Boomers, listen up: This is how to communicate with the younger workforce

If you are a Boomer, you may find communication a bit…umm, difficult with the younger generation. It might seem like there’s a whole new English language being used among some of them.

To communicate effectively with young people, read on. 

First, how do you know if you’re a Baby boomer? While the dates may vary, “boomers” are loosely defined as people born between the mid-1940s and mid-1960s, according to Wikipedia, and are often the parents of late Generation Xers and Millennials.

Communication has always been a super important element in the corporate environment, and this has never been more true than here.  

For instance, the baby boomer generation tends to value formality in the workplace while younger generations are more informal, a divide that could come across as disrespectful or unprofessional to some people even though no disrespect was intended. 

How can boomers communicate effectively with younger staff members? Here are four ways to communicate better with young people. 

1. Understand language differences

The language that the younger generation uses is not meant to be disrespectful or unprofessional. Rather, it’s what most young people grew up with. They use it because it’s natural, just like with anybody else.

For instance, here are a few examples (of the hundreds!) of slang phrases that younger people commonly use: 

  • “Damn, Gina!” An indication of approval, surprise, or being impressed.
  • “That’s sick” An indication of amazement or approval (ie: Super cool!).
  • “Salty” Another way of saying “Exotic”, or “racy” or “coarse”.
  • “Woke” A way of describing “taking a stand” (ie: She’s so woke!)
  • “Receipts” Asking for proof of something (not literally receipts in all cases)

And then there are a wide variety of acronyms also in play, such as:

  • TBH: To Be Honest
  • IMO: In My Opinion
  • IMHO: In My Humble Opinion
  • LOL: Laugh Out Loud
  • LMFAO: Laughing My F***ing Ass Off
  • CYA: See Ya
  • FTW: For The Win

And so many more. Acronyms are used as a way of minimizing typing to convey common language or emotions. The more that you understand these slang terms and acronyms, the easier it will be to communicate with those who find them natural to use. 

Note that it is common (and legitimate) for employers to limit acronyms and slang used in the office, especially around customers or clients.  

2. Don’t be afraid of texting/email

You are probably more comfortable meeting face-to-face, but that might not be the case with younger people. Technology improvements over the years have ushered in a remote communication culture that many young people grew up in. As a result, many young people are more comfortable communicating by using technology, like email or text messages. It doesn’t mean they don’t like you or don’t want to see you. 

Many younger people even hate talking on the phone. They’d rather type than talk. 

While face-to-face meetings are necessary for some conversations, consider carefully when a simple email or text message would suffice. In some cases, you might get a better response from younger staff if you shoot them an email rather than schedule a formal meeting. 

3. Provide frequent feedback

Typically, the younger generation is open to getting feedback on the fly rather than waiting for formalized feedback sessions or reviews. When a younger staff member is doing well, tell him or her without scheduling a meeting. Just walk over to their desk and tell them. Most will appreciate this.

The same goes for negative feedback, or “areas for improvement”. Don’t wait to tell them if they need to do something differently. And, take the time to explain why something needs to be done a certain way. After all, the younger generation may not yet have the experience necessary to connect the dots, and providing context to their work can help improve their dedication. 

4. Know your audience

Resist assumptions when it comes to the younger generation. While many do use slang and prefer text messages, some may not.

A healthy workplace enforces enough standards to make the office professional and productive but stops short of enforcing policies that put people, from a wide variety of generations, into a single box with strict and unbendable communication standards.

In other words, younger people may not all use Snapchat, Venmo, and TikTok. Assuming that they do helps create a void between generations that hurts communication.