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How Gen Y Should Talk To Old People At Work 459

jfruh writes "A lot of ink has been spilled explaining to Boomers and Gen Xers how they can best manage, motivate, and retain talented members of the Millenial generation on the job. But it's a two-way street, and those born in the '80s and later could also use a lesson on how to best communicate with older co-workers, who after all will determine their promotion and pay raises for the foreseeable future. Advice includes: make actual phone calls, mirror the level of formality your co-workers use in e-mails, and for Pete's sake don't ask them things like 'R U going?' in a non-texting medium."
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How Gen Y Should Talk To Old People At Work

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 02, 2013 @03:41PM (#44740405)

    Howz it shakin?

  • as loudly (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 02, 2013 @03:41PM (#44740411)

    as possible.

    • Re:as loudly (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 02, 2013 @03:48PM (#44740457)

      As a millennial, I offer this advice: don't fucking have anime as your desktop wallpaper, don't have an interest in Pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh. If you're older than 12 and still playing with that shit, your coworkers will think you're a wimpy bitch as best and a creepy pedophile at worst. Seriously, guys, we're grown men here.

      -- Ethanol-fueled

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        The hell do folks' personal gaming interest have to do with their professional life?
        • Re:as loudly (Score:5, Interesting)

          by xaxa ( 988988 ) on Monday September 02, 2013 @05:47PM (#44741237)

          The hell do folks' personal gaming interest have to do with their professional life?

          Once they put it on their work computer's desktop it gets noticed.

          One of my colleagues has a screengrab from a film; a huge gun against someone's head. I didn't much like seeing that. I'm not going to complain about it, but I think it's a bit disrespectful and immature.

          An anime/manga background isn't disrespectful (hopefully!), but think about what impression you want to give to colleagues beforehand. That's all.

        • Re:as loudly (Score:4, Insightful)

          by ultranova ( 717540 ) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @09:00AM (#44745531)

          The hell do folks' personal gaming interest have to do with their professional life?

          Because, as the song says, "high school never ends" and "all that matters is climbing up that social ladder".

          Work is basically a LARP where you play a role to get the gold. You might not actually be a lvl 1 Office Drone, but you damn well better learn to pretend. And it makes sense, from viewpoint of efficiency: no one there knows you, at least not initially, but they know what to expect from an Office Drone.

          Life is pretty surreal most of the time. Don't get upset about it, just enjoy the implicit comedy.

      • Indeed. Anime will get you branded as a pedophile creep.

        Keep it professional and put up soft core furry porn instead.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Maybe that would also be a solution

  • So basically... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by verbatim_verbose ( 411803 ) on Monday September 02, 2013 @03:47PM (#44740453)

    Don't communicate like an idiot. What a good idea!

    • Exactly...
      Who uses "U/R" in professional communication, that's not working in marketing?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Who uses "U/R" in professional communication, that's not working in marketing?

        The next guy to be fired.

    • Re:So basically... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by scubamage ( 727538 ) on Monday September 02, 2013 @05:10PM (#44740987)
      Pretty much this. My parents were super liberal, but always taught me that until told otherwise you maintain strict courtesy until told not to. So, it's always, "Yes sir, Yes ma'am." This works out great considering a LOT of the folks I work with, who are my seniors, are ex-military.
      • As long as we're talking about courtesy... don't call them "old". While it is common knowledge that the definition of old is 10 years older than you are, referring to another person as 'old' is universally bad form. You can be old school. You can be older. But you can't be old.

        Okay, that out of the way... if Gen Y really wants some respect, they can start by showing some. You are not better than the rest of us because you can ipad your interwebs. We made those things for you, so don't act like growing up wi

    • Occasionally I get email that I just don't understand, sometimes even from HR, including acronyms that I have to look up online. Like "LMK" last week that had me baffled. Plus a director who seems to confuse twitter with email, as the emails are always one line long and short on information (I think due to being typed during boring meetings while pretending to pay attention).

  • by Sponge Bath ( 413667 ) on Monday September 02, 2013 @03:49PM (#44740461)
    Complement the onion on their belt. Once you have their trust, take them out Old Yeller style.
  • How about (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Monday September 02, 2013 @03:49PM (#44740463) Homepage Journal

    You treat them as you want to be treated, and don't worry about if they are younger or older.. They are your coworkers, that is all that matters.

