Communication Style in the Multi-Generational Workplace

    By Marc Miller | Small Business

    Communication Style in the Multi Generational Workplace image Communication styles 300x300Communication Style in the Multi Generational WorkplaceGenerational Communication Style

    What is your preferred communication style?

    Would you prefer to:

    • Write someone a letter
    • Talk to someone in person
    • Speak to them on the phone
    • Write an e-mail
    • Text them on your phone

    Each generation has a preferred communication style that was developed a long time ago!

    Let me pose the question – when someone moved out from their parent’s home, how did each generation communicate with friends and family back home?

    Greatest Generation (Born 1900-1924)

    This was a period when you wrote letters. They were probably written in cursive!

    Their prefer communication style was written.

    Silent Generation (Born 1925-1945)

    The rise of the telephone and long distance calling made keeping in touch with home much easier. They talked with their friends and family.

    Their prefer communication style was auditory.

    Baby Boomers (Born 1946-1964)

    This is my generation and we used the phone. We used systems like calling home, letting it ring twice and then hanging up. This was a sign to our parents to call us and pay the long distance phone charges.

    Our prefer communication style was auditory.

    Generation X (Born 1965-1982)

    This is the first generation that had e-mail and other forms of electronic communications. Generation X brought back the art of writing … well kind of. They wrote but not like the Greatest Generation. No more pen and paper. Learning cursive penmanship was on the decline.

    Their prefer communication style was written… well kind of.

    Generation Y (Born 1983-2000)

    The rise of electronic communications was complete with this generation. Texting or instant messaging became the preferred method of communications. Like Generation X their preferred communication was writing but now it was real different from the Greatest Generation.

    Do not think of leaving a note written in cursive for a Gen Y! They may not be able to read it!

    Their prefer communication style was written… well kind of.

    What is your preferred communication style? Does it match with your generational norms?

    Cross Generational Communications

    This is where we get into trouble. What if you have an office full of multiple generations each with their own preferred communication style? What if you interacting with people of different generations in your job search?

    Let’s play a game!

    You come to work and you want to ask a colleague to lunch today. Their office/cubicle is an 5 minute walk from your office/cubicle. How do you approach them?

    • Walk over and ask them face to face
    • Call them on their phone
    • Send them an e-mail
    • Text them

    What would you do if you were:

    • 65 years old
    • 55 years old
    • 45 years old
    • 35 years old
    • 25 years old

    Would you change your communication style if the person you are asking was much older or younger than you?

    Hopefully, I have gotten you to think!

    Can we adapt? YES! For example many Baby Boomers and Generation X have learned to text to better communicate with our children.

    Here is the problem.

    Teaching Generation Y to adapt their communication style once they get into the workplace.

    This does not mean we all have to just text, e-mail or talk. We need to use mixed communication styles depending who we want to communicate with.

    As a professional trainer for most of my career, I learned that I needed to adapt to the learning style of my clients or students. Similarly, if you want to be understand and get your message across you need to adapt your communication style to the preferred method of the listener.

    As a Baby Boomer, I want my Generation Y employee to be able to clearly articulate in both oral and written forms (not texting).

    Similarly, I may well text my Generation Y employee when I need something from them!

    We all need to be able to adapt! There is no right communication style!

    Does this have an effect on how you will interact with recruiters, hiring managers, and others in your job search?

    What is your next step?

    This is the second in this series on the Multi-Generational Workplace. Read the rest:

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    You can also download my latest whitepaper Personal Branding for Baby Boomers – What It Is, How to Manage It, and Why It’s No Longer Optional!

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