Phyllis weiss haserot
Phyllis weiss haserot

President & Founder

212 593-1549


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The Conversation Skill Unites The #Multigenerational Workplace

[This article is comprised of excerpts from the book “You Can’t Google It!” by Phyllis Weiss Haserot: Chapter 6-Conversation]


Humans are blessed with speech and conversation. With all our technical advances, it seems many of us are letting our ability to constructively converse shrivel, whether through laziness, addiction to electronic devices, fear of vulnerability, or lack of conversational skills. We need to strengthen our conversation muscles and use them to achieve what we want for ourselves, our careers, and our organizations, and to share knowledge.


Good, constructive conversations at work are being hindered by factors including:

Institutional--low risk and candor-avoidance culture; functional silos

Individual—personal identity focusing on differences; time pressure/work overload; hoarding knowledge encouraged by reward systems

Societal—tribal divisions reinforced by social media; on-the-run, abrupt non-reflective communication styles


People of Younger Generations Want Cross-Generational Talk

If you’re a manager and you’ve been spending time and angst over the generational puzzle, remember that it’s not enough for older people to understand younger people; it’s equally important for young people to understand why older people think and behave as they do. Moreover, Millennials and Gen Zers want to know and understand. I know this is true because many of them have told me so during intergenerational forums and casual conversations.

The solution starts with meaningful cross-generational conversation and embedding efforts toward it into our culture. Eager, ambitious, and often impatient Millennials and Gen Zers want to know everything older colleagues know so they can add it to their own store of knowledge and experience with technology. Many of them are aware they lack skill at building and nurturing relationships or understanding the perspectives of people of older generations with different kinds of experiences. They instinctively go to the Internet for information; but everyone needs firsthand experience and advice, and you can’t google that.

Healing Generational Communication Disconnects

It’s obvious to just about everyone that we have been witnessing fundamental changes in communication media and styles, which has accelerated markedly in the last 10 to 15 years. Technology and the market have led the way to faster, more efficient, smaller, always- on media. Communication styles have followed and adjusted, causing generational and occupational divides.

The challenge of working with the communication styles of the different generations comes up often in my programs and discussions. It’s important to recognize that it’s not just about technology. The medium is only part of the message. Don’t confuse efficient with effective.

Cross-Generational Conversation Days

To fill the need for a deeper impact and commitment to cross- generational conversation in the private, nonprofit, and public sectors, I through my firm, Practice Development Counsel, created the concept and flexible curriculum to institute Cross-Generational Conversation Day (CGC Day) in organizations across the country and beyond. (Please go to to find out more about CGC Day. (It’s described with a case study and details about how to initiate and implement CGC Day in your organization in “You Can’t Google It!” chapter 12, “Inspiration to Action.”)

Compelling Conversations that People from Each Generation Want (and Need) to Have with Each Other

I believe there is a hunger for comfortable, safe, effective, and profitable cross-generational communication and collaboration at work. Yet people are held back by fears of reaching out beyond their comfort zones. They feel uncomfortable associating with people who don’t share similar beliefs, likes, and rituals—at least on the surface. Most connections are superficial, and social media has magnified that superficiality with easy information overwhelm and a new definition of friends. Often people just don’t know how to initiate and establish deeper conversations and relationships.

I’ve observed that people seem to be able to converse and connect very well in times of crisis like a terrorist attack, severe weather, or power outage. But we don’t want to wait for or look for crises when we need to achieve behavioral change. We need both motivation and the ability to initiate and carry out meaningful and accurately expressed cross-generational conversation.

Is Flight from Conversation Generational?

“I am a partisan of conversation,” MIT professor and author Sherry Turkle wrote in her opinion piece excerpted in the New York Times Sunday Review from her book Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age. “Most of all, we need to remember to listen to each other, even the boring bits, because it is often in unedited moments, moments in which we hesitate and stutter and go silent, that we reveal ourselves to one another,” Turkle stated.

We tend to associate constant electronic communication and being tethered to those gadgets with the youngest generations. Is that actually true? Here are some questions you and your colleagues should answer.

  • Haven’t older workers caught the fever too?
  • And are they fleeing from real conversation?
  • Are electronic connections keeping us from connecting emotionally?
  • Are many of us avoiding the messiness of relationships and self-reflection in a delusionary effort to seek perfection, as Turkle believes?

As a passionate champion of cross-generational conversation, I certainly share concern over the loss of real conversation. How else will we grow to understand each other and how to do our best at work and in our personal lives outside work? How will authentic connections be established to achieve trust and collaboration?

Please reply to these questions for yourself and share your thoughts with me at and the Cross-Generational Conversation group on LinkedIn.


© Phyllis Weiss Haserot 2018.

* The generational chronology for easy reference: Generations are defined by the similar formative influences – social, cultural, political, economic – that existed as the individuals of particular birth cohorts were growing up. Given that premise, the age breakdowns for each of the four generations currently in the workplace are approximately:

Learn about our *Generational Wisdom for Mentors and Mentees* programs as well as multi-generational team facilitation. Call 212-593-1549 or e-mail

For coaching, training and special programs on inter-generational challenges for and among 4 generations in the workplace and maximizing the potential of young professionals, call or email Phyllis for an exploratory talk or complimentary coaching session at 212-593-1549 or

Phyllis is available to speak at your organization or at firm retreats on inter-generational relations and organizational effectiveness topics. Call or e-mail for a list of topics or to custom-tailor your own.