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Learning How To Communicate To Multi-Generational Work Teams


If you’re in management or administrative services, you’re undoubtedly trying to find ways to communicate with multi-generational team members. Working with multiple generations has always been important for management, but it’s become even more challenging in the past few decades. The baby boomers have very little in common with the millennials, and in many ways they are at odds. Add this to the fact that everyone is now entering the work force later and leaving the work force later, you could have 3 or 4 different generations at work, and potentially have a recipe for disaster at your hands.

Understanding the older generation.

One of the difficulties those in the older generation encounter is the fact that younger generations are seemingly unable to pick up the phone. Older generations tend to want to call or talk in person rather than speaking with an individual through email or text. Understanding this is extremely important when managing a team. You need to know the best ways to communicate with your employees and how this could affect their behavior. As an example, a member of the older generation might have a very serious problem with their work but might be waiting to talk to you about it in person. You might be frustrated by the fact that they didn’t email you, but they are likely equally frustrated with the fact that you weren’t available to talk in person.

Understanding the younger generation.

The younger generation are highly tech-oriented and tend to communicate almost completely through instant message, email and text messaging. At the same time, though, they also tend to avoid talking on the phone and at meetings, instead preferring to do almost everything in text. As a consequence, they might even find a phone call or a physical meeting to be very serious. Younger generations may not always understand that their text communications can be misconstrued and they may get frustrated by constant attempts at physical conversation. Many millennials feel as though someone speaking to them over the course of a day is distracting.

Getting older generation and millennials to communicate.

The easiest way to resolve potential issues between the older and newer generations is to guide them. You should have very specific rules about how communication is to be handled. For instance, you could say that all non-essential information should always go by email but that essential information needs to go by phone. This will avoid all misunderstandings because there will be very clear guidelines regarding communication. You should also have guidelines regarding the way communication should be handled. All of the email communication, for instance, should be in a professional format that is devoid of emoticons or other flair. These items could potentially confuse and alienate older employees who don’t understand them.

Other issues go a little deeper. Older generations may require additional training for the technology in use by the company, and newer generations may need to be a little forgiving when errors or misunderstandings crop up. One generation doesn’t appreciate feedback, the others want to know how they are doing. Of course, older generations also have some social differences as well. Those of older generations are often more used to speaking about personal issues during work and being more candid in an office environment, while younger generations have often been coached about the importance of professionalism and political correct language in the office. All of these things need to be directly addressed when training new employees and discussed within employee manuals to ensure that nothing is lost in translation and that everyone understands appropriate behavior. It is also a great idea to utilize those employees who have an online masters in communication for strategies and helpful tips, as well.