Module 03 - Communicating across Cultures
Teaching Tip: A discussion on generational differences has the potential to devolve
into conflict, especially if people turn it into a critique of one generation or another.
To keep the discussion on track, establish ground rules. For instance, note that if
students point out a strength or weakness of one generation, they need to do the same
about the others, including their own. Remind them, too, if necessary, that the
objective of any discussion on generational differences is to understand better how to
reduce conflicts, not inflame them.
In-Class Exercise: Ask students with work experience to share any challenges
they’ve faced in the workplace that might relate to generational differences. Then
share any such experiences you may have had. Is there overlap? Which challenges
might be a factor of being a Baby Boomer, Gen-Xer, or Millennial compared to
which might simply be universal experiences shared by younger compared to older
employees? Novice compared to experienced ones?
Not everyone is in conflict, but patterns among those who are have emerged. While some
Millennials shake their heads at Baby Boomers’ mandates that employees start at entry-level jobs
or work well beyond 40 hours per week, some members of the older generation lament perceived
impertinence, poor communication skills, and what consultant Bruce Tulgan refers to as
“self-esteem on steroids.” Differing values may be involved, too. According to a Pew Research
Center Poll, 81% in Generation Y say being rich is their most important life goal.
In-Class Exercise: Ask students to list on the board what they believe are
characteristics of their generation. Do they coincide with the findings in the book?
What does this suggest about how different audiences may view generations? About
the limits of making broad-based claims about large groups of people?
As shown on PP 3-20, Millennials’ strengths, include optimism,
confidence, enthusiasm, organization, and goal orientation, but their
greatest may be with technology. No generation has ever been as plugged
in as the Millennials, who are accomplished multitaskers, so it’s probably
unsurprising that a Deloitte Consulting study found that 84% text
message, 62% watch YouTube and similar sites, and 56% create their
Accordingly, supervisors relying on “snail mail,” voicemail or even e-mail messages to contact
Millennial employees may find they’re better off texting or adopting newer technologies, and
vice versa. Unlike significantly smaller Generation X, whose also tech-savvy members were
born after the Baby Boomers but before the Millennials, Generation Y has a reputation for
wanting to work in peer groups and with close direction from supervisors, much to the chagrin of
co-workers valuing autonomy. Workstations that allow face-to-face communication,
opportunities to access social networking sites like Facebook and Myspace and increased use of
mobile technologies, such as iPods, laptops, or cell phones, are attractive to many Millennials.
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