Can’t We All Just Get Along? Removing the Great Divide in Generational Communication
November 4, 2022 | Mark Altman
Think about a time when you have heard a colleague, member of the senior leadership team, or a direct report say one of these phrases:
“These kids don’t know what hard work is.”
“The bosses are set in their ways, so it doesn’t matter.”
“They just don’t get it. I’ll just do it myself, then.”
“I don’t get why they are taking it so personally.”
“They just need to do their jobs.”
The list goes on, and the ability to communicate effectively and bridge gaps across generations is more important now than ever. There are five generations in the workforce, and Millennials and Gen Z will soon make up half of it. When you bring different groups of people together, inevitability there will be a clash of cultures. In the lumber industry, there is a critical need for succession planning, talent optimization, retention and recruiting, as well as up-leveling individuals because of short-staffed companies and intense competition for top talent.
Where do we start? There are incremental steps companies can proactively take with individuals, teams, and company culture as a whole, to reverse trends and get a competitive edge through communication. It is no longer just about money, benefits, and perks. These questions are a great starting point to better understand if your communication approach gives you and your company an advantage:
- Am I self-aware of my opportunities, or do I choose to disregard them?
- Do I ask “why” questions, or do I demand answers?
- Do I keep a cool head when things get tough, or does frustration show outwardly toward people?
- Am I curious to know why someone thinks the way they do, or am I quick to attack their point?
- Do I motivate, or do I lead with fear?
If you find yourself defaulting to the negative in your responses to these questions, you are likely not considering how others hear or perceive you. Leaders toss around the word “accountability” and that works both ways, as it takes two to tango.
Knowing what makes your employees tick will help you better connect with people. Let’s look at these concepts in action.
Employee: I’m not feeling valued.
Manager (in a judgmental tone): What do you mean? You have great pay, benefits, and stability. I don’t get it.
Employee: I’m not feeling valued.
Manager (in a curious and empathetic tone): Wow! I’m so sorry to hear this. Can you tell me more about why you are feeling this way? How did we get here? Is there anything I can do to change that?
You can see the obvious difference between the two examples above. Take a second to think before you respond and practice being curious and empathetic. Overall, you must care enough to notice how you communicate, whether it is good or bad. Fear is not a motivator, and it can deteriorate your company culture. Collaboration is a major key in bringing all generations together to work more effectively and keep everyone engaged.
Check yourself by asking:
- Why would my team want to stay here?
- Why would they want to leave?
- How am I motivating my team? What does a motivated team look like?
- Who would be able to fill my role? What characteristics do they have?
- Are we searching for and hiring people who embody those same characteristics?
Finally, is your inner voice curious and empathetic or annoyed and angry? Whatever it is, it’ll show in your conversation responses. The choice is yours!
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