Communicating Across Generations Part 2: For Young Professionals

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In family businesses, communication across generations is an essential tool – especially when discussing legacy planning and succession. While we’ve discussed the dollars and cents/ins and outs of legacy planning in the past, legacy planning pros tend to make the mistake of glossing over the basic communication skills that need to be in place to effectively address succession planning.

As such, we felt it was time to address those issues before engaging in lofty conversations loaded with detail. Last time, we talked a little bit about how boomers and members of older generations in the workforce can communicate and manage their relationships with younger generations (X, Y and Millennials). This week, we’re going to flip that on it’s head and discuss some of the things that young professionals can do to improve their relationships with older coworkers.

You’re inexperienced. That can be an advantage – Want to know how to win the respect of a boomer? Respect their experience and ask to be mentored. It allows them to get past your age and view you in a more reverential light. Finding someone who can give you that inside scoop – the person who can add context to a situation and identify issues before they become pressing can be indispensable. And most importantly – everyone wants a role to play. Respecting and taking advantage of (in a good way) an older co-worker’s experience can pay huge dividends.

Face time means a lot – I know it’s easy to work from home and there’s so much you can do while you’re on the go, but you know what? Sometimes sitting down in the office for lunch with a member of an older generation is a good thing. Asking people for advice, chatting up co-workers, learning from watching – these are all important to your ongoing development. The old saying goes – it’s not what you know, it’s who you know that matters and that doesn’t just apply to working your way up the ladder, but it also applies to how you work with people. How are you going to know what buttons to push on an employee if you aren’t there to get to know them? How are you going to know where you fit if you’re not immersed in your office culture? Being present means a lot, especially to boomers. Make the effort to be in the office on time, when asked.

Patience…literally – To the boomer or member of a past generation, quality of work is always favored over the quantity. They don’t move as fast as you, they don’t get as much done as quickly as you and you know what? That’s OK. In fact, there’s a lot to learn about precision and doing good by doing a good job. Too often the younger generation moves too fast for it’s own good. Details – important details – are missed, underappreciated and glossed over. Not only do they add flavor to life, they tell people that you’re willing to go the extra mile to get something done right. In a world where we constantly crave sincerity in our interactions, taking the time to go the extra mile can go a long way to telling boomers where you stand.

Always, always avoid assumptions – Don’t assume an older coworker doesn’t understand something just because they’re older. Don’t assume the opposite, either. Always keep the lines of communications open and always ask them questions if you’re unsure. Ambiguity and assumptions can lead to major communications breakdowns where simple, minor hiccups become big problems in a hurry. Never make assumptions.

Get results – It’s great that you have a college degree. It’s awesome that you’ve got a Master’s Degree. But you know what? It doesn’t mean much to anyone if you can’t get the job done. In the professional world, results are what matter, not credentials. If you can get the job done, you could have been raised by wolves for all they care. Stay focused, stay on task and get the job done. Do that, and boomers will respect you.

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