We are all part of a particular generation, and we frequently hear about the differences between one and the other. Some people believe that a leader’s age/generation is a determining factor for his or her communication style. Although culture, technology, and other factors may change, basic communication characteristics remain the same from each generation to the next. Age and generation do not significantly alter ones communication methods, even during this age of technology and information.
There is a common idea that one’s communication style is related to his or her age/generation. Having worked in multiple organizations, with leaders from varying generations, I do not agree that their communication style is related to their generation group. The communication methods used by all the leaders I have worked with have been varied, regardless of their age. A study was conducted by Bullen, Morgan, and Qayyum (2011) that reviewed the research and literature pertaining to generation differences, and the findings suggest that there is no supporting evidence that paired specific characteristics to a particular generation of learners. This study centered on the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs). The conductors of the study reviewed research and literature, along with conducting focus group interviews with students from five different schools. Contrary to popular belief Bullen et al. (2011) found that generation is not a direct influencer. In contrast, the authors go on to state that we should move away from generation stereotypes, and develop a greater understanding of the issues related to the uses of ICTs. This same notion, avoiding generational stereotypes, is relevant in the workplace and in any environment where people communicate.
The leaders with whom I have worked did not display generational consistent characteristics. Rather, it seems that there is a communication toolbox, and people use different
COMMUNICATIONS ACROSS GENERATIONS 3
tools based on many factors, not specifically their belonging to a certain age group or generation. While it is true different generations have different levels of exposure to types of communication, it is not true that one generation favors one form over the other. Leaders from all age groups and generations have an equal playing field in which to use the communication style that is best suited for them and their team. Macon and Artley (2009) suggest that older workers prefer to communicate in-person, and/or on the telephone. The authors go on to say that younger workers prefer instant messaging (IM) and email. I am 29 years old and would fall into the “younger workers” category; however I do not prefer to communicate through IM or email. My preferred communication method is in-person. There is no doubt...