Top Tips for Better Generational Communication at Work

by Betty Lochner on October 28, 2014

texting in 80s

This month I traveled to Richmond, Virginia to give a presentation to the National Council of State Legislatures (NCSL) on Generations at Work.  It’s an important communication topic – understanding how to embrace generational differences can make a stressful relationship a more productive one.

Did you know?

For the first time in history we have four generations working side by side in the workplace.


The two older generations are:

Traditionalists/Veterans (born 1909-1943) and Boomers (1943-1960)

The two younger generations are:

Generation X (1960-1980) and Generation Y/Millenials  (1980-2000)

Each group brings a unique set of experiences and values that influences their behavior and outlook as adults. And, while Boomers are the majority in the workforce today, Millenials are growing in numbers and will comprise the majority of the workforce by 2025.

Here are some of the current facts about generations at work. 

  • More than 70% of older employees are dismissive of younger worker’s abilities.
  • 50% of employers say the younger employees are dismissive of the abilities of their older co-workers

This may be in part because:

  • Older generations value loyalty to a company and are on career tracks, younger generations are loyal to a person and are on life tracks.
  • Older generations believe there is value in seniority and hierarchy; younger generations have high expectations and enthusiasm and often don’t want to “pay their dues” – but rather want to start or move quickly to the top.
  • Older generations struggle with technology; younger generations – well, you get the picture.

What that tells us is there is still a lot of work to do to bridge the generational gaps at work.

To help you with that, here are some of my Top Tips that will help you communicate better with different generations at work.


  1. Don’t dwell on differences – instead make connections and find out what you do have in common.
  2. Don’t make assumptions – many times actions are misinterpreted as disrespectful when that wasn’t the intent at all.


  1. Use teamwork. All 4 generations work well in teams. Try that instead of individual work for better results.
  2. Develop incentive plans that matter to each generation – different generations are motivated by different things.  Conduct surveys to understand needs.
  3. Make expectations clear and follow up to make sure you are understood – often instructions are misunderstood because of how they are (or aren’t delivered).  Be clear in stating what you want, by when, and then send an email to follow-up.
  4. Different generations prefer different modes of communication. Use the one that works best for them, not you!
  5. Create healthy relationships – find some common ground. Focus on what you have in common rather than what you don’t understand.
  6. Encourage and mentor younger generations. Match older mentors with younger and let them learn from each other.

Understanding differences and embracing them, rather than resisting, is the key. For more information on working with generations, check out my other posts on generations, or my book, it has a whole chapter on it!

Betty LochnerBetty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of  Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transform your life at work and at home.  To find out more about Cornerstone’s services and offerings visit our website: 


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