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Generational Differences

In: Business and Management

Submitted By wildcat03820
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ABSTRACT
This paper looks at the challenges of intergenerational as well as intercultural communication. It will examine where these challenges come from and how best to overcome them for effective workplace communication.

Effective Communication
Communicating Across Generational and Cultural Lines

With people working later in their lives, there are more generations in any given workplace than ever before. The topic of intergenerational communication has moved to the forefront as it carries its own unique challenges and rewards. The International Encyclopedia of Communication refers to intergenerational communication as applying “to interactions involving individuals who are from different age cohorts or age groups” (Intergenerational Communication). Simply put, intergenerational communication means the way in which we communicate between different generations in the workplace. Currently there are four potential generations in the workplace. Each has their own unique set of values and way of working. Rieva Lesonsky defines each generation in her article Managing Different Generations in the Workplace: 1) Traditionalists – Born between 1922 and 1942 “These are the traditionalists, valuing hard work and commitment, loyalty to a cause and a company. "Whatever it takes" can be heard as their motto, and they will do just that to get a job done. However, Builders like things to be the way they've always been; what worked for them will work for others. They are not excited about technology, and can be slow to see it as an advantage, much less a necessity”. 2) Baby Boomers – Born between 1943 and 1964 “They value security and stability, and appreciate clearly stated goals and tasks. They prefer to communicate through in-person meetings and emails”. 3) Generation X’ers – Born between 1965 and 1981 "They are adaptable and resourceful, and most have learned to use digital technology and communicate with the latest tech tools”. 4) Millenials or Generation Y – Born between 1982 and 2001 “They value work-life balance and flexibility even more than Gen X. They also seek freedom and want to be treated as equals from their first day on the job. This generation doesn’t fear authority, and seeks challenging and meaningful work. And they’re the most tech-savvy of the three groups, preferring to communicate quickly via texting and IM” (Lesonsky, 2011).
Clearly, each of these generations has different values, different goals and vastly different ways of communicating. It isn’t enough to simply recognize these difference, we must learn to identify then appreciate them and tailor our communication to them. It is also important to find common ground between the generations. Theresa Gilbert states in her article, The Challenges of Multiple Generations in the Workplace, we must “recognize there are similarities in each generation, i.e., none of us really like change, especially when we don't choose it; the element of trust is critical regardless of the generation; everyone wants to be treated with respect, and everyone wants to feel like they are significant to the larger vision” (Gilbert, 2008). At the end of the day, each of us wants to be respected and valued in our jobs. The ways in which each generation learned to communicate have changed drastically over the years so recognizing that a Traditionalist would appreciate a face to face meeting and a Millennial would much rather respond to a text message or email will go a long way towards overcoming the challenges of intergenerational communication. Work ethic between generations is also very different. Traditionalists believe in company loyalty and longevity with a company. They work for the same company and have started from the bottom and worked their way up. They believe in a very linear chain of movement up through the ranks whereas Millennials believe in a healthy balance of work and play and are more often willing to work for themselves. They have grown up with the “global economy” and have more experience with the kind of communication which makes global business faster and easier. So how does the topic of intergenerational communication tie in with the topic of intercultural communication in the workplace? Both topics address the varied workplace, both dealing with culture and with generational differences. Both present clear challenges which can be a major hurdle to communication. Overcoming both of these challenges can be extremely rewarding to someone in a leadership position and can create great exchanges of ideas for those open to hearing them. These kinds of exchanges can ultimately lead to outstanding ideas and creativity that comes when people are open to diversity and who value its place in the workplace.
Our text references Elashmawi and Harris on page 215 and list ways cultural differences are manifested. They are: 1) Language 2) Nonverbal messages 3) Space and time orientation 4) Patterns of thinking 5) Self-Images 6) Aesthetics
Each of these can also be applied to the ways in which generational differences manifest themselves. Each generation has different language which can include slang. Traditionalists value face to face interaction and Millennials sometimes forget to look people in the e because they are too busy on their electronic gadgets. Each item in the above list could be used in an example for both cultural and generational differences. Again, recognizing them, understanding them and respecting them will help avoid a potential miscommunication down the road. At the end of the day, each of us has a lot to contribute based on many factors. How we were raised, where we were raised and when we were raised are but a few differences we each bring to the workplace. Learning to value the insight those differences bring ultimately benefits everyone.

WORKS CITED

Gilbert, T. (2008, August 12). The Challenges of Multiple Generations in the Workplace. Retrieved from ezinearticles.com: http://ezinearticles.com/?The-Challenges-of-Multiple-Generations-in-the-Workplace&id=1391883
Intergenerational Communication. (n.d.). Retrieved from International Encyclopedia of Communication: http://www.communicationencyclopedia.com/public/tocnode?id=g9781405131995_yr2011_chunk_g978140513199514_ss55-1
Lesonsky, R. (2011, February 9). Managing Different Generations in the Workplace. Retrieved from Small Business Trends: http://smallbiztrends.com/2011/02/managing-different-generations.html
Shah, R. (2011, April 20). Working with Five Generations in the Workplace. Retrieved from Forbes.com: http://www.forbes.com/sites/rawnshah/2011/04/20/working-with-five-generations-in-the-workplace/
Ten Tips for the Intercultural Leader. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.kwintessential.co.uk: http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&Itemid=86&id=1276&lang=en&layout=edit&view=article
Zaremba, A. J. (2010). Organizational Communication. New York: Oxford Press.…...

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