Understanding the different generations in the workplace continues to be a hot topic that people struggle with. I frequently hear the groans and frustration from various ages about not being able to connect with co-workers. Many of the comments focus around this question, “Why can’t they understand me? It makes perfect sense…to me.”
The challenge with this question is that the focus is turned inward, meaning everyone else has to adapt to me-my style, my values, my way of thinking. It may sound counter-intuitive, but if we really want to be understood by others, we must first seek to understand them. It is only by seeking to truly know someone else that we break down barriers and begin to build rapport, dare I say, appreciation for someone else. Appreciating someone else’s perspective, talents, and ideas that are different than ours, is how we begin to connect. Through connection, we begin to soften and look at people through different eyes, eyes of curiosity vs. judgment. When we are curious, we seek to learn and want to share. Only when we arrive in this place do others have a chance to understand us as we want to be understood.
Each generation grew up with their own unique experiences that have shaped and molded their values and how they view the world around them-including their working style and communication. Rather than fight the fact your co-workers or direct reports operate so differently than you, why not choose to embrace and understand those differences. The beautiful result is, you’ll both be happier in the long run!
When we are trying to force someone to operate and think in a way that is completely outside of their make-up, we are not keeping their best interests in mind; we are focusing on ours. As leaders, our purpose is to groom, develop, and empower our teams to become the very best they can be. Wouldn’t that mean we need to nurture who they are at their very core, and let their unique traits shine?
Here are 4 Tips to Deepen Your Connections Across Each Generation:
1. Connecting to Traditionalists- Our oldest, most formal generation in the workplace. When talking with them about changes, offer a historical perspective of what has worked in the past and connect it with the coming change.
2. Connecting to Baby Boomers– Boomers value respect for their experience, tenure, and knowledge. They are passionate about democracy in decision making so be sure to seek their expertise when planning.
3. Connecting to Generation X- This group values work/life balance, efficiency, direct communication, and would rather avoid unnecessary meetings. Be clear and to the point when communicating with Generation X.
4. Connecting to the Millennials– Our youngest working generation is highly collaborative and prefers to work in teams. They respond well to messages shared with a positive perspective. When needing to give feedback this group will respond better to a leader acting more as a coach and less of a boss.
The goal when we communicate with others should be to connect in such a way that both parties learn more after having had their conversation. If you aren’t learning when you’re communicating, chances are you might need to check your connection level. Are you seeking to understand the others on a deeper level when you communicate or are you more so imparting your vast knowledge on them? Connection is key to positive relationships. Give these tips a try and see if your workplace relationships improve.