While we might disagree about what communication tools are the best to use and when it is appropriate to use them, Traditionalists, Boomers, Xers, and Millennials can agree that changes in communication are reshaping every aspect of our lives. Each generation tends to see the effectiveness and appropriateness of various means of communication differently, often causing friction and fraction in the workplace.
Communication of the Individual Generations:
Technology has always been viewed as a mixed blessing. While it provides new efficiencies, and ultimately, an increase in productivity, all through history it has also brought great frustrations and challenges to the comfort levels and security of the more senior generations in the workforce.
From our twenty-first century perch, today’s fast-paced, plugged-in world contrasts so starkly from the slower paced and seemingly more personal world of yesteryear. Technological advancements zipping toward us at Mach speed have created a cultural revolution in communication and a crisis in professional and often personal interactions among the generations.
Traditionalists: For Traditionalists, face-to-face contact was a norm for isolated lives in predominantly rural, agrarian communities. Families sat around the radio and listened to recognized authorities, like Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow, deliver the news. For Traditionalists, most communication technology has been seen as a necessary evil that often gets in their way of doing things the way they’ve always been done.
Boomers: The golden age of television dawned providing passive and solitary entertainment for the individual or family. At work, information was scarce, expensive, institutionally oriented, and designed for passive use with “reasonable” turnaround times. While most Boomers never saw a computer in high school or college outside of the science classrooms, the advent of big computers had Boomers parading around their college campuses to protest the lack of recognition of their individuality wearing cards saying, “Do Not Fold, Spindle, or Mutilate.”
Gen Xers: Shaped by a time of mass marketing messages blaring on the television, radio, and now the Internet, Xers were surrounded by a culture of gadgets and tools that delivered instant results in short sound bites. With the introduction of cable programs like Sesame Street, young Xers were entertained and engaged as they learned their letters and lessons in short, diverse segments of programming specifically crafted for them.
Millennials: Millennials have grown up as the first generation of digital natives. Communication for them has always been a natural and connective tool. While their Xer siblings may have been the first to have personal computers, Millennials have had access to the Internet, cell phones, and e-mail since they were in diapers. The world of information is at their fingertips and they pride themselves on being able to find information at Mach Speed. They have naturally been making paths into global diplomacy from random e-mail penpals around the world in first grade to visiting the corners of the world through the virtual highway of the World Wide Web. For Millennials, communication is all about 24/7 access, self expression, and getting it done fast. They don’t wait for anything (or anyone). They feel they just need to give you enough information for
you to get to the meat of the matter, and that’s it.