Bridging the Generation Gap
Generation gaps are real, but these differences in attitudes and communication styles need not be barriers to better teamwork and productivity.
By identifying specific attitudes of each of the four generations in today's workplace – traditionalist, baby boomer, generation X and generation Y – you can bridge the generation gap and help improve communication, respect and productivity.
- When a Traditionalist Is in Charge... Born between 1900 and 1945, traditionalists often value loyalty and think of authority in a top-down, hierarchical way. Thus, when a traditionalist is in charge, it can be tricky to ask questions outright, as this may seem disrespectful of authority. It is best to phrase questions respectfully and frame them as a responsibility of your position.
- When Working with Baby Boomers... Keep in mind that they put much store on loyalty and the classic image of responsibility. Baby boomers are like traditionalists, but they often value individuality a little bit more and are more driven to win.
- When Dealing with Generation X'ers... Know that they value results and the bottom line. They often look at competence above all else and don't mind going it alone. When they make a decision, they're ready to move on.
- When Communicating with Millennials... Millennials, or generation Y, spend more time in cyberspace and less time in face-to-face conversations. As such, they often don't catch all the small, nonverbal clues that older generations pick up in conversations. Thus, when communicating with generation Y, it is best to be clear and direct and not rely too much on tone or other nonverbal signals.
- Don't Generalize on Generations Although there are a few basic trends, keep in mind that you can't make any more guarantees about a generation than you can about all men or women.