Phone, E-mail, Text, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Slack, Skype,
In a recent professional development workshop that we attended, a female manager in her 50s stood up and started giving a list of communication conflicts between her multi-generation workforce. She was upset that the younger talents hardly returned her phone calls. Instead, viewing the matter as non-urgent, they emailed or texted back a response. The woman gradually worked herself into such a fury that at one point she shouted, “We need to quit messaging and pick up the damn phones!” Sensitive, right? Maybe not.
As the woman continued to speak, we realized that her concerns weren’t mere frustration. Her breathing faltered and her voice cracked until she could not speak and sat down. It was not just anger, she felt unappreciated and disrespected by the younger members of her team. What she failed to understand is that her problem was not unique.
As people live and stay on the job longer than before, the modern workplace is housing up to 4 wildly diverse generations, which is the perfect recipe for a multi-generation workforce communication disasters. The Veterans (employees born before 1945), the Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964), Generation X (born between 1965 and 1979), and the Millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) all grew up in different times and have varying values and preferred communication styles. The millennials, also called generation Y, prefer messaging over phone calls, which frustrates the boomers and leave the Xers wondering which way to go.
So, what’s the solution?
The solution will not come from any of these generations or person. Our Technology Director, Andy Bohuslavizki, says, “Each group thinks it’s the other generation’s fault, but dealing with multigeneration communication is a mutual responsibility. It requires respect for each generation’s values and preferred communication styles.” And of course, some compromise.
Brownlee, The CEO of Professional Matters, a corporate training firm, says, “Finding the solution is a shared responsibility. Being aware and appreciating the difference is a great start. But more than that, encourage your team members to talk openly about the difference to demystify what is misunderstood or unknown. Older team members can share their vast experience and industry knowledge with the millennials, and the millennials can teach the Boomers and Xers a thing or two about technological trends, pop culture, and social media. It all starts with a walk or a cup of coffee.”
Get every team member on the same page, relative to formality in the workplace
Back when “the Veterans” were entering the labor market, suits and ties were the normal attire and computers were hardly heard of, let alone emails and cell phones. Since then, things have changed tremendously. We are using computers and cell phones to connect from virtually all corners of the world, and most enterprises have adopted business casual as their dress code.
Brownlee says, “Whether it’s an email instead of a letter head or a text instead of a phone call, this “old-school formality” vs “the millennial-ease” is clearly a cultural crash. The veterans often see these changes as unofficial and disrespectful, but it’s all the millennials know.”
He says, ‘As a team leader, you should step in and bridge this gap. Set the business communication tone, and outline the standards of formality expected in the workplace.”
The drift here is that if every team member knows what is expected of him or her when communicating with his multigeneration colleagues, there is more room for team work and productivity, and less room for misunderstanding, finger-pointing, and disagreements.
Use multiple channels of communication
The old team members were brought up during the era of rotary phones, while the millennials had a cell phone by about the time they entered their early teenage years. Although it’s pretty hard to find a rotary phone today, you can (and as a matter of fact you should) provide a variety of communication options for your various generations. Not only because this is convenient for them, but also because you know and you must cater for “who” is on the other end.As a plus, consider using social networking platforms to communicate with the millennials -it portrays adaptability and cooperation and appeals to them.
Personalize your approach
One of the key duties of a team leader is to make sure the team has the resources it needs, when it needs them. If anything, a happy employee = higher productivity. Try and understand what works the best for each generation and adapt. Bear in mind that just because you are the leader, your way is not always right, there is a lot you can learn from each generation.
Understand the values of each generation
Etiquette and work ethics vary wildly from generation to generation and has significant impact on workplace communication. For example, Veterans believe work is an obligation while Boomers view work as a chance to explore. X-ers view their jobs as challenges, while the millennials think of work as something they have to do to earn money– it’s a means to an end. Understanding these differences and why each generation views work as they do is vital to facilitating effective multi-generation workplace communication. No generation is wrong, just different. Improving Office Culture starts at the top.
Learn how to motivate each generation
While the Veterans think they “must” come in and get the job done, millennials are motivated by guidance and appreciation. Always keep the power of appreciation and praise in mind, it’s a key motivator no matter the age of a person.
Lastly, ask, do not assume
Miscommunication results in dissension among the various ranks in an organization. And as the team leader, you know what experts say about assuming. Really encourage your multi-generation team members to communicate with each other. Rather than assuming their partners are disrespectful, arrogant or proud, encourage them to converse and ask.
When in doubt, explore the possibility of outsourcing your HR duties to a Staffing Agency that has experience in communication with different types of work forces in different industries. They may just give you the base workforce that you need to build on in the
Everyone should be working towards a common goal. Lead by example; breaking typical stereotypes about different generations and you’ll be on your way to a cohesive, productive team environment in no time.
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