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Knowledge At MET

Knowledge At MET

Intergenerational Communication –Building New-Age Workplace

Each generation functions within a given paradigm of values, beliefs and assumptions. An employee in a given generation is comfortable with an in-group setting. However, when the paradigm is challenged from out group, there is a strong likelihood of conflict/divide/gap. Organizations must be aware of this aspect when they are dealing with multigenerational workforce. Differing work values and attitude towards technology are the predominant factors in intergenerational conflicts. It is also widely accepted that inability of the managers to understand generational differences can result in communication breakdown and can cause misunderstandings. If differing work values, beliefs, and generational differences are not addressed, they can result in miscommunication and misunderstanding, the consequences being lower productivity and reduced organizational citizenship behaviour. Extensive research shows miscommunication as one of the by- products of generational differences. Generational differences in communication styles and discomfort with technology were delineated as 'specific' differences. Misunderstandings caused by generational differences negatively impact interaction. Future studies would focus on how to communicate with employees of different generations. The more the generational diversity in the workforce, the greater is the probability of communication gap in the organization.

At the workplace, employees share common work goals; but have differing values, communication styles, and language. It is widely accepted that every generation has its own set of values, beliefs, desires, aspirations, and style of working. These differences, if not recognized and managed, may even lead to conflicts or a situation that is detrimental to organizational well-being. Therefore, it is essential for the organization to be aware of the issue and take the necessary measures before any adverse effects set in.

  1. Introduction and Literature Review
  2. The Concept of Diversity and its Relevance in the Workplace India is always talked about for its diversity and it is a known synonym for India. We see the diversity existing at the societal level and also present at the workplace.

    We cannot imagine an organization that is completely homogeneous in the 21st century. In this scenario we have to accept diversity as we cannot limit human resources on the basis of cultural mismatch or certain other objectives based on diversity factors. The concept of diversity in the workforce came up in the 1980s to 1990s. And today it is a norm in the workplace life (Barker, 2011) in the American organizations that began a systematic study on workplace diversity. First study was published in the late 1980s by Johnston and Packer in his book 'Workforce 2000'.

    Workforce diversity has taken deep roots and is here to stay. Diverse workforce is no longer a matter of choice for organizations. Diversity is a challenge thrown at business leaders, human resource managers and management consultants, who must take a long term view of the subject. A heterogeneous workforce should not carry negative connotations for the organization; rather, the focus should be on developing the ability of organizations to manage diversity efficiently and effectively (Barak, 2011). But still organizations do not address diversity issues on priority.

    Diversity management also enhances leadership effectiveness. Heterogeneity at the top level of management results in generation of new ideas and better appreciation of diversity. In the initial stage it is difficult to communicate and understand each other in a diverse group. But with time and focus on the common objectives, it is possible to solve problems more productively as there will be a choice of the multiple perspectives. The outcome would be greater degree of creativity and innovation (Robinson & Dechant, 1997).

    Diversity management not only helps in attracting talent but also in its retention. It is said that it is easy to attract talent but extremely difficult to retain them. Proper diversity management can have a positive impact on a company's long term business prospects. Therefore, diversity initiatives should be regarded as a business investment rather than a series of actions taken (Robinson & Dechant, 1997).

    Generational Diversity and its Relevance in the Workplace

    It is general observation that generational differences exist in the workplace. Published literature has summarized these differences as generational characteristics. Generational differences are seen to impact several variables in organization like communication, satisfaction, motivation, and leadership style (Costanza et al., 2012).

    Benson and Brown (2011) argued that, despite acceptance of the presence of generational differences in workplaces, there is an absence of systematic research into its influence and impact in the organizational context. In India it is for the first time that all the four generations are working together.This scenario challenges HR managers as they cannot adopt a 'one plan for all' approach.

    Strategies must be customized to suit different generations. It becomes difficult to attract, hire, engage, and retain people from different age groups (Cogin, 2012). Policies and practices that were adopted to deal with the Traditionalist and Boomer cannot apply to generation X and Y.

    Organizations cannot afford to be in the reactive mode in respect of matters related to generational diversity. The correct approach is to be proactive for long-term business benefits. It is necessary to align business goals with generational differences (Bennett et al., 2012). In the past, generations were separated by job profiles and seniority. Thus, older employees mostly worked at senior levels and the younger ones lower in the hierarchy. With organizations having flatter structures, age and experience do not necessarily decide seniority. Younger employees move up the ladder faster than earlier generations. Thus, young and older employees may be found to be working at the same level. This situation increases the chances of intergenerational conflict. A generational 'us' v/s 'them' situation is detrimental to the organization.

