6. Communicate across generations
The workplace and marketplace are changing, and those changes can be challenging and chilling. We now have four generations in the workplace–presenting interesting opportunities (and barriers) to leaders, business owners, managers, and their coaches. You might see some variation in the labels and dates used for the four generations by other writers. However the following are commonly understood:
• The Silent Generation (a.k.a Traditionalists) were born before 1946
• Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964
• Gen Xers were born between 1965 and 1980
• Millennials (sometimes called Gen Y or Generation Next) were born after 1981
And while we’re noticing, let’s keep our eyes open for the next generation (Z?)–still young children but predicted to have a new, eye-opening model of the world.
Professionals of all ages do well to understand the dynamics and the potential outcomes of generational interaction and sometimes misunderstanding. When generations fail to communicate effectively in the workplace and in the market place we may see a negative impact on the bottom line and ultimate business success. We need to ask powerful questions around issues related to the generations, such as:
• What is the impact of differing communication styles?
• What are some pitfalls in inter-generational communications–professionally and personally?
• How can we enhance cross-generational communication?
• What are the challenges of leadership, management and team development that pertain to each generation?
Boomers could benefit from increased self-awareness of the factors that affect their own view of work and career. The purpose is not to perpetrate stereotypes or insist upon generalizations, but rather to gain insights that will aid in building bridges across generations. We observe that Boomers…
• Were beat up by downsizings and rightsizings and have always competed fiercely among themselves.
• May have had several careers, employers or types of jobs.
• Tend to be workaholics and define themselves through work. May have guilt over putting career before family.
• Tend to be self-centered and self-absorbed. They personify the “me generation.”