1. Match the media to the recipient.
- Generally the older the recipient(s), the more formal the communication. Written memos vs. texts and social media wall posts for Millennials.
- Schedule phone calls. Also ask whether this is an okay time to talk when you connect.
2. Match the media and the message.
- Text for simple items such as setting up a meeting.
- Use email for more complicated messages.
- Do not write emails as though they are text messages. Emails should be professional and texts can be more informal.
3. Use small talk to facilitate relationships.
- Baby Boomers prefer to talk about work.
- Gen Xers talk either social life or work.
- Millennials will choose social life.
- Try to keep in mind everyone’s preferences when starting conversations.
4. Use feedback wisely.
- Do not overdo feedback with Baby Boomers and be sure to show respect for their experience.
- Gen Xers are happy to be challenged and like direct communication.
- Millennials want lots of feedback, but in asking for it, they should consider what is feasible and productive.
5. Be kind.
- A thank you and a well-timed smile makes every generation more open to communication.
The workplace of the future is likely to include five generations, as half of the babies born today are expected to live to be 100. Practicing better communication across generations is going to be even more important.