    The resulting polarization is a fertile breeding ground for altercations. Therefore, organizations should look at building an interdependent culture (Gursoy et al., 2008). Generational diversity has been studied in relation to several variables like organization commitment, job satisfaction, work attitudes, and technology. The researcher presents key findings in relation to important organizational variables for each generation. Baby Boomers are seen to be high on job satisfaction and less willing to quit the organization as compared to generation X (Benson & Brown, 2011). Lub et al., (2012) reasoned that generation X valued work-life balance, autonomy and job security. A lower level of commitment and satisfaction was seen in generation Y.

    Benett, et al. (2012) argued that it is necessary for organizations to fulfil the demands of the new generation in the workplace because of the changing work-life perceptions. Cogin (2012) found that work values differ from generation to generation. To give an example, Traditionalist and Boomers valued hard work above everything else, whereas generation X valued a sceticism and Generation Y gave high importance to work and leisure.

    Generational differences were also investigated and Vieregee and Quick (2011) found that generation X and Y in Asian cultures are more individualistic as compared to their elders. In this aspect, the gap with the West is closing. The negotiation behaviour of these generations has also changed; less time and effort are spent on building relations and the focus now is on persuasion and compromise.

    Communication is also one of the variables in the study of generational diversity. In the present study, the researcher endeavours an in-depth examination of the phenomenon of intergenerational communication in the workplace.

  3. Methodology - Research Design
  4. This is a conceptual paper, based on the secondary data available, in the books, magazines and the research papers. The data mainly collected from secondary sources which include articles published in journals, research papers, published interviews of professionals in newspapers, websites of different companies.

    This is a conceptual paper, based on the secondary data available, in the books, magazines and the research papers. The data mainly collected from secondary sources which include articles published in journals, research papers, published interviews of professionals in newspapers, websites of different companies.

    This study is descriptive in nature and aims at understanding relationship between Age Diversity and Team Performance. Age diversity is an independent variable and team performance is a dependent variable.

Importance of Generational Diversity in the Indian Context

Lack of systematic research that explores influence of generational diversity on the workplace. Generational differences do influence communication. Flattening of organizational structure increases the likelihood of intergenerational communication divide.

There is a need to focus on generational diversity as a workplace issue (Business Standard, 2011).

According to the poll conducted in 2011 by SHRM on intergenerational conflicts in the workplace. The poll found that more than 50% of workers in Indian organizations considered generational conflict to be an issue. Therefore, Indian organizations should recognize this and focus on building trust, conducting regular audits of procedures, organizing focus groups, coaching/mentoring, and training programmes (Oberoi, 2011).

According to the poll conducted in 2011 by SHRM on intergenerational conflicts in the workplace. The poll found that more than 50% of workers in Indian organizations considered generational conflict to be an issue. Therefore, Indian organizations should recognize this and focus on building trust, conducting regular audits of procedures, organizing focus groups, coaching/mentoring, and training programmes (Oberoi, 2011).

An article in the Economic Times (2012) discussed how generational differences have influenced communication styles, thinking approach, use of technology and has posed challenges at the workplace. Older generation employees in India are often seen putting in extra efforts by staying late in the office, preferring face-to-face communications, and enjoying power and authority. Middle-aged employees are seen trying to strike a balance between work and life, preferring emails to phone conversation, disliking authority and conventional meetings. They appear to have distinctive thought processes. In contrast, younger generation employees believe in working in teams and virtual teams, communicating with short text and instant messages, and dislike traditional meetings.

Organizations in India recognize the importance of generational diversity and have adopted several mechanisms to address it. TCS launched 'Knome' an internal social networking site on the lines of Facebook and Twitter to encourage collaboration among employees. 'After its rapid expansion in recent years, Tata Consulting Services (TCS) now has a 240,000-strong workforce of which over 70% are under 30. This has put enormous pressure on the firm to change' (Ajay Mukerjee, Head Human Resources, TCS) (Economist, 2013).

In 2008, Airtel started a reverse mentoring programme (Kumar, n.d.) to help older generation employees to adapt to the current environment. Godrej, GE, Mahindra and Mahindra established a young executive board, which functioned like a parallel board (shadow board) to make the young managers ready for future roles.

