Executive Leadership Development Hints/Communicating With All Five Generations In Today’s Workplace

In September of last year I provided you with some comments about the five generations that are now active in today’s workplace environment, specifically- Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Gen Y (or Millennials) and the newest category which emerged last year, the 9-11’s. Each of these categories of workers has its own values, experiences, beliefs and attitudes which are brought into the workplace every day.  While these broad descriptions may not fit a particular individual, they attempt to capture the communication differences among the generations which have a tremendous impact on the work environment. Here are some Executive Leadership Development hints on communicating better with your staff members from these generations.

Traditionalists (born prior to 1946)

In communicating with the Traditionalists, it’s important to realize that they are, by nature, private people whohave worked hard during the long course of their careers and have “put in their time.” So in working with these employees, consider the following tips:

  • Use inclusive language (we, us) to build trust.  A Traditionalist’s word is her/her bond, so be that way with them.
  • Traditionalists favor face-to-face communication, when possible.  When not, formal written communication is received best by them.
  • Don’t waste their time – they’re focused on their job and don’t have a lot of time to “chat”.
  • Recognize that Traditionalists are slow to share their hard-won wisdom or to share their thoughts immediately.  Give the relationship time to evolve.

Baby Boomers (1946-1964)

Remember that the Boomers are known for their sense of competition and their “workaholic” habits.  In many ways their work is their life because they have been taught to climb the ladder of success in a highly competitive environment.

Consider the following tips when communicating with Boomers:

  • Use not only impactful words (crucial, game changing, high-profile) , but also body language  to effectively communicate.
  • Be direct and open in your communication style.
  • Answer questions completely and expect that the Boomers will likely ask for more detailed explanations.
  • In your discussions, demonstrate flexibility by presenting options to the Boomers.
  • Use either face-to-face or electronic communication to get your points across

Gen Xer (1965-1976)

For years Gen Xers looked to Boomers for support, guidance and training. They are now getting ready to take major leadership positions within business – but they really dislike office politics and policies, in general. They are often entrepreneurial thinkers and are ready to move on whenever possible. They’re very much interested in quality of life rather than just work alone. They use technology as a shortcut to success and they are highly productive using less time to do their jobs and, therefore, are able to lead a more “balanced” life. Gen Xers are multi-taskers and need a lot of stimuli. It’s important to them that they work in a challenging environment, focused on their individual growth in assignments that stimulate.

Consider the following tips when communicating with Gen Xers:

  • Learn their language (acronyms) and use them
  • Use email to communicate
  • Present the facts in a straight-forward manner
  • Solicit their feedback
  • Share information with them often
  • Use a more informal communication style
  • Listen to them carefully

Millennials  (1977-1990) and 9-11’s (1991 to present)

Workers in these generations are often described as individuals who continually question the standards and expectations held by society. These people know no limits and they define the workplace as they go. They are highly creative, well-educated and very adept users of technology.  The internet is very much their playground and it has practically no boundaries. If there is a faster way for them to do their assignments, Millennials and 9-11’s will find a way to do it through technology.

Consider the following tips when communicating with Millennials and 9-11’s:

  • Use language that paints visual pictures
  • Don’t talk down to them – they will strongly resent it
  • Treat them as colleagues in language and action and they’ll respect you
  • Use email and voicemail as primary communication vehicles and be prepared to incorporate texting methods to reinforce messages “on the fly”
  • Use visual communication whenever possible to keep them focused
  • Continually seek their feedback
  • Use humor to demonstrate that you don’t take yourself too seriously
  • Encourage them to explore new paths or options

If you don’t pay attention to the different communication preferences cited above, it’s likely that your leader/manager messages will be frequently misunderstood. You will often find yourself engaged in having to restate or reiterate your objectives, goals, approaches and solution strategies.  A great deal of time will be lost and the critical momentum required to accomplish crucial tasks in a timely manner will be hampered. Your competitors will love that! These are a few of the ideas that are expanded and amplified in our Succeeding Generations Workshop (http://www.pacesllc.com/services/workshops/#succeeding-generations).


“…keeping our clients steps ahead of the competition.”

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