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Generational language barriers and workplace communication

The average workplace is now made up of four generations, with millennials and Gen Zs accounting for most of the global workforce. Whilst these two generations are the youngest, with Millennials born from 1981 to 1996 and Gen Z’s born between 1997 and 2012, they don’t necessarily have a great deal in common. 

Generational language barriers and workplace communication

Unless you live under a rock, you would know that Gen Zs are taking over what’s ‘hot’ and what’s ‘not’ in popular culture; they lead the way when it comes to internet culture and memes and are taking the gaming industry by storm. They are what millennials once were and what Generation Alpha (born between 2011 and 2025) will be. It is the ever-continuous circle of the younger generation being just that little bit cooler.  

And it is not just popular culture that differs between the generations, it’s the language they use, too. Whilst millennials might say they are ‘adulting’ when they reflect on activities like paying a bill, or going to work, Gen Zs would describe such behaviour as ‘cheugy’, or for a more universal definition: outdated. Never has cross-generational communication been both so different and so important. But, how does understanding these differences and knowing how to overcome them in language aid in workplace communication? 

Here Babbel looks at the generational language barriers in workplace communication and how common ground can be established.

Find a middle ground

Everyone can remember being young and ambitious during the start of your career. Perhaps you still are, or maybe you’re changing the path of your career again. We all know how it feels to be a newbie in a workplace environment. You can feel out of your depth, so it’s good to be down with the lingo of all age groups you are working with no matter what generational age you fall under. There is nothing more cringe-worthy than an older peer attempting to ‘get down with the kids’ in an unauthentic way. 

First of all, you should consider finding some common ground, rather than change your use of terminology and language straight away. That being said, it doesn’t hurt to know what these new words actually mean. 

Use your language to build trust and respect  

Everyone in the workplace will have their own skill set, and insight from younger members of staff can often be just as valuable as from those of older generations.

Using language to build trust and respect will help you to find a middle ground. For continual development in language and communication, you must speak to each other respectfully in the workplace including when asking for and receiving help. 

Embrace technology for productivity

With a huge percentage of office-based environments having to work from home, streamlined communication via technology has never been more crucial.  

We should all learn to embrace something that plays such a pivotal role in the future of communicating, regardless of the generation you are part of. Encourage those in-the-know to have the confidence to share their knowledge so that the wider team can benefit. 

More on workplace communication with different generations and importance of good communication.