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Monday, October 30 2017


Millennials Communicating to Older Generations

Last month, we talked about what Millennials want from a workplace and how to attract them to your organization.  This time around, we want to ask a favor of the Millennials.  Being an “old” Gen-Xer myself, I understand some of the communication frustrations the older generations deal with from you, our younger colleagues.  This is a plea to you for help. 

Please know, we are trying to learn how best to communicate with you and use the tools you prefer regarding communication.  However, as with any relationship, there are times when you there must be compromise on both sides.  As an example; when someone leaves you a voice message, we would prefer that you listen to the message before calling us back.  There are actually times when listening to the message is sufficient and does not require a return call.  Sometimes we receive a return call, or more likely a text, which goes something like this:

Millennial Colleague (MC) texts after missing a call: “what did you want?”

Me: “I left a message, did you get it?”

MC: “Oh no, I don’t listen to messages, what did you want?”

Me (frustrated): “I want you to listen to your messages.”

MC: “LOL [this means Laugh Out Loud, for you older folks], I don’t have time for that, what did you want?”

Me (more frustrated): “Well, now I do not remember.”

MC: “OK, well, when you do, just text me.”

So, let’s talk about this scenario.  Although humorous, it is all too real.  You miss or ignore the call, which is fine, so we take the time to leave you a message explaining what we needed, only for you to expect us to explain it again in your preferred form of communication. I get where you’re coming from, but I’m here to propose that you take a look at things from our point of view as well. We would prefer you meet us in the middle on this and at least listen to the message. Then we can message about it if needed. Please.

We know you would really prefer not to talk on the phone at all, or maybe even in person for that matter, but we would be grateful if, when you see we are calling, you picked up and said “hello” if possible. 

Scenario # 2:

Me: (Dial your number) “ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, sorry the person you are trying to reach is not available, please leave a message after the beep, (pause) voice mail is not yet activated for this user.” [Yes, yes, we know, you do not have time to listen to messages anyway.]

MC: (Texting, 5 seconds later): “What do you want?”

Me: (Texting…slowly): “I want to talk to you.”

MC: (Texting): “Sure, what do you want?”

Me: (Texting…slowly): “It would be a lot faster to explain in a phone call, hence why I called you.”

MC (Texting): “LOL, what do you want?”

Me: (Texting…slowly): “No, seriously, I want you to answer your phone when I call.”

MC (Texting): “I don’t have time to talk on the phone, what do you want?”

Me: (Texting…slowly & frustrated): “You do not have time to talk on the phone but you can text me?”

MC: (Texting): “Yes.  It is called multitasking, what do you want?”

Me (Texting…slowly & more frustrated): “Well, now I do not remember.”

MC (Texting): “OK well, when you do, just text me.”

In this scenario, we would ask that you remember we are slow texters.  Our thumbs are not as nimble as yours.  We also do not understand how texting can be easier than talking on the phone.  So, please meet us in the middle and pick up the phone and say “hello”. (We enjoy hearing your voice.) Even if you only say, “I am busy, can I text you later?”

Scenario # 3:

Me (e-mailing client and MC): “Good afternoon client, I hope your day is going well!  Thank you for your email. In response to your questions, I will get you ABC, and MC (copied on this message) will provide you with XYZ.”

Me (forwarding email to MC): Hello MC, could you please provide the information requested?

Me (waiting for MC’s response)

Me (e-mailing MC again): “Hey, just wanted to follow-up and see if you could take care of the client request that came through earlier this week?”

Me (waiting and growing frustrated)

MC (through IM): “Hey there…saw your email. DONE. Texted client right after the email came thru…”

This scenario is different from those above, but there are similar issues at play. While MC quickly handled the client request, he/she did not respond in the format initiated by the client. MC also did not circle back with the colleague, leaving them to believe this request was still unfulfilled.

The reality is every generation has their preferred way of communicating.  (See below for a breakdown of some of these differences).  And yes, every generation stubbornly want all the other generations to conform to their way of communicating.  All we are asking from you, our younger colleagues, is to be patient with us and every once in a while and lean a little to our ways of communicating.  They are really not that bad.

Writer: Joseph McMurry, 317-275-6810,

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