After reading this article from WorkItDaily.com Founder J.T. O'Donnelly on the six things millennials say at work, I (Dr. Donnelly) got to thinking.
As the business world faces the changes that come with multiple generations working in one workplace, the issue of language is going to be consistently important to pay attention to. We've recommended company lexicons before - a quick translation guide for new employees for words frequently used but rarely discussed - and those can be very helpful. But what about daily communication with non-lexiconable words? How do we work across generational divides?
There are many articles who will remind you that millennials (and xennials) bring different expectations to the workplace and give you quick "when they say this they mean that" and those can be super helpful. The one linked at the top is clear - if a little on the broad brush stroke side.
Instead of the nitty-gritty, I'd like to offer 3 steps to create a mindset that leads to better translations.
1. Listen Through Their Words
What someone reads as passive aggressive may be someone else's version of polite and inclusive. By taking in account the motivations behind the words, or the relationship between the speaker and listener, you're in a stronger position to have clear communication.
2. Remember 'Teaching to the Test'
If you've been paying attention to the woes of educators for the last twenty years, you'll be familiar with standardized testing and the problems it creates. The emerging generation of leaders are a product of that system, meaning that the American education system has produced folks completely used to memorizing and obediently regurgitating and simultaneously chaffing at the bit to never have to do that again. The combo often means that millennial workers are in need of clear boundaries for accomplishment and complete freedom to execute within those boundaries.
3. Read Widely
If you are just entering the workforce, do not just read business books of this era, make sure to dip back in time a bit. Find the books that have shaped other generations of leaders and pay attention to them. What wisdom can they offer about how your boss thinks? How can those ideas work today? Can you see how leadership theories build on each other?
If you have been in business for a while, start reading the books that business schools are using. Most post syllabi online, some even offer free online classes. See what the trends are now, how they've built on the past and are innovating for the future. Never stop learning.
To those of you in the trenches of this conversation - what have you found helpful? Willing to share? Comment below or contact us; we'd love to hear from you!