According to Derek Solheim, director of the Pathways Center at Wartburg College, there are many generational differences in the workplace, but the largest and most discussed distinction is communication.
A survey conducted by Harris Interactive for CareerBuilder.com found 60 percent of employees over 50 preferred to communicate face-to-face compared to 55 percent of employees ages 25 to 34. Within that 25 to 34 age demographic, email and texting were rated higher than their Baby Boomer counterparts.
“Some are still very much in that face-to-face social interaction,” Solheim said. “Others would love really short text messages. Others focus more on email. So part of it is understanding the culture of the place that you’re at because all of those things that I just described are stereotypes.”
Solheim said Millennials are typically believed to prefer using methods of technology to communicate with fellow employees, such as email and text rather than actually having a social interaction.
Millennials as digital natives
Compared to the Baby Boomer and Generation X generations, Millennials are digital natives. This means they were born into a time where digitally provided services were an everyday thing. Baby Boomers and Generation X are digital immigrants, meaning they learned how to interact with the digital world later in life.
Generation Y is also believed to have a lack of soft skills, which are personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.
“You have to recognize that on both ends of the spectrum, it takes all of us a while to warm up to someone else’s concepts or another way of doing things. Part of it is listening and being strategic about how you implement that,” Solheim said. “In our office, we try to learn a little bit about each other and listen.”
Listen and learn first
Solheim further recommended that those just starting off should take a while to adjust to the company’s culture.
“If you’re someone new in the workplace and your supervisor asks you to take on a project and you go to them and say, ‘I’d like to try this, this and this,’ and they say, ‘Hold on. We’ve already got a plan. This is how we like to do things.’ In the beginning, do it the way they ask you to do it. Then afterwards you can go back and have a conversation. A very give and take sort of process,” he explained.
During one of her first job experiences Torie Jochims, co-author of “Conquering the Witch Within: Intergenerational Work Place Strategies that Create Real Results,” said establishing better lines of communication with her boss would have helped forward her career.
“I think it was frustrating at times because I didn’t feel like my skill sets were being utilized correctly. And that’s not uncommon, I think. But if that’s happening to you, you have to be willing to talk to your boss about it,” she said.