The most jarring of Gen Y’s workplace behaviors is their connectedness. They are — they expect to be — in constant communication with their friends by phone, by e-mail, by instant messaging, and by text messages. They are the first digital generation, and
those who preceded them must accept that the way we communicate has changed. While the rest of us learn a second, technological language, Gen Yers are native speakers of a language with a different grammar, vocabulary, and etiquette; cross-generational misunderstandings, confusion and resentment often result. In addition, electronic communication has led Gen Y to become impatient with what strikes others as only minor delays. They expect instant messaging. Since so many of their friendships are electronic rather than face-to-face, they have not acquired the ability to read inflections and body language, an ability that is a key part of emotional intelligence. The relative anonymity of electronic communication has fostered an egalitarian style of communication whose informality often offends people.
Employers who focus on impatience, lack of people skills, multitasking, and casual language will miss the unique contribution Gen Y brings to the workplace: their technological fluency can create new possibilities for the company and add global perspectives. The authors advise the following:
- Recognize that the Gen Y preference for electronic rather than paper communications is both ecologically sound and cost-effective.
- Build intergenerational relationships and improve performance and productivity by letting Gen Y employees teach communication technology to older coworkers.
- Take advantage of Gen Y’s ability to gather information from the whole world.
- Allow them to multitask because they will do it anyway.
- Model good communication form in the workplace by using “I” statements rather than “you” statements.
- Set the limits to teach what is and is not appropriate professional behavior.
- Let Gen Y employees hone leadership and mentoring skills by allowing them to use their technological expertise.
- Build social relationships through emotionally intelligent communication.