As the generation gap widens in the workplace, differences in communication style become evident. According to corporate training expert Dana Brownlee, offices today include employees from dissimilar generations: Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials. Each generation grew up in different times, has diverse values and communicates in unique ways. For example, older generations prefer talking face-to-face or on the phone, while younger generations prefer emails or texts. How does this affect your workplace, and how can you prevent conflict? Here are four tips to communicate effectively in your work environment.
1) Be aware of and match the culture. Determine how your organization primarily communicates, and use it as the standard for your communication with your colleagues. Additionally, highlighting generational differences in terms of their communication habits in onboarding or training can help alleviate potential conflict.
2) Figure out what works for each person. If one of your colleagues prefers email, but another would rather discuss important information in person, make an effort to reach out via their preferred channel. Thinking of others and their needs can help you build positive relationships in your workplace.
3) Ask questions, and never assume. If you’re unsure how a coworker prefers to touch base in the office, don’t be afraid to ask! You’re more likely to get a timely response if you reach out to someone via the communication channel they prefer and utilize most.
4) Don’t take it personally. Frustrated about the length of time it takes a coworker to respond to your request, or by a coworker who calls you multiple times a day when you prefer email? Rather than getting irritated, focus on the commonalities you share rather than differences. Deidre Paknad, CEO of workforce performance and productivity solutions company Workboard, believes generations in the office actually work together much better than they think. All generations value belonging to something larger than themselves, working as a team with purpose and mission, and happily engaging with others who are striving and successful. Remember these shared values when confronting conflict.
In short, these communication tips revolve around taking the perspective of others and trying to understand their preferences. Do your best to consider your generationally different coworkers to keep your work environment efficient and friendly.
Bailey Wimmer is an Assistant Account Executive at Lovell. Connect with Bailey at: Bailey@lovell.com.
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