Have you ever wondered why your colleagues make the decisions they do at work? Sometimes I scratch my head in confusion and other times I applaud in awe at the unique and creative approach to an opportunity. Then I remember, “Its Generational”! Recognizing this influences positive team harmony and allows everyone to have a voice.
Work ethics and values are influenced, in part, by generational qualities. Superior inter-generational relationships are built from understanding who we are and how we are perceived.
The first question to ask is, “Who am I”? The categories are based on a particular span of years and the ethics are developed from experiencing world events during that particular time frame. Keep in mind you may be a “Cusper”, bridging two generations. That is the category I fall into. I am born on the last year of the Baby Boomer however, my qualities are predominantly Gen X.
Below are the generational categories and their common workplace values with the most important one highlighted last on the list.
Team player, Indirect, Loyal, Hard Worker, Rule follower, Respectful, Seniority and age correlate. They want to be recognized for their years of experience.
Baby Boomer (1946-1964)
Optimistic, Creative, Healthy, Enjoy personal gratification, Workaholic, Uncomfortable with conflict, Want respect
Gen X (1965-1977)
Positive, Impatient, Goal Oriented, Multi-tasker, To-do lists, Self-reliant, Techno-literal, Question authority, Want flexibility to create work-life balance.
Gen Y (1978-1999)
Confident, Social, Diverse, Techno-savvy, Tenacious, Multi-tasker, Like flexibility, Inclusion with “like” peers is very important.
Gen Z (2000-Present)
Entrepreneurial. Progressive, Less Religious, Individualistic, Digital Natives, Lonely, Diverse, Overwhelmed
Generations working side-by-side is not a new concept. However, recent years have included four and now five generations in the workforce. Move over Millennials, Gen Z is just starting to enter the workforce.
Now that we understand ourselves and each other better, let’s look at how we can improve on business relationships and interactions with a game I call Generational Geopardy. Please note, Gen Z is not included due to their limited time in the workforce to date.
Fill in the blanks from the word list below to develop a tool you can refer to for inter-generational communication tips. Each word is used only once.
In-Person / Telephone
Although the generations have different values, they also share many similarities and it is wise to recognize them. Engagement opportunities occur when we respect differences and focus on commonalities such as:
- We want to be heard.
- We want to take part in meaningful work.
- We want to contribute and make a difference.
- We want to feel genuinely appreciated.
- We want to be recognized as a person rather than a “number” at work.
- We want to develop into our full potential.
Generational Communication Application
How do we translate the information we know about each generation into applicable use? Since the Traditionalists comprise less than 2% of our current workforce we’ll work within the other three categories.
One area we could customize is using their preferred method of communication. As a Gen X, I reach out to people via email and text so I can continue to progress through my day efficiently. That is also the way I prefer people to communicate with me. However, if I am working with a Baby Boomer, I will either pick up the phone and call or visit their office for an actual conversation! Oh my! You might be surprised at the results you get by implementing customized strategies like these.
Success and referrals come from relationship building. Part of that formula is adapting your interaction style.
I challenge you to use the Generational Geopardy worksheet as a guide to customizing your inter-generational communication. Begin within your team then expand the techniques you master into your company, clients and personal life.
As you strengthen your generational skills and comfort level, you will be perceived differently and respected more by all the generations.
Copyright 2019 Lisa Copeland, RDH, CSP. All Rights Reserved