  • Silly me (Score:5, Insightful)

    by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Monday September 02, 2013 @03:49PM (#44740465) Homepage Journal

    I thought using proper English and a little courtesy and respect in writing was required of *all* generations when dealing with business, especially customers and "the boss." Equally silly, I always thought it was only *courteous* to use the phone or even (*shudder*) walk over to someone's office to talk to them!

    But I guess the "kids" think it's funny to use text-slang instead, further exposing their ignorance and lack of respect for others.

    • Re:Silly me (Score:5, Informative)

      by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Monday September 02, 2013 @04:17PM (#44740629)

      But I guess the "kids" think it's funny to use text-slang instead, further exposing their ignorance and lack of respect for others.

      I realize you're being rather tongue-in-cheek - but I wanted to say...

      I work at a university, routinely interact with student workers, and have to say - these sorts of "stories" are garbage. Kids vary in terms of their work ethic, as has always been the case. There's nothing particularly different about recent generations compared to earlier ones. Even the kids who need to improve their work ethic mostly know the right way to communicate with their bosses and co-workers. They get a bit loose when talking to coworkers who fall in their own age group - but that was true even way back when *I* was the new kid.

      And, incidentally, back when I was a new worker - trimming the wicks on the gas lamps - there were magazine articles saying basically the same sorts of things to people my age.

      The real lesson here (if there is one) is that the folks who are attempting to make a living giving career advice to young people haven't changed significantly in many decades.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Forcing people to talk to you on the phone for something that could be handled over email is not only NOT courteous, it's downright rude. Don't force people to conform to your schedule.

    • y u b h8ing? communication works as long as evry1 no wut were sayin, rite?

      (And now, if you'll excuse me, I need to find some form of soap that I can use to rinse my brain, since I'm left feeling sullied after having written that. Note: 29 year-old here, and I fully appreciate that the point of communicating is not merely to convey a simple idea, which can in some cases be accomplished through the use of slang, but to also convey a tone. For that, you need to express yourself with more nuance and care than t

    • If you believe "kids" use text-slang because of ignorance and lack of respect for others, then you are the one who is ignorant here. In their limited interactions with others, it is simply the standard way of communicating. They have to adjust to communicating more formally. It doesn't demonstrate a lack of respect. It is a normal adjustment to the business world and interacting with people who didn't learn the same non-standard style of communication that they did.
  • Backwards (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RetiredMidn ( 441788 ) on Monday September 02, 2013 @03:55PM (#44740513) Homepage

    As a Boomer (age 59), I'm finding it more important to embrace the future than ask the young 'uns to adopt the past. I think the last time I used a land line phone at work was over three years ago, and that was an exception; it's all Skype and Hangouts now, and I like it better.

    I do miss some of the perqs of the past: private offices, beer at lunch...

    That said, now get off my lawn!

    • Re:Backwards (Score:5, Insightful)

      by chienandalou ( 2637845 ) on Monday September 02, 2013 @04:13PM (#44740609)

      +1. I remember when business was mostly done on the phone, and it was a really inefficient medium. So inefficient that you needed specialist employees whose job was placing calls... Every now and then I end up in contact with an industry that is still mostly phone-based (e.g. movers) and I'm reminded what that was like.

      Phone is good when you have something sensitive or open-ended and/or you really need to sound someone out, hear their tone of voice, pauses and so forth. Interestingly, I've noticed that I and most folks set those calls up with an e-mail or text - we don't just cold-call. That feels rude now.

      I've also noticed that not all of my fellow senior colleagues have adapted to e-mail well. Messages should be short and clear and not waste the recipient's time.

      Beer at lunch, that was good.

    • I do miss some of the perqs of the past: private offices, beer at lunch...


      Bottle of Bordeaux.

      And yes, I do have a private office.

  • ...1337 g33z0rz.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 02, 2013 @04:03PM (#44740559) work eighty hours a week for the first three or four years to prove our worth,..

    As a Gen X'er, I saw my Dad bust his ass.

    Then get laid off when management made cuts to make their numbers. R&D was ALWAYS one of the first cuts. My father told me "Do NOT become an engineer! Become one of the bean counters."

