Since September is Intergeneration Month, take time to appreciate the richness that comes with the collaboration of wise and young minds. Intergenerational Month is a global movement celebrating the benefits of relationships between adults aged 60+ and young people. It also raises awareness about societal changes that create the need for mindfully uniting generations. Each generation has its own vocabulary, preferred resources, and behavioral norms. Now that the number of Millennials has surpassed the Baby Boomers as the United State’s largest living population, it behooves business professionals of all generations to consider these tips for a seamless intergenerational workplace.
Use Social Media… Wisely. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat―your social media expertise is important. Don’t refrain from using these platforms; they are the communication of the future. Do be cautious about content. Even if your personal instagram account is set to private, consider omitting your surname and creating a second, more polished account to connect with colleagues. Potential employers look at social media; depending on the position or license, passwords can be requested.
Speak with Eloquence. Millennials are often criticized and disqualified for their casual vocabulary. In the office, watch your diction. Trade the “W.T.F.” or “O.M.G.” uttered around friends with a more sophisticated “Oh my!” or “Goodness!” Reflect on your word choice. You don’t want to be called “entitled”; Baby Boomers don’t want to be called “outdated.” Respect formal office culture. You may prefer to be addressed by your first name, but don’t assume the same goes for your colleagues. Address senior colleagues by their last name, until they invite you to do otherwise.
Respect Success & Proven Methods. While your idea of information sharing encompasses texting, Snapchat, and Google drive, keep an open mind. Your experienced colleagues may use a variety of communication methods, including phone calls, email, and may occasionally prefer reading paper documents to analyze layout. If you and a colleague’s ideas on communication methods clash, step back and observe. Humility and respect make an impact in business, especially with Boomers. Avoid assuming that you are always right and newer technology’s always better. Before explaining why you prefer your method, seek to understand the other positions first. Remember, it isn’t about you - it’s about business. Your coworkers have excellent reasons for their approach. Be a team player. Find a compromise.
Dear Baby Boomers,
Test the Waters of Social Media. Many Boomers already use various social media accounts, but if you haven’t started, begin with LinkedIn―a social media platform designed for business professionals. Consider creating Facebook and Twitter accounts for modern information sharing. 70% of millennials get their news from Facebook. Consider asking a younger coworker for insight on trending hashtags or Moments on Twitter.
Listen―to Others and to Yourself. It may be challenging when a colleague 20 years your junior is using terms with which you’re unfamiliar. Remember that each generation develops their own set of terms and phrases reflecting modern culture and technology. Pay attention to both these new words and your own terminology. Avoid calling coworkers “sweetheart” and saying phrases such as, “you wouldn’t remember this, but…” This terminology may make your colleague feel uncomfortable.
Keep an Open Mind. Age diversity in the workplace fosters collaboration of seasoned experts and dynamic alternative-thinkers. Avoid judging a colleague’s work or ideas based on their age. Those new to the business world may arrive with revolutionary ideas, so be open to conversing about change.
As more millennials enter the workforce and more baby boomers choose to postpone retirement, encourage yourself to throw away age-based stereotypes and to continue seeking new perspectives.
Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture (formerly Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide). In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, and the National Business Journals. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.