If you are a young Gen Y working in a multigenerational office, do you know what to and what not to say to your Boomer colleague? First of all, don't ever, ever tell them you are too young to know any Bruce Springsteen songs. Big mistake.

Communicating across generations is challenging, at best. But it can be accomplished with a bit of training, some patience and a whole lot of common sense. Below are three comments you should never say to an older colleague.

- "I didn't know you were so old."
Expressing shock when someone reveals his or her age is not the best way to establish rapport with your older colleagues. Age is a sensitive topic, for varying reasons, and you may send a message that's counter productive. Before you gasp or wrinkle your nose, take a step back and think about your intention. If you are implying the person looks good for his or her age, simply offer the compliment. But never, never, say, "Gee, you look good for your age." It's probably best to just say "You look great!"

- "Have you had work done?"
This question is equally offensive across gender and age lines. It is offensive whether you are 25 or 55, because it implies a person should look a certain way because of his or her age. This can be especially damaging for someone who is self-conscious about age. So please, restrain yourselves from asking an older co-workers about his or her latest (and obvious) liposuction and/or Botox treatment.

- "Do you know how to use Excel?"
Contrary to popular belief, older workers are not as a technologically "unplugged" as many young people think. You would be wise to remember that it was the Silents and the Boomers who developed the technology long before you were born. The very question implies that older workers are not up-to-date on technological advancements. What you should be thinking is, "This is the guy who developed our order tracking system – wow!" Don't ever forget that.

During a lunch time discussion with a colleague a few days ago, this subject came up. His comment was that if someone has to tell a younger worker it's impolite to ask an older worker about whether they've had cosmetic surgery, then things are really screwed up. He went on to say that at least Boomers have enough sense not to ask a Gen Y or a Millennial whether it hurt to get that tongue ring. I'm not sure we do have that much sense not to ask the question, but that's another subject for another time.

Author's Bio: 

Linda Thompson is the author of Every Generation Needs a New Revolution, How Six Generations Across Nine Decades can Find Harmony and Peaceful Coexistence, Planning for Tomorrow, Your Passport to a Confident Future, a common sense approach to life planning; and A Caregiver’s Journey, You Are Not Alone, a survival guide for working caregivers. To learn more about Linda and her presentations, workshops and publications, visit: http://lifepathsolutions.biz/