July / August 2023

Women in Pharma® Editorial: Can Communication in a Multigenerational Environment Be Inclusive?

Janette Buechler
Women in Pharma® Editorial: Janette Buechler

The multigenerational environment we work in poses unique challenges that make effective communication skills as essential today as they have ever been.

Due to the complexity of a distributed and multigenerational workforce, myths and stereotypes have arisen around how different generations communicate. But these stereotypes are largely unfounded and can cause friction as we try to bridge the gap between different communication styles. In this article, I debunk some of the most common myths associated with how different generations communicate and collaborate in the workplace.

Myth 1: Millennials Only Communicate Using Technology

One of the most common myths about millennials is that they only communicate through technology. While it is true that millennials have grown up in a world where technology is a mainstay of communication, they often participate in face-to-face interactions. A report in the Denver Business Journal found that millennials prefer face-to-face communication when collaborating with colleagues.1

Myth 2: Baby Boomers Don’t Want to Learn New Skills

Another common myth is that baby boomers prefer to stick to long-established methods of communication. Although there may be a comfort level with familiar tools and techniques, they still value education. According to an AARP survey, 74% of older workers said the opportunity to learn something new is critical to their view of the ideal job. An article in Forbes noted that employee training programs tend to ignore experienced workers despite their desire to learn.2 Which raises the question: Are employers missing an opportunity?

Myth 3: Generation X Are the Forgotten Generation

Pew Research calls Generation X the forgotten generation.3 Why? Perhaps because they are a small group between the larger baby boomer and millennial generations. However, this does not mean they are less important in the workplace or less capable of effective communication and collaboration. They are also referred to as the “most connected” generation, bridging the gap between the generations older and younger than them. Gen Xers can understand both long-established and modern communication methods and are fluent in both.

Myth 4: Generation Z Avoids Face-to-Face Interaction

Generation Z, the youngest generation in the workplace, is often stereotyped as being glued to their smartphones and only communicating through social media. Although it is true that Generation Z is consumed with handheld technology, they thrive on human interaction while keeping up with their friends and family online. According to a LinkedIn Learning survey, while Generation Z enjoys using technology to communicate, it’s not their preferred method of communication in the workplace.4 They also value face-to-face interactions.

Myth 5: Different Generations Can’t Work Together Well

Perhaps the most harmful myth is that different generations cannot work together effectively due to their varied communication and styles. While each generation may have its own preferences, effective communication is ultimately about respecting each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Findings suggest the differences between these groups are actually quite small. Perhaps it’s not the differences between generations but the belief that they exist that influences our communication. Coming to terms with the value of different generational perspectives leads to better decision-making overall and potentially better collaboration.

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