Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Get Better at Cross-Generational Communication

Get Better at Cross-Generational Communication

Respect. It’s a word Aretha demands, and most people hope to get … but it can be tough to navigate in a modern workplace when the word means different things to different people. This is especially important to remember as a younger business leader managing older employees. Yes, you’re the boss, but you’re still young, and they are coming from a very different generational mindset. In this regard, not knowing what you don’t know can come back to bite you.

Right out of the gate, get rid of all assumptions. People will not always act how you think they will, and they don’t always think in the same trains of thought you might assume. Sure, when you read this out it sounds like a no-brainer, but a great many people operate as if this isn’t true at all. They just go about assuming and feeling their way through things, creating problems that should never have been problems in the first place.

One of the most common assumptions you need to lose is the idea that people will always judge you based on your age. Some will, sure, but others are more mature and smarter than that. They will see you for your value and judge you based on your decisions and your results. But, if you believe they are making these assessments based on your age, without any reason to believe so, you will create an unnecessarily combative and dysfunctional work environment.

But you will still have to earn their respect. That takes time, and it requires success. You have to get a few individual and collective wins before your older employees will be willing to trust you … and they may never trust you completely. Give them the time to adjust, and don’t try to buy or force respect. That might create some behaviors, but that’s a paper thin façade that will fold quickly when the going gets tough.

Respect what they’ve built and accomplished. People all have traditions and ways of doing things that matter to them. You might need to change some things, but you don’t need to do it in a way they would interpret as personal or demeaning. Take your time to make changes for the right reasons, and to implement them properly. Most importantly, understand the reasons why they did things a certain way, and learn what you can from those reasons.

Finally, don’t make assumptions about them based on their age either. Take people as they are, not as you expect them to be. You’ll be a better leader for it, and you will build a better team.

David Milberg is a credit analyst in NYC.

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