Nature of Communication

How communication takes place in Asian (Indian) context

High context-based communication takes place in the Asian cultures where meanings and information are derived from the context. The communication is less direct and the stress is on drawing inferences (Hall,1978 as cited in Gudykunst, 2001).

On the other hand, in a low context- based communication the message is direct and explicit. Such types of communications are the norm in Western countries. Here, the emphasis is on clarity and effectiveness.

Gudykunst (2001) stated that in high-context communications, the stress is on inferring the meaning. Hence, interpersonal sensitivity is high and feelings are seen to guide behaviour. People even tend to use silence to communicate. In low- context communications the focus is on being dramatic, dominant, animated, open, friendly, relaxed, and attentive and leaving an impression. Asians are seen to relate and communicate with each other on the basis of social status and interpersonal relationship structures. A common example is in how Asians demonstrate different linguistic codes on the basis of social status, degree of intimacy, age, sex and level of formality in communication with the recipient. Maintaining harmonious relationships is of paramount importance.

Brew and Crains (2002) state that Asians use more indirect communications with superiors / higher status individuals as compared to Europeans at workplace. Out of concern for potential conflict, Asians try to adopt an 'avoiding' style whereas Europeans are direct (Ting Toomey et al., 2000). Indirect communication in Asian cultures requires the stakeholder to be sensitive to the context and infer meanings in order to negotiate the understanding of the message (Gao, 1998 as cited in Gudykunst, 2001).

Generational differences influence Indian employees at workplace. Increasingly, Indian organizations are realizing the importance of generational diversity and devising appropriate measures to manage it. There exists a considerable gap in academic studies on generational diversity at workplaces in the Indian context. Employees in Indian organizations admit that they face generation gap and conflict.

Indians are typified as associative rather than abstract in relation to thinking pattern. Since Indians are high on context-sensitivity. They try to accommodate, tolerate and integrate. Nishimura et al. (n.d) proposed that Indian culture is high context. Communication in the Indian context is governed by respect and norms while interacting with elders. Indian English is formal in nature, people prefix 'Please' in their written text and suffix 'ji' to names while addressing people. Indians have a tendency to use long sentences, which can be confusing to Westerners and may result in misunderstandings.

However, Chella (2007 as cited in Nishimural et al., n.d) argued that India is gradually moving towards a low-context culture. Technology, travel and television have played playing a significant role in this trend, especially in communication styles. In a collectivist and high- context culture, people are more visually oriented as compared to an individualistic low-context culture that focuses on written communications. Communications in India are governed by the use of understatements, silence and pauses. Silence in communication and between words carries implicit meanings (Mooij, 2014).

Role of communication in organizations

Communication plays a pivotal role at all levels in an organization. It helps employees in sharing information, motivating, coordinating and influencing actions. Besides these functions, communications also facilitate healthy work relationships among teams and members of the organization.

The type and style of communication predominantly followed in an organization is a reflection of its culture (Cheney et al. 2004; Miller 2009; Scott et al. 1998; Myers 2009; Sias 2009 as in Myers & Sadaghiani 2010).

Patri and Patri (2002) delineated intergenerational differences as one of the barriers to effective communication. While discussing perceptual barriers, they asserted that people might interpret the same message differently by using stereotypes. This is one of the perceptual barriers in communication. People of different generations generally apply stereotypes to understand their counterparts in other generations. Therefore, examining generational differences in communications is an important area of concern for organizations for maintaining harmonious working relationships.

Communication is an effective means of dealing with intergenerational conflict. Glass (2007) asserted that ensuring an environment of effective communication is one of the four areas that organizations need to focus on to manage intergenerational differences. Effective communication leads to better interaction between generations.

It results in the sharing of different perspectives across generations and fosters creativity and innovation (Meredith et al., 2002 as cited in Arsenault, 2003).

Intergroup aspects to intergenerational communication in the workplace Myer and Davis (2012) identified three key aspects of intergroup communications from an intergenerational perspective:

  1. Perception about age- and experience-related status
  2. In a Western context, the younger generation, during their growing up phase, is encouraged to ask questions and debate. Therefore, when they enter the workplace there is the expectation that their viewpoint will be heard and welcomed by their supervisors and senior co-workers (Martin, 2005). On the other hand, the older generation is accustomed to — and expects — communications with 'respect' and 'deference' as they were taught to when they were young.

