The Millennial Communication Gap

There has been plenty of talk about the workplace habits of millennials.  Their way of handling the day to day life in the office is one thing, but there are some real concerns about how some of them lack the ability to communicate.

Millenial Communication Gap in Business

Millenial Communication Gap in Business


Indeed, these workers grew up during the emergence of the digital age, and they focus on brevity when it comes to communication. For instance, text messages taught people how to type quickly and abbreviate to avoid going over character limits. As a result, millennials are often used to writing phrases like “c u l8r” instead of “see you later.  Texting has become so common place and such an automatic way of communicating, some schools to consider dropping typing and keyboarding classes altogether.

The communication issues aren’t restricted to digital formats – some businesses have found that millennials lack basic social skills and struggle with face-to-face interactions. In fact, some can’t even handle phone calls. According to Forbes, some older workers are frustrated because their young associates rely on instant messaging and emails instead of returning calls.

Part of this may be because some millennials choose to hide behind technology. Digital tools allow young workers to speak and communicate without ever actually talking to their conversation partners. They’ve gotten comfortable behind their computer and personal devices that speaking face-to-face feels like a foreign concept.

Some experts have found that millennials don’t even understand basic tones of voice. For instance, Linda Gravett, a psychologist, had to ask a young worker to explain how a boss yelled without swearing or raising his voice.

“So I said, ‘Explain to me what yelling at you means,’ and the young man said, ‘Well, he was really firm and he disagreed with me.’ He took that as being yelled at,” Gravett told the Chicago Tribune.

So there are not only challenges to how they communicate, but also how to talk back to them.  These miscommunications have been chronicled enough times where you can even find humorous videos about how the challenges it creates in the workplace.

This is a fundamental problem that illustrates how millennials spend their time communicating. The time spent online and using cell phones has hampered the face-to-face communication skills of youthful workers.

What can be done
Obviously, it’s not fair to say all millennials can’t communicate and have these problems.  However, it’s prevalent enough where companies are taking notice.  The lack of communication skills comes down to simply being the product an environment they’ve grown up in.  So, what can you do about it?

There isn’t a quick fix for this problem.  One possible solution is to institute a company-wide policy regarding face-to-face and digital interactions. Managers can require employees of all ages to speak directly to each other and only use instant messaging or email when someone is working remotely.

Alternatively, supervisors can offer business skills training to millennials so they can become more comfortable with common business communication etiquette.  The tutorials will gradually help young workers understand how to properly speak to their colleagues and clients in person and over the phone.

About the Author
Scott Murray is the Social Learning Evangelist for TrainUp.com, the web’s largest career marketplace.  He is also a contributor to TrainUp.com’s Training Insights Blog, a series of blogs dedicated to career and professional development.

Image Credits: License: Royalty Free or iStock source: www.istock.com

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