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How to communicate with the different generations in the workplace

Good communication skills are essential in pretty much every aspect of life, none more so than in the workplace. Today’s workplace can be a tricky area for employees to navigate, as so many generations are now mixed together and each age group has specific ways they prefer to communicate. 

How to communicate with the different generations in the workplace

What ages are in the workplace today?

Here is a breakdown of the four generations most commonly found in the workplace today, as told by TurboTenant:

  • Baby Boomers were born in 1946 – 1964 and prefer face-to-face or phone conversations in the workplace.
  • Members of generation X were born in 1965 – 1976 and typically rely on email or texting to communicate with their co-workers.
  • Millennials now make up the largest part of the workforce at nearly 50% and are categorized as people born in 1977 – 1995. Millennials prefer texting or online chats like Slack as their mode of workplace communication.
  • Just now graduating from college and entering the workforce, Generation Z was born in 1996 – to the present day and also prefer texting, along with video chatting, to talk with co-workers.

Why do different generations have different values?

With generational tension at an all-time high (have you heard of the “Ok boomer” meme?) it’s important that co-workers understand how to get their message across in a healthy and productive way, which is going to vary from person to person. HR staff can encourage understanding between co-workers of different ages by helping them learn the history and core values of each age group that shapes the way they handle certain issues. 

For example, Baby Boomers are children of parents who lived through the Great Depression, so they were taught that hard work is the only way to get anywhere in life. This is contrasted with Millennials, who often believe that trying is just as important as succeeding.

Core workplace values for each generation

Here is the breakdown of the workplace values for each generation:

  • Baby Boomers are typically workaholics with a strong work ethic and emphasis on producing quality.
  • Members of Generation X have high expectations for their employers, require explicit structure and directions, and aren’t afraid to ask questions.
  • Millennials are expert multi-taskers, value creative expression, and are full of both self-confidence and ambition.
  • Generation Z members desire fulfilling work above monetary gains, value the ability to freely express themselves creatively, and want mentors to show them the best way forward.

You can see how these different values could inevitably lead to tension, where one group of people would approach a workplace issue much differently than another. Take a look at the visual guide from TurboTenant below for a more in-depth breakdown of each generation, along with strategies coworkers can use to communicate effectively with each other.

Visual guide to generational communication in the workplace

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