Building Bridges, Breaking Stereotypes: Navigating Generational Differences in Communication at Work (Part Two)
by Lisa Waite
Professor Communications Studies
Kent State University at Stark
and Women’s Impact, Inc. Founder
As much as technology gives us more ways to communicate, it gives us more ways to be misunderstood.
Trying to communicate effectively with a multi-generational team is like trying to navigate a corn maze blindfolded.
Starting with the awesome Boomers, they are convinced that a phone call is generally the best way to communicate. They are also fond of acronyms (FYI, ASAP, LOL) and will use them frequently. Want to get an important message across to a Boomer? Consider reaching for the phone instead of sending an email, and if you do choose to use email, make sure you include some of those favorite acronyms to get your point across.
Next, are the GEN Xers. This generation grew up with computers and email technology, but they can still remember life before the Internet. They balance technology and face-to-face communication effectively. They may recall waiting for ‘dial-up’ to connect with one foot in the digital world and the other foot somewhere in 1980.
Then there are the marvelous multitasking Millennials who were practically born holding a smartphone. Messaging and texting via their social pages are their preferred communication style. They are the masters of memes and heroes of the hashtag.
Generation Alpha, (born between 2010 and 2025), is the youngest generation and their technology and communication habits are still unfolding. In his book, Speaking Across Generations, author Darrell Hall suggests that to Gen-A, technology is not just one thing, it is EVERYthing! They are the first generation to grow up entirely in the digital age and are more likely to communicate almost exclusively via technology. Instant gratification is all they know due to on-demand services, which may make them less patient than previous generations in all areas of life.
Of course, these are general observations and exceptions exist. It’s most important to know that communication among generations can certainly be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be a brick wall. So, let’s all raise a slice of avocado toast to bridge the generational gap. Who knows, with a little bit of empathy and a lot of emojis, maybe the generations will finally understand each other’s slang – and that’s “lit!”