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Lost in Translation

by fatweb


The workplace today is a multitude of generations. Between graduates, long time professionals and those somewhere in between, and then superiors, subordinates and colleagues, it can be a difficult scene to navigate. A good place to start is with effective communication.

Communication is most commonly defined as a transfer of information, thoughts or ideas to create a shared understanding between a sender and a receiver. But it’s even more complex than this.

Each generation has its own unique set of communication preferences. These preferences are sculpted by values and attitudes of the past and present, cultural upbringings and behaviours among other things.

While this set of preferences provides, intra-generationally, a comfortable and fluid stream of internal and external communication, inter-generationally these nuances can be complex, making communication often misunderstood, misinterpreted, and effectively not serving its purpose.

Below is a guide to communicating with each generation.

GENERATION Z / iGEN / CENTENNIALS (1996ish and later)

“Growing up in a time of uncertainty (the post – 9/11 world, the Great Recession) and changing norms (increased racial diversity, shifting gender roles), Gen Z is mature, self-directed, and resourceful. They know how to self-educate and find information. [They] are determined to ‘make a difference’ and ‘make an impact’,” website IID writes.

Its tips for communicating with Generation Z are: communicate across multiple platforms; connect through images; communicate through snackable (concise) content; see them as diverse; don’t talk down, treat them as adults; feed Gen Z’s curiosity.

MILLENNIALS / GEN Y (1977ish – 1995ish)

“Positive and confident, Millennials are ready to take on the world. Provide structure. Provide leadership and guidance. Encourage Millennial’s self-assuredness, ‘can-do’ attitude, and positive personal self-image.

“Take advantage of Millennial’s comfort level with teams; encourage them to join. Millennial employees are multi-taskers on a scale you’ve never seen before. Capitalise on Millennial’s affinity for networking. Provide a fun environment,” human resources expert Susan M Heathfield writes.

GENERATION X (1965ish – 1976ish)

“Keep it up to date and motivating. Music at work, instant messaging (IM), and fast computers will help Gen X stay productive. Be willing to negotiate. Limit in-person meetings and offer alternatives like conference calls, video, and web conferencing when collaboration is truly needed.

“For face-to-face meetings, stick to small productive groups and skip long planning sessions. Be direct. Trust them. Invite but don’t push them to participate. Limit bureaucracy; provide access to information and resources without burdening them with corporate politics and excessive meetings,” Bloomberg website writes.

BABY BOOMERS (1946ish – 1964ish)

“Baby boomers are known to be workaholics, desire high quality in their products and services, and aren’t afraid to question authority. They want to be collegial leaders, so working with them as a team member is relevant and valuable.

“Communicate in person but try to avoid meetings; one-to-one will be the best method. Relay the message that their contribution is needed, reward them with money, and give them a meaningful title. Boomers work to live, so converse with them about their work more than you do about their home lives,”executive coach and leadership consultant, Michael S. Seaver writes.


“Because traditionalists respect authority, put duty before fun, and strictly adhere to rules, they tend to lead with a command-and-control style. They’re very directive and prefer to be communicated to formally and through the written word (think… memos).

“They take satisfaction in doing a job well, so make sure that you share with them how much you respect their experience. When it comes to providing feedback, no news is good news, so only approach them with something that is paramount to their performance,” Seaver writes.

By Lydia Truesdale

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