Working with other generations is something we all do, whether it’s an employee, a boss, or even a customer. But let’s face it, it often seems hopeless trying to understand how these people see the world, let alone effectively communicate with them.
Firestone Speaking’s Denise Ryan says there are actually good reasons (from the way their parents raised them to socio-economic conditions) why the World War II generation, Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y see the world the way they do. She offered some tips at OFA Short Course to help you interact more effectively with these different generations.
The World War II generation prefers face-to-face communication. They value organization, formality and experience and want you too as well. They don’t need a trophy when they accomplish something, but thrive on the satisfaction of a job well done. When communicating with them, try to be polite and avoid slang, profanity and emotional language.
Baby Boomers like recognition for performance, and have no qualms about putting in the time to earn it. They are generally less formal than the World War II generation and are more open to you approaching them like a friend, showing interest in their lives. They prefer using their phones for actual phone calls rather than emails or texts. They’re also less time-focused than other generations.
Generation X, on the other hand, is all about using their time effectively. They prefer functional, casual clothing at work, results-based language and straightforward communication – you don’t need to ask about their kids or their weekend to get through to them. They hate bureaucracy and like freedom to do their jobs – give them an expected outcome and don’t micromanage how they get there.
Generation Y has grown up being asked their opinion on everything, so they like working in groups and collaborating with their peers so that everyone is heard. They do need a little structure for situations like this. Set specific expectations on assignments and be very clear with guidelines. Gen Y may seem overly confident to other generations, but it’s self-assurance, Ryan says, not arrogance. Recognize their achievements.
There are individual exceptions for all of these characterizations, of course, but by understanding the motivations of the different generations, you’re much more likely to have productive communication with people who see the world a little differently than you do.