“I would like feedback more often. In fact, I like it, at the end of staff meeting, when you go around to each person and ask us the most important thing we have to do this week.” That was feedback I recently received while going an evaluation for a new employee. I was more clued in to what this employee was saying after reading, The Culture Map. This employee was communicating to me that she desired even more low-context communication. Further, when asked for feedback on my leadership of the team, this employee offered that it would be beneficial to assign each person a role when we take on a new project.
I found this particularly interesting, not because this person was from a different culture, but because this person is from a different generation. This employee is categorized as “Gen Z” (those born between 1996 to 2012) and happens to be the youngest member of the team. The remaining members are all Millennials (born between 1981-1995). This caused me to consider how communication challenges might extend across generational lines. To compound the generational nuances of communication, is that this team works for a church in which the congregation is primarily of the Baby Boomer generation (born 1946-1964). The communication challenges were starting to make sense when viewed from a generational lens.
Coupled with the generational challenges are regional examples of low-contest and high-context. I previously served a large church in an affluent area of Dallas. I was coach on multiple occasions to be less direct with my communication with staff and church members. Instead, I should, “tell it slant” or, perhaps, let them “read the air” a bit to catch my meaning. In other words, it would be less confrontational for me to adjust my communication. I now serve a church in a small town in a rural context and recently observed how forward and direct people were. People “tell it like it is” and seems to mistrust those who are less direct. I attribute this communication pattern to the fact that there are an overlying amount of people who have lived in the community for generations. Even within this low-context environment is a degree of high-context communication because people have been communicating for decades.
This perspective helped me to understand to friction points within my church – conflict among generations and new people in town. There is an aggravating degree of mistrust of people who are new to the community and a perspective that younger people need “to wait their turn.” While I think this is a myopic view of our community, I believe I appreciate that this is not a case of right-and-wrong but of different cultures colliding with one another.
The only through these choppy waters is to listen to each other. That is what I can do and invite other people to do as well. Like my employee who communicated that more and frequent feedback would be helpful, I can listen to those around me for what they are truly communicating.