[YWH S1E11] Generational Diversity in the Workplace: Some Answers
Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, a northern suburb of Los Angeles, I tend to say “like,” “dude,” and “Homie” a lot. It’s a product of my surroundings growing up and has been interwoven into who I am. I recognize, however, these phrases have a time and place at work and, depending on my audience, may be effective or detrimental to those. Communication among different generations is no different. Older co-workers may prefer to communicate in person, by phone, or through email. Conversely, younger generations may prefer to communicate through instant messaging (IM) or other social media outlets. Neither is better nor worse than the other; they’re just different. What IS important is to recognize that they are different and to be open to communicating through mediums which you may not be comfortable utilizing, with the goal of improving organizational communication among your co-workers. Kick down the barriers to communication, and don’t be afraid to ask, “How do you prefer to communicate?”.
I love to bake, mainly because I love to eat sweets, especially fruit pies and brownies. Imagine for a moment if every fruit pie or brownie were exactly the same that would suck! Think of your work environment as a recipe, different spices, cooking methods, quality of ingredients, et cetera, all contributing to a different flavor that either explodes in your mouth or fizzles out, leaving you wanting something different. Now, imagine if all your co-workers thought and acted the same. Where would innovation come from? How would your product or service differentiate you from your competitors? How boring would life be if we didn’t have variety? YOU are the difference at work because YOU have the opportunity to open up to others and share your thoughts, find out what drives your co-workers, find out how they like to communicate and figure out how you can succeed together. Everybody has something to learn, and everybody has something to teach. If you’re not learning, and you’re not teaching, what ARE you doing?
We all have choices. You can assume co-workers are a certain way based on preconceived notions, or you can get to know them, find out who they really are and how you can work together. Don’t be afraid to ask someone different from you for help, as they may value the opportunity. In turn, take the time to help others when they are in need. Generational gaps can be bridged utilizing these techniques; one just has to be open and willing to do so. Be the change; don’t wait for it!