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9 Tips For Getting Along With Coworkers From Different Generations

9 Tips For Getting Along With Coworkers From Different Generations

A healthy workplace requires non-stop communication, but when your office includes by-the-book Baby Boomers, skeptical Gen X-ers, and collaborative Millennials, roadblocks will come up on your information highways.

A multigenerational workforce isn’t a new phenomenon, but the enormous shift that’s taken place over the past 20 years in the rules of business and how we communicate has created some unique intergenerational dynamics.

While seasoned professionals are being forced to become tech savvy and hip to new workplace culture or fall behind, many younger employees are expected to adhere to entrenched hierarchies and dress codes if they want to get ahead.

Friction may be inevitable, but you can help ease the tension by considering how your coworkers’ generation may be impacting their perspective and approach.

Here are 9 tips for how to get along with—and impress—the Baby Boomers, Gen X-ers, and Millennials in your workplace. To test your generational IQ, take this quiz.

Baby Boomers

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    Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, grew up in a generally optimistic time when letters were typed and sent by mail, business was conducted face-to-face, and the telephone was the fastest way to communicate. If you work alongside or report to a Baby Boomer, keep these three tips in mind.

    Honor Their Experience

    When presenting information or making requests of a Baby Boomer, take their title, experience, and tenure with the company into consideration. Show them overt respect and deference, just as they did with their superiors. This means acknowledging their expertise and giving them an opportunity to absorb information and vocalize their thoughts before piping up with your own opinions and conclusions.

    Be Prepared

    Boomers spent much of their careers working long hours without the distraction of social media and instant messaging. Reports and memos took dedicated time to research and perfect before printing and distributing. Boomers will expect you to invest time and focus to get things right before sending out documents, holding meetings, or giving presentations. And they’ll want you to be well prepared to answer their questions with evidence, precedents, and data.

    Respect Boundaries

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    For Baby Boomers, there was a chain of command; rarely would a junior account executive go directly to a vice president with a new product idea. So, if you have a Boomer for a coworker, collaborate freely, but if you report to a Boomer, they may prefer not to work side by side with you as you do your work. And if it seems they’re none too eager to catch a baseball game with you after work, don’t take it personally; traditional workplace relationships were often business-only.

    Generation X

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      Gen X-ers, born between the mid-1960s and 1979, came of age when corporate scandals peppered the news, governments clashed, and their parents were often working long hours, leaving them to fend for themselves and learn independently. This bred innovation and autonomy, along with a healthy skepticism of the status quo. If you work alongside or report to a Gen X-er, keep these three tips in mind.

      Be Efficient

      Gen X-ers are great with email communication but get impatient with shortcuts, sloppy writing, and too much fluff. They want efficiency and accuracy. So don’t worry about playing into the ego of a Gen X-er when you communicate—just stick to what’s working, what’s not, and your next steps. And don’t request tons of meetings or time commitments unless they’re really necessary.

      Walk Your Talk

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      Though Gen X-ers respect hierarchy, they grew up in a time of questioning authority and challenging the establishment. So they’re more likely to respect your actions over your job title or where you went to grad school. If you set expectations around punctuality, be on time. If you ask for honest feedback on an idea, accept that feedback without getting defensive. If you say you’re going to finish your report by Friday, get it done by Friday morning or, even better, Thursday afternoon.

      Respect Their Independence

      Gen X-ers are known for a “if you want it done right, do it yourself” mentality, so give them roles where they have autonomy and projects they can work on independently. Don’t force teamwork on them or be offended by their tendency to want to work solo; you’ll get their best work when you give them space.

      Generation Y (Millennials)

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        Generation Y, born between 1980 and 1995 and also called Millennials, are often referred to as “digital natives,” having grown up with internet connectivity, digital devices, and 250+ cable TV channels. They were raised to value teamwork and constant feedback and tend to have a strong sense of self-worth. If you work alongside or report to a Gen Y-er, keep these three tips in mind.

        Give The Big Picture

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        Gen Y-ers are used to a transparent world where answers to questions are never more than a few clicks away and nothing is kept secret for long. The way you communicate with a Millennial isn’t as important as how openly you communicate. They want to know how your information or request applies to them personally, how it might affect their career development, and how it fits in with the big picture of your organization’s goals.

        Give Frequent Feedback

        Provide feedback often and immediately to Millennials. Let them know clearly what they’re doing right, what they need to improve, and how to improve. Don’t be afraid to offer advice and appropriate levels of coaching, but keep your relationship intact by offering feedback specific to the task at hand; direct your criticism to their work, not them personally.

        Be Inclusive

        Raised with the motto “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘Team,” Millennials have been trained to be collaborative and involved. So, involve them! Invite your Gen Y colleagues to sit at the table, hear both the good and the bad news, and brainstorm ideas and solutions. Don’t worry about their level at the company or yours. The process of sharing ideas and collaborating is exciting for younger professionals, who are eager to learn and be part of a winning team.

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        The Gentle Art of Saying No

        The Gentle Art of Saying No

        No!

        It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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        But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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        What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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        But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

        1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
        2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
        3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
        4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
        5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
        6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
        7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
        8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
        9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
        10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

        Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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