    What did I learn? Busting your ass does NOT prove anything. It will NOT be rewarded. Living to work is stupid: you work to live.

    That's why all the Baby Boomers are now a BURDEN on our medical system: all that work and no play made them obese, diabetic, and with heart attacks. They ran themselves into the ground with work.

    Even though they worked that hard, they are taking more out of the system than they EVER put in.

    And now we have a bunch of self entitled ...

    • "That's why all the Baby Boomers are now a BURDEN on our medical system: all that work and no play made them obese, diabetic, and with heart attacks."

      That would be due to their non-exercising lifestyles and spectacularly shitty diet. Exercise and diet weren't cool when Boomers were growing up, and it shows. They played plenty, but it wasn't particularly healthy.

      • by Animats ( 122034 )

        Exercise and diet weren't cool when Boomers were growing up, and it shows.

        You missed the early 1980s, when everybody did aerobics.

        In the 1960s, you almost never saw oinkers of high school age. Now they're common.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      My grandfather busted his ass and died at fifty five of a heart attack. My father busted his ass and died at fifty five of a heart attack. I'm taking it easy. If I still die at fifty five of a heart attack, at least I won't have wasted thirty years trying to impress some crusty old MBA halfwit with 80 hour weeks.
    • by Truekaiser ( 724672 ) on Monday September 02, 2013 @04:36PM (#44740783)

      If i had not already posted a bunch. I would mod this up as MUCH as i can.
      I think most of the gen x and y people. Myself included looking at our parents. The so called 'baby boomers and greatest generation(HA)'. Saw how the 50+ work hour weeks wrecked them, heard how they lamented how they did not have the time they wanted for themselves. Or how they could not spend the time they wanted to their family.
      And thought. No, I, won't do that to myself.

  • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Monday September 02, 2013 @04:19PM (#44740645)

    I'm 30 and just at the very edge of the gen x-millennial divide. One thing that has been a major problem for me and most of the gen exers and millennials I know that are somewhat intelligent with regard to the boomers is respecting them as a generation. Sure, there are individuals worthy of respect but in my experience they are, as much as any generation can be, the epitome of what is wrong with and killing America. This is true of them, taken as a whole, regardless of whether or not they are liberal, moderate, conservative, etc.

    The fact is that when the generations before the boomers handed over the reigns of power starting in 1992, we saw a precipitous decline in the quality of governance in corporate America, governments and everywhere else you looked. Boomers can squawk "correlation is not causation" until they are all entitled to Medicare paid out of my generation's meager earnings, but you cannot deny the *ahem* "correlation" there. Since the WWII and Silent generations have waned in their influence, our society has gone off a fucking cliff.

    And you know what the worst part is? I have "conservative" boomer acquaintances who merely find a conservative angle for their entitled attitude. They'll say "I earned my Social Security, you young fucker" and I say back to them that it's mathematically impossible for most of my generation to even have a shot at that, we're still paying and you motherfucker want to tell me how you are entitled to cut of my paycheck because you didn't vote for anyone who was willing to restore the Social Security trust fund LBJ liquidated to fund Vietnam? Piss off! If they got started in 1992, it would probably be fixed by now.

    And then they get to tell us how evil we are...

    • Sonny, 1992 was the election of Bill Clinton. What president in US history had a better record of peace, prosperity and economic growth?


      The technology that you take for granted on a day-to-day basis was brought to full flower in the time you claim was a disaster.

      It seems to me you are just trying to weasel out of paying the same burden your forebears did. The debt today is no different in terms of percentage of GDP that it was when I was born right after WWII. You didn't hear the boomers complaining ab

  • Forget about Gen Y geeks trying to get along with their older counterparts in the IT department. I see this kind of inappropriate informality from TEACHERS in school related communications.

  • The older generation grew up along with technology, younger people grew up with complex technology already developed. The older generation can remember whn you could count the transistors in a computer and I think has a stronger tendency to think of complex technology as a system of simpler components. I think that younger people have a more "functional" view, less interest in understanding the detailed underpinnings.

    Put positively, the younger generation as an approach to technology that is more like abst

    • by Animats ( 122034 )

      This sort of view can result in writing horrifically inefficient code that is layered on top of other code that you don't understand at all.

