Just like you wouldn’t greet your grandmother with “Yo” and a peace sign, you wouldn’t greet your two year old sister “Good evening, young lady.” The way we talk to different age groups is key to the effectiveness of any message, be it an ad in the paper, a commercial on TV or on a radio talk show. Whether you’re talking to a Boomer or a Millenial, the best way to go about talking to someone of a certain generation is to understand their mindset.
Though there are plenty of Millenials in managing positions in companies, you as a Public Relations major should consider that the person employing you in either an internship or a part-time job is probably significantly older than you. Therefore, you might take into consideration the fact that they perceive messages differently depending on the medium. For example, studies show that Boomers value face-to-face conversation; even the most progressive Boomers would prefer you spoke to them in person, as opposed to e-mailing them or instant-messaging them. Though many would classify this dilemma as a personal versus professional standpoint, nowadays employers have their employees on Facebook, so by today’s standards, the lines between the personal and professional life are a little fuzzier. This makes communicating dangerous, which is why the following rules are great to go by:
- IM: Various employers create networks in which they can IM with any particular person in the office at any time they need them. However, outside of the workplace, between a Boomer and a Millenial, unless they message you, refrain from casual conversation. However, do not treat them like strangers. The essential challenge is simple: find the happy medium.
- Email: If it’s something important, Boomers appreciate details; however, if it’s something of urgency, you might want to simply refrain from e-mail and go straight to face-to-face conversation.
- Phone: Remember how to answer the phone: the beauty of caller ID is that you can know who’s calling before you answer. When referring to a Boomer, a more cordial answer is always the safest bet, even though they may be more casual with you. Regardless of how they address you, remember your etiquette.
- Facebook: There is a simple rule to this media; just as you would with any employer, keep their generation and ideals in mind. Profane language never has a place on your profile; keep the topics of conversation accessible to any Boomer employer you’re working for clean and family/socially oriented within the boundaries you feel appropriate. Though they value transparency, remember there are some things employers don’t have to see (pictures of you intoxicated, for example). These are completely inappropriate for your employers to see.
The Boomers and the Millenials have plenty of differences between them: experiences differ greatly, and it’s using these experiences that we develop socially acceptable, effective ways to communicate with one another. Take these media rules into account when talking across generations so that you come off as professional yet friendly at the same time.