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Navigating Communication Between Corporate Veterans and Millennials

Navigating Communication Between Corporate Veterans and Millennials

I recently spoke at a small but mighty up-and-coming company. Last year when I spoke to them they only had about 10 employees, but they’ve now grown to 30 employees who are mostly hires right out of college. It’s an exciting time for this company. They’re bringing in brilliant talent: young people who may be coding geniuses or social media whizzes.

But with all growth comes a period of discomfort, and one of the greatest challenges for this particular workforce is communication between the experienced corporate workers and the newly hired college graduates.

Communication is the Key to Successful Collaboration

When you bring together a group of experienced professionals and inexperienced 20-somethings and ask them to work together, you’ll inevitably see a communication gap which impacts the productivity and quality of your work.

[Related: Public Relations Expert Shares How to Communicate More Effectively]

These two groups of people come from completely different backgrounds. They think differently. The young folks don’t know how to “speak professional” in the same way the veterans are used to speaking. They don’t have the same sense of urgency; they’re used to a much more casual, peer-to-peer, laid-back atmosphere.

This frustrates the experienced folks who have been around the corporate block longer. You can’t tell if the younger employees are serious about their work, or if they’re effectively communicating with the new hires. They don’t know how to get through to them. Have you felt that way, too?

Effective Communication is a Two-Way Street

Just because the younger people are new to corporate culture certainly does not mean that they aren’t assets to the company. It’s at this point that structures can be put in place to make sure that both groups of people fully understand each other.

Communication is a two-way street: when done well, the receiver fully understands what the sender intended, but the responsibility lies with both parties. Great communication is built on good relationships. When employees have a connection to one another, it makes a difference in whether they can effectively share an idea.

This means that on a daily basis, excellent listening skills can have a tremendous impact on workflow. If both groups of people are committed to hearing what the other side means to say, misunderstandings and frustrated feelings can be avoided.

[Related: Communicating Powerfully - 3 Techniques for Getting People to Sit Up and Listen]

We Don’t All Speak the Same Language

When sending or receiving information, it’s very important to remember that not everyone “speaks the same language,” even if everyone is speaking English. Each person learns and absorbs information in a different way. I talk a lot about this in my work with DiSC, an assessment tool that is used to understand your communication and work style to better working relationships and improve productivity in the workspace.

Subtle nuances in communication go beyond simply which language we’re speaking. Urgency level, seriousness, importance... all these aspects are often inferred by subtle nuances like inflection or word choice. The better one employee knows another and has built a relationship, the more able the two will be able to understand these subtle differences.

Even when employees do know each other well (but especially when they don’t), an open mind and heart are particularly important so that we can work towards getting both of us on the same page.


Nozomi Morgan(@nozomimorgan), MBA, is a certified Executive Coach and the Founder and President of Michiki Morgan Worldwide LLC. In addition to coaching, she speaks and trains on leadership, career, professional development and cross-cultural business communication. Visit to learn more.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.