Communicating with Employees: Resisting the Stereotypes of Generational Cohorts in the Workplace


Introduction: Stereotypes about generational cohorts have been spread widely among current literature; this study challenges those stereotypes and provides a simple method for managers to learn how to effectively communicate with, motivate, and retain employees, no matter what cohort they belong to.

Research questions: (1) Do people in a particular generational cohort behave according to the stereotypes assigned to their cohort? (2) Do people in a particular generation believe that the stereotypes assigned to their generation are accurate?

Literature review: Current literature promulgates generational stereotypes and encourages managers to learn about the differences of each cohort so that they can tailor their communication to each cohort. Knowing the differences allegedly provides managers of technical communication teams or any team with more effective strategies to communicate with, motivate, and retain members of each cohort. Much of the literature examined was not based on rigorous research, and some that was rigorous and empirical claims there are more similarities than differences among the cohorts.

Methodology: The findings from this study are based on answers to surveys from 107 participants and semistructured interviews with eight of those participants who were employees at a software company or were students or employees at a local university. The findings challenge the stereotypes found in the current literature, specifically concerning longevity in a job and workplace compliance.

Conclusions, limitations, and future research: Managers need to learn more about individual employees rather than relying on stereotypes of generational cohorts when communicating with employees. Learning about individuals is simple and can foster more effective communication, which will enhance employees' job satisfaction and engagement, and ultimately employee retention. As the research reported in this study shows, these are crucial variables to consider about a person's tenure in a position and workplace compliance behavior but are not included by most when studying generational cohorts. Further research could help us learn how managers can best develop employees and recognize and reward employees' workplace achievements.



Document Type





Generational cohort, job longevity, manager communication, workplace compliance behavior

Publication Date


Journal Title

IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication