Breaking the Barrier: Understanding Intergenerational communication and avoiding discrimination lawsuits

Jan 30, 2023

Breaking the Barrier: Understanding Intergenerational Communication and Avoiding Discrimination Lawsuits

As technology and societal changes continue to evolve, so do the ways in which we communicate with one another. One of the most significant changes is the communication gap between different generations in the workplace. 

Communication is key to the success of any business, and failing to respect and understand the different ways that people communicate can lead to employment discrimination.

Generational differences impact the ways we prefer to communicate and stylistic choices within communications. For example:

  • Email vs instant messaging: Older generations may prefer email as a means of written communication, while younger generations may prefer instant messaging.
  • Formality: Older generations may prefer more formal language and tone in written communication, while younger generations may prefer a more casual and informal approach.
  • Use of emojis and emoticons: Younger generations may use emojis and emoticons more frequently in written communication to express emotions and convey tone, while older generations may use them less or not at all.
  • Use of punctuation: Younger generations may use punctuation such as ellipses or exclamation marks in a more informal and creative way, while older generations may use them more conventionally to indicate hesitation or emphasis.
  • Brevity: Younger generations may prefer to keep written communication short and to the point, while older generations may prefer more detailed and comprehensive explanations.

An employer needs to be aware of these differences and make an effort to accommodate the communication preferences of all employees. Failing to account for intergenerational differences can lead to employment discrimination lawsuits. For example, if an older worker is passed over for a promotion or denied a training opportunity because they are not familiar with digital communication methods preferred by younger managers, they may have grounds for an age discrimination lawsuit. Similarly, if a younger worker is consistently overlooked for opportunities or passed over for promotions because they are not seen as a "good fit" for the company culture and their manager is not considering the communication styles of different generations, there may have grounds for discrimination on the basis of age or some other basis.

It is also important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all approach and that communication preferences can vary widely among individuals of different ages and within the same generation. Age is not the only factor that causes different approaches to communication, and national origin, race, even sexuality may all play a part in how each individual communicates.

An employer looking to avoid these kinds of lawsuits can provide training on different communication styles, encourage cross-generational mentoring, and promote open and inclusive communication. For example, businesses can provide training on the appropriate use of digital communication tools like instant messaging, video conferencing and collaborative tools like Slack, Asana or Trello. It is important for an employer to remember that it’s not just young, new employees who need this kind of education and that even seasoned veterans can benefit from refresher courses.

At Community Law Office, we understand that age discrimination can take many forms, including discrimination in communication styles. That's why we are committed to fighting for the rights of all employees, regardless of their age. If you believe that you have been treated unfairly due to your communication style, we invite you to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced employment attorneys. We will work with you to understand your situation and help you explore all of your legal options. Don't let discrimination stand in the way of your success. Contact us today and let us help you protect your rights and achieve the fair treatment you deserve.