Communicating Through the Generations: Speaking the Language of a Different Generation

Baby Boomers will remember all the talk about the generation gap, not trusting the “establishment” and so on. Interestingly, the generations continue to struggle to understand one another as their frames of reference are very different; their language is not always the same.

Who Are the Generations?

There are several generations:

  • The Greatest Generation is comprised of people who grew up during the Great Depression. Many served in World War II and the Korean War.
  • Baby Boomers – also known as Boomers – are the children of the Greatest Generation. They were born between 1946 and 1964.
  • Generation X is the kids born to Boomers from early 60s to late 70s.
  • Millennials, or Generation Y, were born in the 80s to the mid-90s.
  • The iGeneration is people who were born in Generation Z, which begins in the mid-1990s.

Each generation has its own uniqueness, developed through the mindsets of their parents before them. For example, Boomers were taught a strong work ethic by parents who often stayed in the same job for their entire working career. Economic security was greatly valued. Millennials, on the other hand, were brought up to believe in their uniqueness and to be optimistic. Technology available to millennials developed in them the desire for instant gratification. Therein lies the rub.

Expectation, Gratification, Entitlement

Each generation has a particular view of how life should unfold. Boomers grew up with the concept of delayed gratification. Work hard put your time in and ultimately you will reap the rewards. You’ll have financial security, you’ll achieve the dream. Their kids, the millennials, were brought up with more indulgence and fewer restrictions. With the help of technology, this generation grew up with a penchant for instant gratification, a seeming sense of entitlement and, in the eyes of their parents, unrealistic expectations. The clash of the two mindsets can create problems for effective communication.

Learning Across the Great Divide

Each generation has issues to address and valuable things to teach. People can learn a lot from one another when they are willing to listen with an understanding heart. For example, delayed gratification is a good thing. In fact, it is mandatory in most work settings. There is an old adage that seems to have fallen by the wayside: Good things are worth waiting for.  You won’t get a promotion just because you want one. You’ll have to earn it by putting in the time, doing the work and attaining achievements that lead to promotion.

Patience is required on both sides. The older generation needs to have the patience to coach the younger generation in the benefits of delayed gratification. The younger generations need patience in learning these things and in realizing the older generation also has wisdom to share. There is common ground for all generations to stand on together.

When you’re just starting out on your career pathway, don’t be hindered by the challenges posed by generational differences. The consultants at Trailhead Consulting have the expertise to help you plan your journey and successfully overcome the hurdles you may encounter along the generational divide. Contact us at 612-225-5343 or toll-free at 866-921-3476 for more information.