      See the last Java stack backtrace that appeared in your browser when some server-side code aborted.

  • Just just communication skills - far too many younger people have never been told how to dress for work or for a job interview. Everyone working in an office should own at least one decent suit. Learn when to wear a tie. Cover your tats is you have them. These things are noticed by people who are in charge.

    • Didn't Billy Gates, Steve Jobs and Bezos didn't happen? What about Gogglers?

      Even in the City of London, a place where everybody used to wear a neck tie and a suite, that is old advise. I have not worn a suit or necktie for 20 years, and when interviewing people for high tech positions the last thing I, and other hiring personnel, was thinking about was the candidate's attire.

      As long as people are clean the topic isn't even talked about (in some localities is even illegal to impose a dress code).

      • by lennier ( 44736 ) on Monday September 02, 2013 @06:05PM (#44741353) Homepage

        What about Gogglers?

        What about them, indeed. Prancing down the streets of Neo-Londinium in their altitude scarves and and flying tweeds as if they had just stepped out of the furnace-room of Her Majesty's Airship Ultra-Titania. Always clacking on their pocket telestenographs and with a steam automaton snorting behind as like as not, fouling the pavement with coal smoke and terrifying the horses.

        Youth of today have no respect.

  • by jotaeleemeese ( 303437 ) on Monday September 02, 2013 @05:06PM (#44740959) Homepage Journal

    When I look around my office most colleagues are at least 35, if any group of people has been hit by the economic meltdown that is 20 somethings.

    So if you as a 20 something have a job, don't piss of your older colleagues: they are in control of the situation with a vengeance, not only they are the bosses, but they are also getting most of the well paid jobs.

    Younger people have an image problem, behaving like over developed teenagers won't endear them with the old timers holding the reigns of power.

  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Monday September 02, 2013 @05:12PM (#44740995)

    I hate phones. Phones are stupid. I can see using them as a last resort or if something is really important. But if you're just doing day to day communications they're a giant waste of time. Texts are faster, less disruptive, and frequently more productive.

    In a text, people get to the point immediately. They don't spend five minutes with rambling irrelevancies and they don't spend another five minutes after the main point with more rambling irrelevancies.

    Sometimes you need to get through those rambling irrelevancies just so people can say them and we can move beyond them. But being burdened with them in every single conversation is annoying.

  • Baby Boomers are just fine, in fact I know several of their parents, even they can use Linux! I call them The Lucky Few". [] Gnome has mouse "drag and drop" threshold that keeps them from accidentally copying folders and files with their shaky hands...

    I've volunteered to teach Computer Literacy for years at Community Centers -- since I was a teen. So, I've got quite a bit of experience as a Gen X'er to hand down to the Gen Y folks, and it's this:
    Baby Boomers are the least of your worries. As Gen Y, you must be prepared to deal with Generation Z.
    So, get your Z-Day kit in order -- It's like a hurricane kit, but with more shotguns.
    Do what you know you have to do. Malls are not safe-houses. The freeways will be tasty flesh bottlenecks.
    Check your friends and loved ones for bite marks. Remember, if she's got teeth marks, she's not your grandmother anymore.

  • by __Paul__ ( 1570 ) on Monday September 02, 2013 @06:16PM (#44741425) Homepage

    As an example, when we graduated college, our rite of passage into the accounting, law, consulting, engineering, and other similar professions was to work eighty hours a week

    I'm a contractor. If you want me to work eighty hours a week, you will be paying me for eighty hours a week.

  • by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Monday September 02, 2013 @06:24PM (#44741463)
    I have seen many many organizations when I was consulting. Some were startups filled with people generally of a narrow age range (that of the founders) and old organizations where the bulk of the upper management were boomers. But nearly every organization that I worked with had the same thing happening. They were confronting a wave of technology that was changing everything. The boomers were having serious problems with this; at best they might latch onto a BlackBerry and think that they were leaping into the 21st century. A typical example though was the 20 something salesman who could make technology sing. The result was that he could outsell a 60 something by a significant multiple. The 20 something would pull over to a cafe and copy and paste his way to a great proposal that was sitting on the client's desk 40 minutes after they had met. He might return to the office with a marked up proposal and conclude the deal by the end of the week. The boomer on the otherhand would be lucky to have the proposal ready by the end of the week. So after a few rounds of this the boomer would start to get antsy about the 20 something; so he would play the "Seniority" card. Start trying to change the rules saying that the 20 something can't be flinging proposals all over the place without giving him time to "review" them.

