“Millennials are lazy, entitled and narcissistic,” says Jaleh Bisharat, SVP of Marketing at Elance-oDesk. Millennials like you and I have many negative stereotypes like this one in the present day workplace. Regardless of the level of truth in these stereotypes we need to be aware of these preconceived notions in order to effectively combat them! We millennials are commonly perceived as disloyal to employers, selfish with their career goals, addicted to technology, not willing (or wanting) to work hard and lacking in effective communication skills.
While all these stereotypes are current issues in the business world, I will focus mainly on common stereotypes related to written workplace communication. Millennials have been labeled as addicted to technology and too plugged in. While it is clear that differences in communication style can be a barrier to business interests, there are many ways to alleviate the situation. “It’s the connection that matters” says a journalist at the Milwaukee Business Journal when addressing the communication gap between millennials like us and older generations. Who hasn’t had a good fight with their parents and thought “why don’t they understand?!” This is exactly the communication gap we are talking about here.
As a result of these differences in communication style between different generations, older generations can potentially feel less of a connection with you and other millennials. This can cause there to be a high level of disconnect in relation to written and other forms of communication between these groups. This gap can be bridged when one or both parties put forth effort to communicate in a fashion that is relatable and familiar to the other party. As millennials, we have grown up texting and using shorthand and, in many situations, this unintentionally comes through in professional communications. But do not worry, we can combat this by being more self aware and professional in interactions with people of other generations. In an article on Fighting Millennial Stereotypes, Keri Ann Beazell suggests you use “old-fashioned” forms of communication such as email in order to put the older generation at ease.
Another way in which we as millennials could potentially alleviate the tension around the use of technology and social media, is through education of older generations. If older generations could be shown the value and effectiveness of these frowned upon “tech-gadgets” it is likely that the stereotype around our generation’s use of technology would dissolve. An article on The Next Now has a similar opinion and suggests that millennials demonstrate to their employers how technology can be utilized to further their careers and promote their companies through customer service strategies among other things.
It is no secret that technology is increasingly becoming a central part of business operations around the world. Consequently, without a certain level of synergy and cooperation around advancements in technology, economic progress will be hindered. A study, conducted by Quantified Communications, revealed that while the modes of communication are indeed different between our generation of millennials and our parents generation of baby boomers both generations use language that is “equally trustworthy, engaging, persuasive and confident.” This indicates that maybe the gap between generations isn’t as large as it is made out to be. If the focus was shifted from the negative stereotype towards an effort to understand other viewpoints and motivations this stereotype would quickly cease to be an issue.
Maybe the key to overcoming these discrepancies in style between generations is letting the stereotypes go and instead having each individual work towards an understanding of the communication styles of others in their work environment. The bottom line is that while different generations may prefer different methods on communication, all generations appreciate authentic and effective communication. This unity in the fundamental values of communication coupled with an ever advancing working world should be what shapes all communications and interactions. Self awareness and sensitivity will surely aid this process but without flexibility and a willingness to move out of your comfort zone there can be little harmony between different generations in the world of business. In conclusion, the question then becomes, is it fair to ask one generation to bend to the preferences of another? Or, should all people work to become more tolerant and less judgmental.