The Articulate Dentist - A Blog by the Metro Denver Dental Society

Gen-Blending Creating Generation “US”

Rocky Mountain Dental Convention (RMDC)

By: Cindy Ishimoto

Ms. Ishimoto will be speaking at the 2019 Rocky Mountain Dental Convention (RMDC) Thursday, January 17, 2019 at 9:30am and 2:30pm.

Regardless of where you practice, you likely have employees from three generations working alongside each other: Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials. Generation Z is beginning to enter the employee ranks which will now place four generations in dental offices. They all bring their own strengths and weaknesses to the practice, along with work philosophies and priorities. It’s important to realize that each generation has its own unique characteristics and style of communicating not just with one another, but with other generations. The so-called “generation gap” is, in large part, the result of miscommunication and misunderstanding fueled by common insecurities and the desire for influence and power.

If you take the time to understand each generation and develop solid management strategies, you’ll put together a cohesive team that’s prepared to care for patients at the highest level and helps the practice succeed.  The goal is to create Generation “us.”

All generations are similar in the following areas:

  1. Value Structure– the values that matter most, i.e. family, integrity, honesty, trustworthiness
  2. Wanting Respect– even with slightly different definitions, we all still want to be heard and valued for our contribution
  3. Trustworthy Leaders– without trust, relationships falter, communication stops and productivity is lost
  4. Nobody Likes Change–stereotypes say Millennials love change but research has shown the opposite: no one generation is more or less comfortable than the other
  5. Loyalty– not a function of age but a function of position in the organization; the higher your position, the more time you work
  6. We All Want to Learn– people want to do a good job and are willing to acquire new skills in order to do so
  7. Everyone Likes Feedback– we all want to know how we are doing comparatively

The goal of effective communication is: clear message sent, clear message received.  We must find common ground by understanding everyone’s communication needs and then we’ll have a much better chance of building valuable relationships that impact the bottom line.

The following are a snapshot of strategies for communicating with Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and the youngest in the workforce, Gen Z. 

Communicating with a Baby Boomer
Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, have experienced many changes during their careers. These changes have made them quite flexible in their thinking, which is what they expect of those they interact with. If an issue at your practice needs to be resolved, don’t just present one solution; have three. Boomers like to see flexibility in your thinking and want details to prove that you thought everything through.

Baby boomers are known to be workaholics, desire high quality in their products and services and aren’t afraid to question authority. They want to be interconnected leaders, so working with them as a team member is relevant and valuable.

Boomers prefer face-to-face conversations and to be shown how to do things. They like to know that their contribution is needed and recognized with a reward, which may include a meaningful title. If time is limited for an in-person discussion, consider video tutorials for this show me” generation. Keep in mind that these communication needs are also required by your Boomer patients. 

Communicating with Generation X
Gen X’ers, born between 1965 and 1980, want structure and direction and are often skeptical of the status quo. They are more adept with technology than their predecessors. This generation is juggling many things in their current stage of life, so e-mail works well for them as a communication tool. Time may not allow for face-to-face conversations. It’s always important to make sure they feel valued and that their voice is heard. Because X’ers view everyone as being the same, feel free to challenge them and communicate directly. Gen Xers are more likely to express an opinion without being asked and they prefer to be asked in person for their assistance and input.

Having a conversation and following up with an X’er immediately after an event is more relevant than waiting too long. They like hearing feedback, so give it freely. Keep in mind that autonomy is important to them, so inspect what you expect. Provide them with regular feedback and remember that they prefer e-mails and in-person conversations to be short and to the point.

Communicating with Generation Y (Millennials)
Generation Y, born between 1981 to 1996 also known as Millennials, were practically born with smartphones in their hands and grew up using computers. This group is in a stage where they are always trying to prove themselves to older generations. They appreciate being challenged but will resent anyone who talks down to them. They desire to be treated like an equal in the workplace, not as a child. As a generation, they want to be recognized in the workplace for their areas of responsibility. The best approach for communicating with Generations Y and Z is to speak with these employees daily, provide training on how to operate in the practice and note that they crave one-on-one assessment and feedback.

Millennials are always wondering about what is next. They are entrepreneurial, goal oriented desire their work to be meaningful and feel comfortable with multitasking; feel free to create participative conversations. To work well with this group, be prepared to explain your thinking – they will not hesitate to question you if you don’t. Millennials are also future focused. They want to know what you see for their future and what opportunities are available to them to move up. This group is not known for its patience, so don’t be surprised when they ask for a promotion six months into a job; manage expectations early.

Generation Y prefers e-mail communication and texting, but don’t be too formal. They seek a fun, interactive work environment and believe there is a life outside of dentistry.

Communicating with Generation Z
Born after 1996, Generation Z has always been surrounded by all the latest and greatest technologies. However, they do crave some face-to-face communication. Although social media and other technologies help feed their need for visuals, face-to-face communication fills their need for authenticity.

Also, because they grew up with Gen X parents who often worked full-time or switched careers more than once, these individuals understand the importance of staying relevant by continuing to learn and proving themselves in the workplace. Being the youngest generation in the workforce, this Gen Z is well aware that they have a lot to learn and can benefit from mentoring.

While they might opt to text or e-mail, this generation is very adaptable to other generations’ communication preferences – as long as they are learning. They understand the value of face-to-face conversations but need to be taught how to have these conversations due to their workplace immaturity.

 Whatever the case may be in terms of shifting career and communication needs, determining and communicating guidelines and expectations up front is critical. A specific example is that many Boomer bosses may be expecting more hours from employees while the Millennial team member and Generation Z are looking forward to a flexible schedule that allows time to attend family functions. You need solid systems, job descriptions and measurements to properly manage these generational perspectives and needs.

With a minimum of four generations in your office, you can be sure you’ll encounter plenty of miscommunications and misunderstandings. As a leader, it is your job to wade through the distractions, improve your verbal and non-verbal communication skills and focus on establishing clear communications in order to build trust.

The good news is that many commonalities exist among the generations and their attitudes toward work. Working is a means for personal fulfillment, not just a paycheck, and workplace culture is important to every generation. Therefore, leaders must work to foster and develop a positive work environment so employees can openly and honestly communicate.

As you learn to navigate the various communication styles from each generation, know that the more things appear to have changed, so much has really remained the same. Regardless of which generation you belong to, one thing is certain: all employees want to feel valued and respected. Leaders who establish common objectives and provide open communication channels will develop a culture of thinking, working and serving patients to the highest quality and standards possible, resulting in creating Generation “us.”

Ms. Cindy Ishimoto has 35 years of speaking experience and dental consulting in all types of practices. She is well known for her expertise in the business, financial management, motivational and team building systems of the practice. She has been named a Consulting Leader by Dentistry Today from 2006-2018.


The Articulate Dentist is a blog by the Metro Denver Dental Society, providing members with insight into the dental industry, practice management tips, tech trends and best practices as well as Society news and updates.


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