    I can give a specific example where a single fresh out of university salesman outsold the other 11 salesman combined. He had been put in a crap area where they thought his average sale would be around $10,000-$30,000. So they put him on a small base salary with a 30% commission. His average sale(he made many) was actually around $500,000 and they refused to pay out the commission. They said it wouldn't be fair to the other salesmen and that he would get the same 6% that they did. Oddly enough he took this for a few years but left in the end.

    So what I have seen over and over is a pattern of boomers who seem to think that highly qualified 20 somethings are arrogant whereas their mistreatment of them is not. The beauty of this is that the qualified 20 somethings usually figure out that they are being mistreated and move into organizations filled with other non-boomers who want talent not arrogance.

    But the most amusing situation is when the reverse happens. When a young company filled with young people accidentally hires a boomer. Often the boomer has left something like the telephone company or a Nortel and immediately sets to work trying to make the dynamic young company into a remake of their old stodgy company. One of the first symptoms is the previously unused words "Org-chart".

    But I have seen a few examples of where young and old worked together extremely well. The typical situation was that you have a boomer who has zero interest in the day to day running of the company and all they care about is money. So they go out and raise the money from their fellow (well capitalized) boomers and let the young people do what ever the hell it is that they do.

    But this last if very little different in perception but entirely different in outcome when you have a well capitalized boomer try to run a company of 20 somethings. The usual symptom here is that the boomer is completely incapable of learning the nuances of what is going on. So you have a technology company that should be releasing a new product every 2 months but instead is bogged down by the boomer grinding development to a halt while he deals with another boomer marketing company that will debate for months which shade of blue the background should be.

    Now the above experience covers technology. In non technology companies this is where the boomers' capital trumps all. This would be the boomer coffee shop owner trying to be hip and cool, hiring a bunch of hipsters, paying them minimum wage, and driving to wine parties in his brand new leased BMW. No communication problems their, you kiss his ass you find another job.
    • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Monday September 02, 2013 @07:53PM (#44741941) Homepage

      I can give a specific example where a single fresh out of university salesman outsold the other 11 salesman combined. He had been put in a crap area where they thought his average sale would be around $10,000-$30,000. So they put him on a small base salary with a 30% commission. His average sale(he made many) was actually around $500,000 and they refused to pay out the commission. They said it wouldn't be fair to the other salesmen and that he would get the same 6% that they did. Oddly enough he took this for a few years but left in the end.

      As the CEO of Avis once said, "That's what you want to happen, stupid."

      Something similar happened to Ross Perot at IBM. He was on commission, and one year he made more than the CEO of IBM. Then IBM imposed an annual cap on commissions. He hit his cap in late January, and wondered what to do with the rest of the year. So he started EDS and became a billionaire.

  • by PortHaven ( 242123 ) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @10:38AM (#44746321) Homepage

    Like, you know, these articles always like to lay out GenY (and GenX) as like you know some horrible types of people. But dude/bro remember, unlike yo baby boomer ass self and your gramps. Companies don't show loyalty. They shouldn't expect it either.

    And when baby boomer bro and grampa dude be using incomplete sentences and acting like dicks. But not providing any perks like they got (ie: 30 hours, no benefits, or 60 hour contract worker let go at any moment). Don't expect these younger generations to have loyalty back.


    Sorry... I am not a part of Generation Y. But most people I know who are Generation Y work hard, with little complaint. They've gotten a bum ride. Bad economy, flipping burgers with a bachelors, and are being left with three generations of debt. Few ask for handouts. But many dislike infringement into their personal life. We made it all about the dollar. So their attitude is basically, "I don't trust you. I work. You pay. That's the end of it." And that's not their fault. That's the fault of baby boomers, and gramps.

    And if they seem to not care about sending you a decent message. It might be because you're not paying them a decent wage.

Today is a good day for information-gathering. Read someone else's mail file.