    However, the younger generation may or may not have grown up with a similar set of values. Therefore, communicating respectfully and passive acceptance of the older generation's viewpoints may not come easily to younger employees. More likely, they will challenge the notion that the older employees are more experienced and wiser. It is the perception of power and status that is believed to be one of the primary reasons for misunderstandings in intergenerational communication (Coupland, Wiemann & Giles, 1991 as cited in Myers & Davis, 2012).

    It has been often observed that communication between generations is based on assumptions. For example, the younger generation's casual attitude to discussions in a meeting is viewed as a sign of laziness by the older generation, who feel that the younger generation does not prepare for the meetings. Kupperschimidt (2006) observed that the older generation considered it as their responsibility to organize the younger generation and get the work done. Naturally, they carry the impression that their viewpoint will be accepted because of their experience and seniority.

    However, the advice is often questioned by the younger generation, which offends the seniors. However, Martin (2005) is of the opinion that when the young people's opinions and suggestions are not taken seriously by the older generation, they are likely to experience frustration and disappointment at not being heard.

  3. Work-life balance
  4. Myer and Davis (2012) believe that the concept of worklife balance has a bearing on the mismatch of values in intergenerational communication. The older generation considers work as central to their being.

    In contrast, young adults prefer a work-life balance. Thus, they may not like to work on weekends and holidays. In the organizational context, the most important goal of an employee is to work hard and perform well. However, when there are fundamental generational differences in the definition of work as well as its centrality to being (Singh, 2013), there is likelihood that it will negatively influence communications. Therefore, lack of awareness of different and conflicting work values can negatively impact communications.

  5. Communication Mediums
  6. Myer and Davis (2012) argued that the choice of conflicting communication channels could negatively influence communication satisfaction and effectiveness.

    Myer and Davis (2012) argued that the choice of conflicting communication channels could negatively influence communication satisfaction and effectiveness.

    The older generation prefers a formal style of communication memos, written communications, etc. Faceto-face communication with the personal touch works best for them. The middle-aged generation prefers direct communication and likes to seek and give regular feedback. People of the younger generation have a participative approach towards work; they believe in using technology 24x7 and have developed the ability to multi-task (Haynes, 2011). The conference board of Canada (2009), reported that the younger generation prefers written communication to the verbal in comparison to the older generation. E-mails were 48 the preferred mode. Persons of the younger and the middle-aged generations were observed to use technology more intensively as compared to the older generation. All three generations, in general, prefer informal gathering and communications. It was also observed that the younger and middle-aged generations socialize more than the older generation.

  7. Intergenerational communication in the Indian context
  8. Giles et al. (2007) carried out a comparative study between the USA and India. This is the only known study of the Indian context, which looked into intergenerational communications. It tried to examine the perception of intergenerational communication and establish whether Indians demonstrate a linear pattern with respect to age stereotypes, norms, communication behaviour, and predictors of communication satisfaction. 232 college graduates participated in the study; however, the representation of Indians was only 39.7%. The results may need further investigation and validation

    The findings are mirrors of the American context. As the subject's age increases, the younger adults confer greater respect, give more deference, and are more benevolent towards them. However, at the same time, the degree of personal vitality towards the older generation reduces and communication satisfaction reduces.

    In general, across cultures it was seen that the younger generation avoids communication with the older employees. However, in comparison to the Americans, Indians rated higher for personal vitality and benevolence towards elders although the Americans claimed that they accord a greater degree of respect than their Indian counterparts. For Indians, age stereotypes were the predictor of communication satisfaction, whereas for the Americans personal vitality was the predictor. Politeness was negatively related to communication satisfaction—communication satisfaction was high when the younger generation felt less pressured to be polite with elders. The study fails find the reasons for why politeness played a bigger role in India than in the USA. The role of Indian culture was also not investigated in detail.

