Communicating with a Multi-Generational Workforce

Managing Across Generations Today’s workforce is comprised of people from four distinct generations – Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials. As a result, problems can arise from the sometimes conflicting communication styles of workers born in different eras.

Managers that are able to communicate effectively, regardless of age or other factors, have great potential to increase worker productivity, collaboration, and morale.

There are many benefits to a multi-generational workforce. The best managers use workplace diversity to their advantage.

While each employee is unique and special, there are some strategies and best practices we can apply effectively when we understand and embrace generational differences.

Traditionalists (Born before 1945)

When communicating with a Traditionalist:

  • Your words and tone of voice should be respectful.
  • The message should relate to company history and long-term goals.
  • Be sure to use proper grammar and clear diction. Avoid slang and profanity.

Baby Boomers (Born between 1946-1964)

When communicating with a Baby Boomer:

  • Try to have a participative, in-person conversation – one in which their input is requested and validated.
  • If possible, link the message to the team or individual vision, mission and values.
  • Boomers tend to see relationships and business results as intertwined, so be sure to mix mutual interests into the conversation.

Generation X (Born between 1965-1980)

When communicating with a Generation Xer:

Be direct and straightforward.

  • Avoid corporate-speak. State clearly what you want, when you want it, and how it will serve the Gen Xer.
  • Email is often appropriate medium for the message.

Millennials (Born between 1980-2000)

When communicating with a Millennial:

  • Be positive. Avoid cynicism and sarcasm.
  • If possible, tie your message to the Millennials’ personal or team goals – yet make sure your message doesn’t come off as condescending.
  • Text messages can often be appropriate for Millennials.

The Best Managers

When communicating with people from another generation, it is critical to remember that he or she likely has different interests, motivators, and preferences. Successful managers and supervisors know how to adapt to these differences and bring out the best in the individual.

What experiences have you had managing a multi-generational workforce? What worked for you – and what didn’t?

For more information on this topic, register for Manage Across Generations, one of our new Professional Development courses in 2012.


Jennifer Albrecht is the Director of Professional Development and Senior Facilitator with Learn iT! She helps individuals, teams and organizations develop leadership capacity, improve business practices, strengthen relationships and enhance performance to achieve bottom-line results.

Click here for a list and schedule of Learn iT! Professional Development courses.

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