Language Shifts to Bridge the Generational Gap

Tonight we are taking the stage and talking about one of our favorite topics… Millennials in the workplace & leadership language! In the next 5 years 75% of the workplace will be made up of avocado toast loving, Coachella going, Millennials…. and we cannot wait! Why you might ask? As you shake your fist and say that they are entitled and lazy. Because they have so much to offer and if Boomers, Xers and Millennials can learn to communicate AMAZING things WILL happen.

As leaders it’s on YOU to take the initiative in learning how to effectively communicate with this new generation in the workplace. And guess what? It’s one of our FAVORITE things to teach! It really all comes down to two things: understanding and language.

First things first, you have to understand that millennials were raised in a different environment, therefore they act differently- and this isn’t a negative thing! They were not raised being told “do it or else” but instead “do it and earn a sticker on the wall”. This means when they come in to a “do it or else” work environment, they are not going to perform. With this basic understanding down, it’s up to you as a leader to shift you language into something that drives and motivates millennials in the workplace to perform!

Here are three of our favorite language shifts that you can start using today!

#1: Problem vs. Opportunity:

Are you the kind of leader that views arising situations as problems or opportunities for growth and learning? If you are a problem leader, it is time to make the shift! Looking at problems as opportunities is one of the fastest ways to change the culture in your business and mindset of your employees, in turn yielding wayyy more productivity.

Here are three tips for keeping an opportunity mindset:

1. “When your mind defaults to “ugh” do your best to instead give it a “hug.” Calm yourself from the initial knee jerk reaction and seek the opportunity.

2. Catch the language instead of “We have a problem” switch to “We have an opportunity for improvement”

3. Do your best to respond, not react. “Responding means you are in control of your communication. Reacting allows no time for reflection. When in transition from problem to opportunity, it’s easy to allow old patterns to react on your behalf.”

#2: “Help me understand”

By asking the question you allow for the person you are leading to take ownership or explain what is going on, then you can work toward a solution. Here are 3 different examples of how you can implement this ultra-useful tool:

When giving corrective feedback:

• “Bryan, help me understand why you’ve been showing up consistently late for the last 2 weeks.”

When someone brings you bad news:

• “Jolene, help me understand why the project is delayed by another 3 months.”

When someone makes a decision we do not agree with:

• “Andrea, help me understand why you decided to send Javier home early.”

#3: “Let me tell you what I can do”

Ever have to say no, even when you don’t want to? Yeah, being a leader can suck sometimes. One of the best ways to say “no” without saying “no” is to offer the phrase “Let me tell you what I can do.” This phrase works in a number of environments: customer service, entrepreneurship,

middle management, etc. Versatile and kind, this tool is a great way to remain solutions oriented.

Team member: “Hey boss, I know it’s against company guidelines but I want to take a month off to travel and come back to my job.

Leader: “You know, it’s against company policy to take more than 2 weeks off in a row. But let me tell you what I can do: I can send an email to the regional manager and CC you asking if she will take your request into consideration.”

We hope these tips help! Want more? Download our entire Leadership Language Toolbox ebook for FREE here!

Are you a leader struggling with the generational gap in your workplace? Let us help! Book us to speak in your workplace about bridging the generational gap by emailing

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