5 Tips for Effective Communication Across Generations


If we’re to believe the common generational stereotypes in the workplace, we’d assume Baby Boomers are team-oriented workaholics, Gen-Xers are stubbornly independent, and Millennials focus more on their smart phones than their jobs.

But a number of studies have shown that a majority of these stereotypes are unfounded.[1] While there are certainly significant differences among generations, there’s a lot more that we have in common, particularly when it comes to communication.

Communicating across generations is therefore much more effective when we direct our focus not on how we’re different from our coworkers, but on how we’re the same. Below are five methods your organization can use to facilitate effective communication in the workplace, regardless of age difference.

1. Meet Face-to-Face

Though we may assume Millennials prefer communicating through social media and text message, 80% of Millennials in a recent survey expressed a preference for face-to-face communication in the workplace.[2] In fact, this was the overwhelmingly preferred mode of communication by Baby Boomers, Gen-Xers, and Millennials.

2. Instill a Sense of Purpose

Nobody wants to feel like an interchangeable cog in a machine; everyone wants to know that they’re serving a meaningful role within their organization. When employees recognize each other’s shared commitment toward a common goal, generational barriers to communication come crashing down. Clearly defining a team’s purpose and each employee’s role in achieving that purpose is critical to fostering productive workplace relationships.

 3. Avoid Business Jargon

 Using organization-specific terminology may seem efficient, but it can easily become a major detriment to effective communication. This is particularly an issue for Millennials, who will likely make up a significant portion of your organization’s newer employees. If you explain your company’s processes using business jargon that they’ve never heard before, they naturally won’t understand what you’re talking about. To ensure that your entire workforce is on the same page, use language that everyone can understand, and take an extra second to clarify potentially confusing terms or concepts.

 4. Encourage Assertive Communication

Everyone has different communication styles. Generally speaking, Baby Boomers prefer group-oriented communication, Gen-Xers tend to be more self-reliant, and Millennials thrive on frequent interaction with supervisors.[3] The best way to ensure these styles don’t clash is to encourage assertive communication. Your organization should facilitate an environment where people feel comfortable openly sharing their ideas and concerns with each other. Otherwise, resentment can easily build between coworkers who feel their needs and wants aren’t respected.

5. Give Positive Feedback

Older generations often have a more negative perspective on constructive criticism. While Baby Boomers may feel disrespected by feedback, Gen-Xers and Millennials expect consistent performance appraisals. But when it comes to positive feedback, generational attitudes are largely the same. Giving your fellow coworkers recognition for a job well-done is a great way to communicate their value to your organization, and a critical step towards forging stronger workplace relationships.


 As our workplaces diversify, it is crucial to connect all generations of workers through effective communication. Mindful, well-structured messaging and interactions can bridge gaps and ensure that people of all ages feel welcomed and nurtured in the workplace. Despite differences, a good deal of common ground exists between generations and smart communication can help people at all stages of life work together harmoniously and effectively.


[1] Tolbize, Anick. “Generational differences in the workplace.” Research and training center of community living. University of Minnesota, 2008: 10-13.


[2] Schawbel, David. “Even Millennials Want Face Time at Work.” Time. Time, 2 Sept. 2014. Web.


[3] Schawbel, David. “Even Millennials Want Face Time at Work.” Time. Time, 2 Sept. 2014. Web.