An HR Director, a Boomer, hires a new graduate as the HR Coordinator. The new Gen Y coordinator sits in an office next to the HR Director, but this new employee sends her boss several emails a day. Today, she has an important issue to be resolved so she sends an email. When the HR Coordinator doesn’t get an immediate reply, she resorts to texting her boss! Finally at the end of the day, the frustrated coordinator abruptly asks her boss, ”Why, don’t you answer my emails and my text messages?” and the equally frustrated HR Director says, “Because you sit right next door to me and if it’s that urgent you could have asked me in person.”
Are generational preferences at work here and do these preferences cause conflict?
While it is never good to generalize, Boomers tend to like face-to-face interaction and Gen Y’s tend to communicate a lot more on-line using texting, and social media. No wonder, when Gen Y have grown up with technology at their fingertips. They text, Twitter, and Facebook their 100′s of friends in seconds. They like immediate response and they are wired 24/7.
With these differences, it’s not surprizing to find that 48% of small business owners are not happy with the interpersonal skills of Gen Y (SMART Company). I’m sure at the same time the Gen Y group wouldn’t be too happy about business owners wanting so much face time!
But face-to-face interaction is important for effective communication that builds relationships. You cannot recognize the subtle nuances and changes in body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions, even with emoticons, that tell us something more is going on than what the words are saying.
Effective communication starts with being aware of our own preconceived assumptions!
The key to developing better communication between generations is recognizing and understanding the preferences of others and getting rid of preconceived assumptions that one is better than the other. Both the Boomer and the Gen Y’er in the scenario at the start of this article, have a chance to build their relationship. Neither of them are mind readers, so unless there is dialogue and discussion about their communication preferences, the relationship will suffer.
If they become aware of each others preferences, the HR Director may choose to welcome a carefully crafted email that the HR Coordinator has compiled with several less urgent questions, and the HR Coordinator might just use the face-to-face communication method that her HR Director obviously wants when she has more urgent questions that need to be resolved. That’s a start.
What do you think? Joanne