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Advice offered on bridging the generational communication gap in the office

In the workplace challenge of solving an issue, Baby Boomers are likely to form a team and communicate formally through memos and emails.

Gen X’ers and Gen Y’ers, faced with the same issue resolution, might rely on statistics and instinct and communicate less formally with texts that are grammatically incorrect.

According to a University of the Rockies professor who has studied these general dynamics, these different styles can create some tension and even some communication breakdown in the workplace.

Each generation has its own preferred communication style, as well as distinct values and feedback needs, according to Dr. Paige Graham, a member of the core faculty at the University of the Rockies who has studied generational characteristics.

“It’s all about bridging the gaps, real and imagined, in communication styles, cultural habits and response needs,” she said in a recent release.

“When conflicts arise in the workplace between members of different generations, the issues often center around communication styles, cultural practices, and approaches to problems, processes, risk and technology.”

She cites an example: “When faced with a problem to solve or a task to accomplish, Boomers respond by marshalling a team and applying a process, while Generations X’ers and Y’ers are more apt to rely on data, technology and intuition.”

Here are Graham’s tips:

  • Learn how to flex your communication style;
  • Use each cohort’s preferred communication channel when assigning tasks or giving feedback;
  • Honor each person’s contribution to the group and acknowledge each individual’s need for affirmation;
  • Emphasize commonalities and shared goals.

“Everyone wants respect; you just have to discover how different people define it,” she said.


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