Writing at IT World, Eric Bloom has some suggestions for Generation Y employees to help them get noticed by (and possibly make some inroads with) their generation X and Baby Boomer co-workers / superiors. Bloom is very careful to point out how distasteful stereotypes are and makes some seemingly innocuous suggestions:
Use the phone
Spell words out
Be a bit more formal in emails
None of this is offered as “We need to get things back the way they used to be,” but rather “these are good behaviors to display to a few key individuals in your organization.”
What I find most interesting are some of the responses (apparently) from Gen Y readers of the piece:
Speak on Phone –
Good luck. Just as you wouldn’t like using text when youstarted out, they don’t like making phone calls. Their numbers are too big and their generation’s preferred communication will rule. Boomers are on there [sic] way out and their ways won’t matter.
Be polite: Younger people see excessive politeness as passive aggressive or condescending.
Return email etiquette: Letter salutations were always stupid and wasteful. That’s why you old guys invented the memo. Younger people followed suit perfected the email. This is akin to asking people to write in cursive or use a fax machine.
You learn the good things from your superiors and then you do it better. It is evolution. Every generation is more productive that the one before it because of this. Don’t force bad habits on the next generation. Also, f**k your subservient attitude towards the paycheck. Remember who is actually getting all your work done. Your best employees are the ones who can leave on a whim because they have options outside. You better work your ass off to make sure they stay. This “be grateful for your paycheck” attitude is an unmistakable mark of incompetence. If you steer employee behaviour by dangling that paycheck, you will be left with only those who have no options outside.
(I think we can all agree that we want that third commenter working for us, can’t we?)
One thread within the comments talks about the kinds of cultural sensitivity that business people have to learn when dealing with foreign cultures. Interestingly, it is assumed across the board that the “foreign culutre” that needs to be accommodated is Gen Y. This gets it backward or, at best, misses half of the story. Increasingly, Baby Boomers are the “foreigners” in the workplace. I would venture to guess that most of them are doing their best to keep up with the way things work today.
Note that Bloom never suggests that texting should be abandoned altogether or that any of these behaviors have anything to recommend them other than perhaps raising one’s profile with a few key people. The responses above indicate that any change must be all or nothing, and if anybody is going to change, it isn’t going to be ME.
They also assume the same attitude on the part of the Baby Boom / Generation X co-workers. This I doubt. It isn’t that the older employees refuse to text; it’s just that they’re more comfortable using the phone. Should younger employees try to accommodate this preference? I don’t see the harm — once in a while or when dealing with a particular individual.
But then I’ve always thought things work best, in most settings, when people are at least trying to be considerate of each other. Sue me if that comes across as “passive aggressive or condescending.”