There is a lot of talk about the four, and sometimes five different generations in the workplace. We are in a unique time, as this is the first time we have had so many generations in the workplace at the same time. Communication preferences are unique to each person and generation. One thing to remember as we maneuver in the workplace is the ways in which each generation prefers to send and receive information. Understanding this can help us better connect to our colleagues and make the work environment more pleasant.
Traditionalists tend to have a very formal method of communication. Formal memos are an example of what they typically prefer. When communicating with a traditionalist, be sure to show them you value their position and experience. They have valuable experience you can learn from.
Baby Boomers (1946 – 1964)
Boomers want to meet face-to-face. This is the generation that is focused on quality. They want to be needed, just as we all do. For them, relationships in the workplace are important. Take the time to get to know them by asking them for their advice or about their experience.
Generation X (1965 – 1976)
Gen Xers want immediate and direct communication, think texting or email. They want to know the “why,” and will challenge others to better understand. Be sure to help them understand the “why” behind how things are done, rather than respond “it’s the way we’ve always done it.” Take the time to listen to their ideas and do not be offended when they ask questions
Millennials or Generation Y (1977 – 1997)
Millennials prefer text messaging and utilize social media. They want the instantaneous feedback provided by these methods. Just because they are texting at a meeting does not mean they are not paying attention, they may be gathering additional information or getting the answer. They are technology savvy and want to make work efficient. Use their skills to find new ways to utilize technology.
Generation Z or the iGeneration (after 1997)
The iGeneration is always connected. Their smartphones do not leave their side and they wear communication devices. However, they also recognize how easy it is for information to be misconstrued so they also want to face-to-face as well. The iGeneration knows how to utilize technology. They are just starting to enter the workforce, so be patient and be willing to mentor.
I have focused on generalizations for the different generations, but everyone is different. The key to dealing with your colleagues is to get to know them and understand their communication style. Be sure others understand your style as well. By choosing to customize your approach to your various colleagues, you can better connect and be more effective in your communication. With people working longer now to accommodate their families financially, we will continue to have four (or more) generations in the workplace now, and continuing into the future.