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VOL. 46 | NO. 31 | Friday, August 5, 2022

Bridging workplace generations takes thought, patience

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We’re at an interesting point in business culture. People with many backgrounds and experiences are working together more now than ever before.

Some young team members have never worked at an in-person job and have always had a cellphone. Others started working before laptop computers or the internet even existed. Some have only worked in at big corporate environments, while others have been at startups.

These people all have different working styles. They are now collaborating via the tiny camera on their computers.

Variations make communication differences quite interesting to observe. You probably have some co-workers who will only call you if there’s a scheduled meeting on your calendar. Others might send you an unplanned message, asking if you have time to talk, even when there’s no meeting scheduled.

Then there are a handful that will call with no notice. These differences are driven by multiple factors, including generation and work experience.

Similarly, people have different habits when it comes to written communication. Some people prefer email, others like Slack.

Within email, there are fairly distinct differences. Some emails are sent from one person to another single person. Others copy to many extra people for informational purposes. Some emails will have recipients included as a blind copy to reduce the number of replies. Others will add additional people to existing email chains.

Over the years, I’ve started to believe there is an inverse relationship with email and the size of the company: The smaller the organization, the more recipients will be included on a single email.

People at startups tend to copy many people at once. This keeps everyone up to date and is seen as more efficient. Within a large company, it’s more common to see email chains that include only the bare minimum number of people. The sender doesn’t want to involve anyone who doesn’t need to be on the email.

The same trend seems to also be true in meetings between two companies. A small company will bring many attendees to a meeting in an effort to show that the company is legitimate. A large company will send one or two representatives to serve as the sole points of contact.

No matter the venue, one thing hasn’t changed: Praise in public and criticize in private. Calling someone out in a meeting in front of others does nothing but hurt your relationship with them.

If you’re asking a colleague for something via email and aren’t getting the results you want, call them or email them – directly. Don’t copy additional people. Even if you aren’t trying to put them on the spot, this is how it will likely feel.

No one wants their shortcomings to be pointed out in front of others. Adjust your approach for better results.

Angela Copeland, a leadership and career expert, can be reached at copelandcoaching.com.

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