  9. Intergenerational communication in workplace and familial setting
  10. Giles et al. (2003) conducted a large cross- national study. They compared perceptions of young adults from three western countries (Canada, USA, New Zealand) to three Eastern countries (Philippines, Japan, and South Korea) about their communication with family and non-family elders and same age-group peers. In both contexts, it was seen that the younger generation had better communications with same age group (family and non-family) in comparison to family elders. However, they had more communication with family elders as compared to non-family elders. Western participants communicated rigorously with both groups ( family and non-family) of elders as compared to the Asians. Both cultural groups considered people (family and non-family) of the same age group to be equally accommodating

    In contrast to the people from the west, the Asians considered family and non-family elders to be less accommodating. In the Asian context, younger adults found equal accommodation from same age peers and older family members, whereas the level of accommodation by non-family adults was reported to be less. In relation to non-accommodation, both cultural groups saw non-family elders to be the most unaccommodating. Asians felt that they had to offer more respect and show obligation to elders in comparison to Westerners. It may be concluded that age and family relationships matter in intergenerational communication (Giles et al., 2003).

    Intergenerational relations were more strained in the Asian context as compared with the West. In the Asian culture, people feel obliged to respect elders irrespective of their feelings or the elders deserving it. Therefore, there is the likelihood of the younger generation having dissatisfying experiences with the older generation. The authors further opined that this could result in negative stereotyping of the out-group thus further marring intergenerational contact (Giles et al.,2003).

    Demographic changes in modern families have been significant and substantial. Life expectancy is higher and there are fewer dependent children.

    Yet another change is that children often live away from their parents, but are able to stay in touch with the help of technology. Despite the demographic changes, the generations remain in contact with each other. But these demographic changes have influenced intergenerational relationships. Intergenerational contact has adapted itself to the modern times in the family context. People have adopted creative ways to stay in touch (Williams and Nussbaum, 2001).

    Organizational factors do influence intergenerational communications. McCann and Giles investigated the role of the level of management in intergenerational communication. It was seen that, irrespective of culture, young bankers found it more difficult to communicate with managers (nonaccommodation) than with their non-managers. Job titles act as a distinctive characteristic for in-and out- group demarcation. The authors felt that the workplace setup has unique factors— convergence, work tasks, chain of command, etc. — that are absent in a non-workplace setup like family, which forces people to behave similarly regardless of their national culture.

    A Comparison between Technology and Non-Technology Based Channels

    It is important to reflect on how the rapid advances in technology have influenced the way people think and communicate about society and its institutions rather than restricting the discussions to how they use the tools of technology. This will help to understand the tensions that exist between groups (Meigel & Olsson, 2012). Technology is a key component at the workplace. Workplaces have evolved with technology. The shift from typewriters to Blackberry to smartphones has happened over just a few generations. In India, technology is the byproductofglobalizationandthepeoplehaveenthusiasticallyengagedwiththechanges(Feiertag&Berge,2008).

    The internet contributed the most to workplace influences. Employees have become more dependent on search engines like Google and online resources like Wikipedia for information required to accomplish their tasks. Employees started to believe in instant communications (BBM -Blackberry messenger, emails, etc.).

    The technology revolution has not been welcomed by all cross-sections of employees in organizations. For instance, the older generation (Veterans and Baby Boomers) has shown its displeasure and rigidness in adapting to the technology boom. On other hand, Generation X and Y, who were exposed to technology as they were growing, are enthusiastic advocates of technology. The technology divide that exists between generations is bound to influence business processes of which communication is one such (Feiertag & Berge, 2008).

    There is a belief that although the current generation thrives on Internet and instant messaging to communicate, their communication skills have not kept pace with requirements. They are not able to communicate in an appropriate manner with people having traditional mindsets. In this context, the internet is viewed as a handicap as information is easily available, which are uncritically accepted and applied. It is no longer believed that understanding a problem is important ( Feiertag & Berge, 2008). The current generation is cognizant of the fact that application of technology to business processes is necessary to increase efficiency, productivity and competitiveness. The problem arises in the different perceptions over its application.

    The older generation, known for its rigidity, should make attempts to embrace technology and harness its potential for the benefit of the organizations (Helyer & Lee, 2012).

Influence of technology on the concept of work

There is has also been significant decline in the extent of manual and physical labour required at work. Technology places a greater demand on the mental capabilities of the employees. The technological revolution has made the work environment employee-friendly by making physical work less strenuous. The concept of work has also been given new dimensions with the adoption of scientific rules of management (Fedrick Taylor).

The role of specialisation was given more importance. More efficient ways of working and increasing productivity were developed. The internet and new age media (MTV) brought about paradigm shift in employees approach to work. To a large extent, work has been made simple for the younger generation because of the easy availability of resources. In today's information era, information, communication and technology (ICT) have become vital components of work and the job (Porter & Kakabadse, 2005). Robertson (2000) mentioned that the technology revolution has compelled organisations to become more creative in the way they manage their resources in order to become more productive.

