Multigenerational communication an important topic for QU students

By Will Conerly

You’re driving down the road and suddenly you’re lost! What do you do?

The answer may have more to do with your age than anything else. Assuming your smartphone has enough power, you might check Google Maps, or perhaps you may text or call a friend. On the other hand, if you were a little older you might choose to look at a road map or atlas.  This showcases two generations, two completely different answers, and neither one good or bad.

What does all of this mean?   That’s easy, times are changing thanks in large part due to the technological advances our generation has witnessed.  I’m 20-years old and I can’t imagine a world without smartphones and applications. I rely on my phone constantly. The question is how has all of this influenced me and my generation with regard to communication?

Depending on the generation you grew up with you either had no phone, a phone booth, a landline or a smartphone.

Today’s age, specified as Generation Z, has grown up with the conveniences of modern technology. This generation has always been exposed to the internet, and has never known life without it.

However, older generations didn’t grow up that way.

I recognize that specifications on generations are debated, but the point is to recognize that there are differences between generations that clash together in the workplace.

We’re all creatures of our own experiences, and it is important to recognize the way a person was raised and what they were taught when they grew up.

Mailing a letter, using a dial phone, or reading a road map are tasks older generations grew up habitually doing, but now seem foreign to younger generations.

This is evidence to show that technology is changing the world. This holds true no matter what generation you look at. It begs the questions, what advances generations after ours will experience? What will be outdated in 20 years? Where do we draw the line?

Now, it seems as though the advancement is happening at an unprecedented pace. Every three to five years there are new cutting edge technological advances that increase the convenience of a person’s life.

I think this technology is a great thing; when it is used the right way.

Students were able to make sense of generational diversity and discuss topics pertaining to each generation because the QUEST Center hosted a Generations at Work event. On April 8th, students filled the Hall of Fame room and listened to Tara Gebhardt from Bank of Springfield.

Email informing students about the conference.

She introduced the current generations in today’s workforce and encouraged discussion and activities among those present.

Many students were enlightened to know which generation they were in as Gebhardt wrote down five generations and their characteristics on the whiteboard. The distinction from Generation Z and Millennials is what multiple students learned.

With a new generation entering the education system and workforce, students and teachers alike are trying to understand a very diverse workforce. This means to effectively build relationships and work together cross-generational communication will need to happen. It is easy to recognize that there will be cross-generational communication conflicts, such as the prefered method of communication.

Communication styles, such as the formality with which one speaks, is just one of the many conflicts that are faced in the multigenerational office. Whether someone prefers an email, phone call, text message or a letter: one thing is certain: It’s frustrating to communicate with someone in a mode that they don’t like.

One solution would be for management to set clear ground rules on communication modes. However, I think the best option would be to learn their co-worker’s preferences and attempt to meet in the middle.

Understanding where each person comes from is key according to Gebhardt. She said the first 20 years of one’s life is crucial to developing preferences on communication styles.

Every person, no matter the generation, wants to be treated with respect. The mistake of lumping people into categories and assuming they are just their ‘generation’ isn’t a proper way to effectively communicate.

What tools do you need to enhance communication across multiple generations?

A few students who attended the Generations at Work Conference thought of some answers. Having an open mind was a popular answer.

“You need to be open minded with all generations,” Hunter Keim said. “Everyone deserves the same respect despite their age.”

Being open-minded can help bridge the communication gap among generations in the workplace.

“The only tools needed to openly communicate with other generations in the workplace are an open mind regarding all situations,” Alex David said. “Knowing the general background of different generations to help analyze what is communicated helps.”

However, the problem isn’t solved by one person or one generation. Many people want to play the blame game when it comes to this topic, but the fault is on all parties and generations. First, becoming aware of the differences, and then working through them on a basis of respect is the best way to handle multigenerational conflicts when they do arise.

Get out of your comfort zone and learn from other generations because each generation has something to offer.

Older generations may know more about industry knowledge or can offer more wisdom on their experiences. Younger generations may be more proficient in the use of technology or have more knowledge of pop culture.

If we can work together and mutually shed light on older and younger generations, maybe we can be more productive in the workplace.

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