Millennials In IT: How To Talk To Old People - InformationWeek

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1/21/2015
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David Wagner
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Millennials In IT: How To Talk To Old People

There are certain phrases that are like passwords to the heart of your IT managers. And, no, I'm not talking about, "I bought you a fresh box of adult diapers."
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(Image: PublicDomanPictures)
(Image: PublicDomanPictures)

Hey Millennials, when the geezers you work with go to bed at 9 p.m., or try to stay awake until they realize Leno isn't on anymore, I want you to whip out your phone and read this. You don't deserve to be treated like they treat you. They've got you all wrong. They've fallen for articles written by site after site (including ours) about how you guys are entitled, spoiled, phone-addicted kids who can't go to the bathroom unless you're in a team.

Not only are such stereotypes insulting, they're wrong. Research shows that you Millennials want the same things from your careers as every other generation. Old people have been shouting, "Hey you kids, get off our lawn," since the days when lawns were outside caves. And every generation calls the next one spoiled and useless. Baby Boomers were called good-for-nothing, long-haired hippies by the "Greatest Generation." You don't even want to know what those hippies called my Generation X. Heck, they stuck us with that name. You know it wasn't going to go well. This is what they think of you:

Here's the truth. Old people are scared of you. They don't get how you easily do things that they struggle with every day. Sure, they've still got a thing or two to show you, but as long as they think you can't speak in sentences longer than 140 characters, they'll never get it.

Here's the deal: I'm going to train you, in a few simple slides, how to talk to old people. There are certain phrases that are like passwords to the heart of your managers, and no, I'm not talking about, "I bought you a fresh box of adult diapers." These are ways old people talk about work. These phrases will show them you're serious about this.

Each slide has a sentence that should work, the myth you're trying to overcome, and some advice. In a week or two, they'll stop shaking their canes at you and trust you to do something besides run the company Twitter feed.

David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio

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rubiegarcia
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rubiegarcia,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/17/2015 | 7:49:19 PM
The need for open communication
This is very helpful even those who are not in the IT industry. As a millenial who's surrounded by baby boomers, I can relate to every point you have mentioned. Some of those ahead of us in the industry treat us like their babies who are incapable of accomplishing tasks on our own. The challenge for us is simply to prove them wrong and surprise them that we can do things without the watchful eyes of our superiors. I think the solution to this gap is have an open communication to avoid stereotypes in the workplace.
StephenS661
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StephenS661,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/4/2015 | 10:29:18 AM
Re: We're all human
Many millenials have great tech skills but are totally inept at social skills. Learn to discuss more than pivot tables and networks. Take a course in basic manners. Read a newspaper once in a while.
I give
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I give,
User Rank: Moderator
2/2/2015 | 9:51:32 AM
Re: We're all human
Whether you were born in 1995 or 1955, you have to earn respect in the workplace.  It doesn't come with you when you walk in the door.  You earn respect by demonstrating that you can at least perform the tasks you are paid to perform, and the more you exceed expectations the faster and greater respect for you will grow.

Despite all the political correctness and mollleycoddling these days, the life of an adult means acting like an adult, not like like a whining punk.  That goes for everyone no matter their age or years in the workplace.  Sure people should not abuse you or disrespect you just because you haven't had a chance to prove you are not worthless.  But slack is granted as a gesture of patience, you don't have a right to it.

Oldies may not be adept at tech, but if you have a paying job when you are their age, then you might understand why youngsters should be seen and not heard.  It's a tough world.  Grow some callouses by working, and then someone might put some stripes on top of them.
impactnow
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impactnow,
User Rank: Author
1/29/2015 | 2:38:30 PM
Re: Engagement in the moment
Dave I am certain that your kids wouldn't replace you with technology! Though sometimes I think we all wonder if our kids prefer their games over us!

The multiple screens we all have access to be making the multi-tasking even more of an issue.  I have seen people in front of the TV working on their tablet and checking a text on their phone. All we need is Google glass to demonstrate how distracted we can get. 

 

David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/27/2015 | 5:22:22 PM
Re: We're all human
@asksqn- Very true. The goal was to show how "old people" had already done that to millennials and help them overcome it. But in the end, I think the lesson to learn is that we really do all want pretty much the same things. 
asksqn
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asksqn,
User Rank: Ninja
1/27/2015 | 4:56:13 PM
We're all human
While this piece was written, no doubt, with tongue firmly in cheek, I have to say that categorizing employees into the "Millennials" and everyone else as "old people" only serves to further alienate the workforce from each other and otherwise drive wedges due to "the other" factor.  Why even introduce differences in the first place?  Anyone who has to work for a living is on the same team.  You can either play nice in the sandbox with each other or be a dirtbag.  In either case, treat others the way you would like to be treated instead of labeling.  
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/27/2015 | 1:36:02 PM
Re: Engagement in the moment
@TerryB- I've certainly forgotten more than they know right now. But remember the oldest millennials are 34. The oldest and brightest are starting to make real waves in organizations. In another ten to fifteen years, we'll probably start seeing the tipping point where more CEOs are millenials than not. Those CEOs are rising through our ranks in management right now.
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
1/27/2015 | 9:52:48 AM
Re: Engagement in the moment
>>We need to not only learn to work with them, but soom they'll be our bosses. We better know how to work FOR them.

Now that was funny, Dave!  What is that old saying: I've forgotten more than they ever knew. That certainly applies here.

But all kidding aside, I do agree with your raw premise these kids get a bad rap. Having raised three of these things, I certainly see the good and bad of this generation. But are they worse than previous generations? No way.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/26/2015 | 7:14:15 PM
Re: Engagement in the moment
@imapctnow- good advice. Though I sometimes feel like my kids would happily replace me. :)

I wonder if this all gets back to a simple thing-- people like to think they can multi-task when study after study shows they aren't very good at it.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/26/2015 | 7:12:18 PM
Re: Engagement in the moment
@TerryB- Well, sometimes you play it straight. Some time you play it funny. I take this really seriously, because i think millennials are getting a bad name in business. There are more of them in the work place than us old folks. We need to not only learn to work with them, but soom they'll be our bosses. We better know how to work FOR them. 
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