Bridging the Age Gap: Intergenerational Communication in the Workplace


I’m a fairly typical example of a millennial in the nonprofit sector when you look at my work history. My career so far has been marked by a plethora of internships, volunteer opportunities, and 2-to-3-year stints in different positions in several cities. I am now in a job I love (yay!) and have a great group of colleagues who all (magically) get along and treat each other with respect, but I have certainly experienced a number of workplaces with (to say it politely) less than desirable work environments.

I was not alone in that experience at the latest YNPN Boston Event - Bridging the Age Gap: Intergenerational Communication in the Workplace. YNPN Boston brought in a panel of nonprofit leaders to help attendees learn more about and strategize how to deal with these issues without losing your mind (or feeling like you need to quit!).

Here are some of my favorite tips from the conversation:

Use tokenization to your advantage

If you’re the only young person in a room, OWN IT. You were invited into that meeting for a reason, and that’s not just to sit quietly in the corner. If you have a great idea or a new point of view, make sure the room hears it. Additionally, try to bring others of your generation into these meetings to ensure the conversation becomes even more well-rounded!

Technology should be your medium, not the solution

Millennials are much more comfortable with technology than generations before us, simply because we grew up with it. This means that we sometimes gravitate towards technology whether or not it’s required to solve a problem. When you come across a problem at work, take a moment to evaluate whether your tech “fix” is really a fix, or whether it is creating even more work.

Go to lunch...

...or coffee...or grab drinks after work. Try to get to know your colleagues in a less formal setting - it will help you learn their communication styles and will make it easier to work through difficulties you may have later.

Don’t be scared of feedback

There is a common perception that Millennials are all obsessed with perfection, which feeds into our fear of feedback. After all, you only get feedback when you did something bad, right? Wrong! Feedback is your opportunity to get even better at your job - whether it’s about how you communicate with your coworkers or whether your boss prefers you to use sans serif fonts instead of serif fonts! You will only get better through feedback, so stop hiding from it.

I want to send out a BIG thanks to our panelists - Katie Donovan of Equal Pay Negotiations, LLC, Justin Kang of City Awake, and Leah Moschella of Boston GLOW - for bringing their expertise, energy, and knowledge into the room.

If you missed this event, never fear - we will be hosting a series of events this year about topics relating to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. Join our listerserv or follow us on social media to be the first to know about these events. You can also join us at Networking with a Twist: Get in the Game on June 6.

Laine Kyllonen is the Co-Director of Programming and Events at YNPN Boston. By day, she is the Assistant Manager, Donor Relations at the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

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