Generation Gaps Spur Business Change

A giant barrier to communication in the workforce is the generation gap. In your office, you may have someone who remembers life before e-mail and Internet, whereas others can’t even dream of living without constant news updates, texting, and telling friends what they did last night with the touch of a screen.

But generation gaps can be great to spur change, because they help us think of new ideas to problems and perhaps apply old solutions to new challenges.

When communicating across generations, make sure you don’t change the meaning of the message. The best way to avoid generation differences is to involve people and ask for their opinion and ideas about the change.

When working across generations, keep these things in mind:

  • Remember that “What’s in it for me” is number one: Whether you are working with the Me, Y, X, or Z generation, people value different things. Sure, studies show younger generations value happiness and life balance more than money and success, but that’s not always the case.

    Don’t assume that those “kids” in your office don’t care about success, and don’t assume that older workers just want to sit back and wait for their retirement day! Be honest about what’s in it for the organization, team, and person, and don’t just say what you assume the generation wants to know.

  • Don’t feel your generation is superior: Just because one generation invented the phone and the other created the smartphone doesn’t make any generation smarter.

  • Perception is reality, but don’t perceive everything too fast: Even if a person is talking too fast, using slang, and dressing a way you hardly believe, try not to dismiss him or her. You may be able to instantly perceive what generation someone is from based on behavior or appearance, but don’t let it affect your ability to listen. Focus on the facts, not the outfit.

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