During our International Business Success course, we play an excellent video that clearly demonstrates cultural differences in the business world. It is always an “aha” moment when people see it, particularly when they understand how different cultures may view something – seemingly as simple as having dinner together – in completely different ways.

The last time I was watching it, I began to think about my former workplace and the differences between my coworkers. While there were certainly some cross-cultural differences, I saw far more challenges stemming from cross-generational differences. Sometimes being born in different decades can be as different as being born at the beginning and end of different centuries.

There were times when something was said by someone from an older or younger generation that had so little meaning to me, it might as well have been in a different language – and in a way it was. Sound familiar?

I remember speaking with a friend who places orders for very specialized equipment for her business – and when I say specialized, I also mean very expensive. This is the part I find very interesting. She hated dealing with her sales rep, because he concluded all of his emails with “Cheers”. She found it disrespectful, because he wasn’t a personal friend and it came across as unprofessional and even a little insulting.

Depending on what generation you’re from, you might feel as though she were the one overreacting – this is all part of the cross-generational puzzle. That having been said, the onus wasn’t on her to maintain a high level of communication; she was the client, and if the sales rep wanted her business, he should have been able to talk to her in the way she preferred. She ended up moving her purchasing to another company – and to another rep who could do the job right on all levels.

Stories like these are why I decided to add cross-generational etiquette to Social Graces’ business programs.

There are as many as five generations in today’s workforce, all with different strengths and weaknesses, all in various positions and levels in our companies. It is vital for everyone to understand each other to succeed in our team-based business world.

If you know how to act and communicate with people from different generations, it can really enhance your job performance and your career. You can be effective at clearly, efficiently, and politely interacting with a wide range of people and that can make you stand out as leadership material.

Think about learning about this type of etiquette as a “secret decoder ring” that will provide a ton of help along the pathway to rapid success.

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