When we talk about workplace diversity, we tend to talk about diversity as it relates to race or gender, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation. Within the context of these discussions, age is rarely mentioned.

With four distinct age groups comprising today’s workforce, generational diversity is increasingly relevant. For managers, supervising a team with a wide age range is tough. Although generational diversity can be advantageous to your team, incongruities in communication styles, knowledge sets, employees’ formality (or lack thereof) are challenging for managers to navigate.

Learning how best to communicate with members of different generations can eliminate misunderstandings and confrontations that add unnecessary stress and tension to the workplace.

Here are three suggestions to help all generations at your office communicate and collaborate more seamlessly:

  1. Engage Different Learning Styles. Research has found that Millennials tend to have shorter attention spans and less patience for boring tasks than their older counterparts. To engage 20- and 30- somethings, format training sessions so that they are brief, but held more frequently. Whenever possible, try to accommodate employees’ learning styles. Baby Boomers may favor more traditional media and materials, such as slideshow presentations and pamphlets, while younger workers may favor digital and interactive training materials.
    Image: PokeYourNose.com

    Image: PokeYourNose.com


  2. Be Mindful: Communication Styles. Managers should consider how the communication styles of individual employees–regardless of age–can be utilized to cultivate a more positive office culture. Be aware of the similarities and differences among the generations, and strive to understand them. Younger workers may prefer digital communication; older workers may prefer phone conferences and meetings. However you communicate with your direct reports, set clear expectations. Over-communicate, and make a concerted effort to be forthright and approachable when addressing your team.generational_divide_cartoon
  3. Be Aware of Employees’ Expectations. Baby Boomers may dress a bit more formally than younger employees, who are used to dressing more casually. Millennials tend to view workplace hierarchy, authority, and the role that work plays in their lives through a different prism than Gen-Xers or Baby Boomers do. Younger workers may question doing things a certain way; answering “it’s always been done that way” may not resonate with everyone. Again, being sensitive to employees’ different backgrounds and perspectives will make you more effective as a manager.