Lost in translation
Language is ever evolving, and so should our communications. If I was ‘sick’ in 2000, I had a day off work, but today if I say “I’m sick”, I would be letting the world know how good I really am.
While one generation may know exactly what we mean, another generation will be lost in translation. A lot of businesses are losing meaning in their communication because they’re speaking a different language to their audience. Meaning is established by shared experience, and while a lot of those in management are older, they probably won’t share the same experiences as their younger colleagues or their younger clients. Times are a-changing, and concepts that seem clear to some, are taking on a completely different meaning to the end-user.
In a world where communication is done at break-neck speed, messages are often missing their mark. Communications now have to be aware of the hazards of generational miscommunication and make a commitment to translate concepts.
RESPECT GOES BOTH WAYS
Respect for the Boomer generation is about acknowledging the experience and effort of those who went before. “Respect your elders” was a refrain heard from the classroom to the boardroom. However, Millennials believe respect is a two-way street and argue the old guard should also respect their right to have an opinion without judgement.
EVERYONE MAKES MISTAKES
Back in the ‘old days’ there was no room for error. Make a mistake and you could find yourself looking for a new job. However, today mistakes are viewed as learning opportunities, and should be embraced as a way to find new and better ways to do things.
IT’S A MATTER OF TRUST
While the more senior workers would say “You have to earn my trust” today’s younger managers and workers are more likely to say: “Don’t you trust your own judgment? You hired me to do this job, now let me do it.”
TALK OR TEXT?
Firing off a quick text message may seem impersonal to many older workers, but short, and sweet responses or requests via the smartphone or the email is the communication of choice for Millennials who believe that keeping a little distance in their message helps keep the emotion out of their workplace and gives them a chance to compose their thoughts rather than reacting in inappropriate ways as they may do in a face-to-face meeting.
So what can you do to make sure you’re taking into account the generational gap in communication?
First, remember not everyone thinks the same way. While tried-and-true methods of doing things may have worked in the past, keep in mind fresh ideas and innovation comes from thinking outside the square.
Secondly, don’t just walk away from a problem arising from mixed messages. Although time is of the essence in many workplaces, when miscommunications cause chaos, it’s essential that generational divide is breached. Make the investment in trying to connect the first time.
Finally, like any good communication, tailor the message to the audience. If younger workers don’t think the same way as their managers, try to translate your thoughts into their lingo. For example:
• Use visual examples
• Modify those dry and boring Baby Boomer PowerPoints into something interactive
• Use verbal examples that reference experiences your audience can relate to
• Use words that resonate with each generation.