Posted: Tuesday Sep 10, 2013
Sept. 10, 2013
The research of Dr. Michael J. Urick, assistant professor of management and operational excellence in the Saint Vincent College Alex G. McKenna School of Business, Economics and Government, that challenges the corporate take on intergenerational communications, is featured in the University of Cincinnati Graduate School Annual Report for 2013.
Urick has participated in quite a bit of corporate training: before entering the Carl H. Lindner College of Business as a doctoral student, he worked first as an auditor and then as a program manager for a corporate training program. As such, he knows a thing or two about the way businesses train employees on generational communication. “You always hear about generational differences,” he says. “There are a lot of stereotypes out there surrounding generations, but the experience that I had was these stereotypes aren’t really true.”
While working with his advisor, Elaine Hollensbe, to assess a leadership development program, Urick noted that many of the young professionals in the program said that one of the biggest challenges they faced in the workforce was communicating with people from other generations. To his surprise, Urick found there was very little academic research in this subject, especially in the business field, despite the abundance of advice books and training materials. He wanted to address this gap in research in a practical way.
Urick interviewed the aforementioned group of young professionals as well as a group of seasoned business consultants (ages 48-84) about their experiences dealing with other generations in the workplace. “I wanted to explore what these intergenerational interactions were like,” he says. “Urick’s research revealed, “Tensions arise in the workforce between generations that I hadn’t thought of before: things as simple as a tension between types of education. So, were you trained on the job or do you have a degree.”
Another tension was the differences between communication styles. Urick’s research participants reported that members of the younger generations have a very different communication style from members of the older generations. Specifically, participants noted that younger workers preferred to communicate with their co-workers via email and text. “That was really challenging, I think, for some of the older folks in the sample,” says Urick, “because they expect to have these face to face meetings where they’re communicating ideas, and oftentimes, they would get frustrated whenever the younger generation would not be able to communicate well.”
Urick’s next step is to create training programs based on this research. He argues that workers need to re-focus their attention, putting more energy into resolving specific tensions that arise between generations rather than the generational stereotypes themselves. After all, the benefits that arise out of intergenerational interactions far outweigh any tensions: “You do see biases and conflict, but you also see learning when people finally break down their misconceptions and realize, “I can learn from somebody, regardless of that person’s age or generation.”
Photo: Dr. Michael Urick
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