The older generation tends to view technology as a nuisance though it also gives it due importance because it is acknowledged role in changing the concept of work. The younger generation tends to incorporate technology into the workplace with greater ease and enthusiasm (Goldman & Schmalz, 2006). Technology has influenced the thinking and learning patterns of the younger generation. In turn, this has influenced their concept of work and working style (Govitvatana, 2001).

Technology is seen to influence the younger generation in a positive way, as their work-based decisions are rational and logical. To reinforce this view, Barrett quoted an excerpt from the interview of an employee from the younger generation: We expect to be able to work in corporate America and have pink hair; to be doctors and have tattoos; to wear fishnets and be librarians. Our generation doesn't like our personal expression to have to conform to the Baby Boomers expectations. Generation Y loves their media and won't be penalised for it. We're multi-taskers, and we expect to be on Twitter while taking phone calls, checking Facebook while making meetings. More and more reports are coming out in favor of this, too, saying that social media sites help increase our productivity by granting us a way to refresh our brains while we're working. Goldman and Schmalz (2006) and Kupperschimidt (2000) concluded that the older generation considers technology a nuisance and finds it difficult to adjust to the changes that technology brings with it and demands of people. In contrast, the young generation relies on technology and are able to incorporate it with ease. Technology as a dimension used for generation profiling.

Studies have used technology as one dimension in the profiling and classifying generations. Thus, it is not uncommon to read about the 'Internet generation', 'Google generation', 'BlackBerry generation', etc. (McGuire, By & Hutchings, 2007). Technology is used as a parameter to describe the older generation, which was born and raised during an era in which technology played only a peripheral role. The younger generation is described as one born and raised in the technological age. They have been exposure to technology in great detail, which makes it their strength and also a barrier for the older generation. Therefore, it is only to be expected that generation X and Y, to whom technology has always been a fact of life, should expect communications in a manner that they are comfortable with instant and fast-paced (Wong, Gardiner & Lang, 2008).

A huge technological disparity exists between the younger and the older generations. Older generation views technology as a tool to carry out their work, whereas the younger generation considers it to be an extension of their self. Even while not working, their relaxation and recreation time and activities are governed by technology. They prefer conversations over the phone, listen to music, network and watch movies on their smartphones. Technology facilitates a flexible and virtual working style for the younger generation, which did not exist for the people of older generation, who are more comfortable with the workplace as a physical feature (Smith-Deloitte Report, 2008).

The younger generation has to bridge the wide gap between their tech-savvy capabilities and the traditional work environment. Technology also helps in breaking traditional hierarchies, builds networks and breaks boundaries within organizations. (Smith-Deloitte Report, 2008). Deal, Altman and Rogelberg (2010) compared technology with language. If one starts using a language from the early stage of his/her life’s/he is more fluent in it. Thus, exposure to technology from early life has made the younger generation integrate its applications and potential to their way of life.

Intergenerational Communication Styles

The concept of generation is rooted in phenomenology. The lived experiences of the stakeholder form the basis of their thinking, feeling and behaving. Therefore, the communication styles adopted by employees are likely to be based on their experiences. The older generation grew up in an environment that demanded submission to authority and to being constantly directed and instructed. In contrast, the younger generation is skeptical by nature and has the tendency to question things.

They are not passive receptors. Such characteristics of the younger generation tend to influence their communication style. Other factors that influence communication style are age stereotypes, awareness about generational characteristics and cultural context.

Familiarity and experience with technology has an important role in the type of communication style that a generation is likely to adopt in a given situation. The older generation was not exposed to technology in their formative years as result of which they preferred physical documentation (memos, records, etc.), face-toface interaction and meetings. Although the older generation traditionally favoured face-to-face, use of formal language and straight-to-the point approach in their communications, the Baby Boomers, though inclined to face-to-face communications, are also comfortable with electronic methods and more open and direct by nature. While communicating with baby boomers, conversation should be more relational as they tend see relationship and business as intertwined.

