It’s easy to get annoyed with a coworker who refuses to respond to emails or participate in group chats, after all, technology adds organization, efficiency and time management to our offices, but not everyone embraces technology since it was not part of everyone’s life growing up. Some people can find it confusing, frustrating and impersonal, preferring face-to-face conversations. It is crucial to understand and recognize the communication methods each generation prefers.
As the youngest grandchild on both sides of a very large extended family, I grew up surrounded by adults. I learned at an early age how my senior generation communicated so it wasn’t until a friend shared a snippet from a class discussing generational differences that I realized it was a common issue in today’s workforce. The class highlighted how each generation communicates differently and asked the question “If we don’t try to understand each style of communication can we really communicating with each other?”
There is no right way to communicate, every generation brings a unique set of skills and talents to the workplace which only adds to strengthen the team. Compromise and unity is a huge part of a successful team, understanding a colleague’s personal communication preferences will help to adapt how you approach them, creates a balance between everyone’s preferred communication methods and leads to a productive work environment.
Today’s workforce consists of Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials, so let’s take a look at these three generations and their preferred communication methods:
Baby Boomers are usually your senior colleagues roughly between the ages of 50 to 70. They grew up in a time with little technology, between World War II and the Vietnam War, they prefer to do things the traditional way and can often shy away from technology. Baby Boomers value teamwork and interpersonal communications, so face-to-face conversations are more meaningful and productive for them. I recently collaborated on a project when I realized my email was not being understood by a co-worker. I made a quick phone call and we were able to discuss the issue and easily resolved it. I recognized my co-worker’s preferred method of communication and adapted my approach to meet their needs.
Gen Xers range from late ‘30’s to ’40s, born in the early 1980s through late 1990s. This group usually prefers to work alone with little feedback or constraints. Many grew up in homes with two fulltime working parents or one single parent so they were often left alone which can explain some of their work preferences. This generation often communicates by phone and can be reluctant to use other technology-heavy apps and platforms. When working with Gen Xers keep in mind their desire for independent work, tasks them with projects that don’t require a lot of collaboration and when giving critiques offer positive feedback when you can.
Millennials are the youngest members of today’s workforce ranging in age from early ’20s to mid-’30s. This group is considered the most diverse generation when looking at ethnicity, race, religion, and political affiliation, so they value teamwork, collaboration and desire a lot of feedback. I definitely thrive from feedback, I think it makes me better in all aspects of my work and signifies my place between two generations. Since Millennials have never experienced life without computers or cell phones it is no wonder digital communications is how prefer to conduct most of their work.
Do you recognize any generational traits within your organization? How do you prefer to communicate with your co-workers? Comment below!
Written by: Zaneta Padilla