By: Misti Burmeister

“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them to become what they are capable of being”
– Goethe

Shortly after sending out my last newsletter titled “Pay Your Dues ~ Build Credibility,” I received numerous emails from the generation Yers on my listserv. With a new understanding of the language used by seasoned professionals, they wanted more information on how to collaborate effectively across generations, regardless of language.

The majority of the research and books written on the topic of intergenerational communication are targeted to seasoned professionals. It is almost as if the success or failure of communication between generations lies in the hands of seasoned professionals. It is my firm belief that communication is a two-way street and it’s wonderful to see so many generation Yers interested in knowing their responsibility in the communication gap.

The following are five shifts to common understanding:






1. Paying Your Dues


Building credibility/ create a path


Wanting it all now

2. Making them just do the work


Creating a learning relationship


What can the company do for me?

3. Make them appreciate what’s come before


Creating a common vision


Bucking the system

4. Be at work when you are needed


Accountability for results


Freedom and flexibility in my schedule

5. Adhere to necessary rules


Acceptable risk


I can do it faster and better and I have fresh ideas

Challenges arise because we all define respect, feeling valued or working hard in different ways. Taking the time to understand what people really mean when they make comments that upset you, will help tremendously. If you probe a little deeper and perhaps ask what was meant by the comment, you will likely find their intention was not what you thought. When the focus in conversation is about right versus wrong, it is helpful to come back to the common ground between people.

When you are clear about the goals of your manager/company and see how you contribute, the conversation goes from “Why am I not getting what I want?” to “How can I further support my company, while advancing my career?” When there is alignment between your company/department mission and your individual career goals, synergy becomes present. Likewise, when you are unclear as to the direction of your organization or your own career goals, there is a much greater need to protect and covet rather than share and contribute.

Is there alignment in your organization? When alignment is present, coming back to common ground is easy.