The younger generation was part of the technology revolution during their formative years. Hence, young people are more inclined to direct, immediate communications and are heavily reliant on technology (emails, voice mails, etc.). Within this generation, generation X prefers technology-aided informal and straightforward communication style. The expectation of open communications are rooted in the reasoning that their seniors (in age or position) do not intimidate them as they grew up in an environment that encouraged them to consider their parents (and parent's friends) as friends.

Generation Y prefers any technology that helps to communicate in a respectful manner as well as give and seek immediate feedback. The need for regular feedback is based on family relationships in which regular feedback was given by teachers and parents. The messages should be linked to personal as well as organizational goals.

Cynicism and sarcasm should be avoided (Fase 2009; Wong, Gardiner, Lang & Coulon,2008; Murphy, 2007; Raines, 2002, Myer &Sadaghiani, 2010).

Measures to bridge the technology-based gap

Birkman (2009) and AARP (2007) reported that the older generation has not adapted to the advances in technology and are unable to relate to impersonal communication styles. To give a common example, they are reluctant to use social media (intranet, within office platforms) for communications. On the other hand, the younger generation looks at social media as a primary channel for communications. Therefore, there is a need for all generations of employees at the workplace to be familiarized with diverse channels/styles so as to minimize assumption- based communication.

Barrett (2010) traces technology advances across generations. For the older generation it was landline phones, computers, early file transfer, and email. The middle-aged generation considered cell-phones, email, Personal digital assistants, Internet, and music players as advanced. For the younger generation cell phones, emails, personal digital assistant and social networking sites are the new normal.

Bridging this technology-based gap is possible through the formation of cross generational teams. This will provide the older generation an opportunity to learn from the younger generation and, at the same time, facilitate the transfer experiences and nuance knowledge to the younger generation. In addition, this builds a platform on which the younger generation can get constant feedback.

Communication channels are a potential cause for friction between generations. Older people do not think twice before walking to a colleague's workstation for a discussion. They prefer face-to-face communication. On the other hand, the middle aged and the younger generations prefer a channel that is more efficient in time.

People of the younger generation are considered to be digital natives. They are extremely comfortable with technology-based channels like instant messaging and e mails. The younger generation's over-reliance on technology can be a reason for workplace conflicts. In addition, it acts as an obstacle to developing healthy relationships with colleagues (Glass, 2007).

Another area of conflict is feedback. Older generation is seldom in need of feedback whereas the younger generation requires constant feedback. Young people like to know whether they are on the right track with their work as well as the direct impact of their work. This is similar to the positive reinforcements that parents give to their children. But problems can arise when a young manager supervises an older generation worker. One possible solution to prevent such a situation is to make expectations of each other clear at the very outset (Glass, 2007).

Lack of communication and miscommunications occur because of the lack of proper attitude on the part of the middle-aged and the younger generations. This is an obstacle to the process of knowledge sharing by the older generation. The younger generation may display disrespect or resentment. The transfer of knowledge requires an appropriate relationship between sender and receiver. Middle-aged generation prefer an open and two-way communication for knowledge transfer. Generation X (and on occasion, the middle-aged) has the perception that the older generation is insecure and hence reluctant to share knowledge and information. They feel that the older generation has the fear that sharing of knowledge leads to loss of control.

Organizations have to work on attitudinal changes. Mentoring can be considered as a strategy to deal with the problem of knowledge transfer (McNichols, 2010).


  1. Harvard Business Review, issue Sept-Oct 2018
  2. Forbes India, issue Sept-Oct 2018
  3. HR Magzine SHRM, issue April 2018
  5. Johnson Controls (2010) Generation Y and the workplace
  6. Diversity Management Sadri and Trans 2002
  7. Understanding Indian Generation Y aspirations in the workplace, IKYA ,
  8. Gen Y in India – Accenture 2010
  9. Luscombe, Lewis & Biggs, 2013
  10. Giles Hutchins & Martina Mangelsdorf 2012 Social Entrepreneurship and Gen Y A match made in Heaven,
  11. Gabe Zicherman (27 January 2013) Beyond the hype: 5 ways that big companies are using gamification,
  12. Break down barriers by Chris Westfall , Fight it young by Dr. Marcus Ranney
  13. Dive deep by Dr Debashish Sengupta - The smart manager Sep-Oct 2018 issue 5
  14. . Leaders of a different kind by Morgen Witzel -The smart manager Sep-Oct 2018 vol 17 issue 5

Authored By
Ms. Meghna S Manjrekar
Research Scholar

Tags: MET Institute of Management