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

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
IT Life
News
1/21/2015
09:06 AM
David Wagner
David Wagner
Slideshows
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
100%
0%

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."
Previous
1 of 12
Next

(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

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Previous
1 of 12
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Threaded  |  Newest First  |  Oldest First
impactnow
50%
50%
impactnow,
User Rank: Author
1/21/2015 | 12:48:58 PM
Engagement in the moment

Dave very funny-- my favorite was the phone comment because that is the trait that drives me nuts for everyone! Millennials don't have that one cornered. I absolutely hate having a discussion with someone as they gaze downward. If it's that important excuse yourself and return when you can make eye contact. I have a rule that I never answered my office phone, cell phone IM, or text when in a meeting unless it is an emergency. Distractions are not multitasking they waste everyone's time and you lose credibility when you're disengaged from someone.

Stratustician
50%
50%
Stratustician,
User Rank: Ninja
1/21/2015 | 3:13:43 PM
Re: Engagement in the moment
I agree.  I've had bosses in the past who used to shout about the importance of paying attention during meetings and make worthwhile contributions and yet, there they are with their phones on their laps staring at the screens, not participating in any way.  Not only does it just make it harder to prove the value of in person meetings (where useful ofcourse), but it just leaves the wrong impression on others in the room. 
SachinEE
50%
50%
SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
1/22/2015 | 6:50:27 AM
Re: Engagement in the moment
@Stratustician: There are two kinds of people: people who pay attention in meetings, and people who don't. Sadly (and I agree) the bosses nowadays are becoming too social network friendly, because I've seen many of them sitting and texting when a junior is explaining things on the board or on the spreadsheet. That is insulting on many levels and really works against the confidence level of youngsters.
Thomas Claburn
100%
0%
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
1/21/2015 | 6:30:01 PM
Re: Engagement in the moment
>I have a rule that I never answered my office phone, cell phone IM, or text when in a meeting unless it is an emergency. 

I have a rule that I never attend a meeting unless it's an emergency.
SachinEE
50%
50%
SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
1/22/2015 | 6:44:00 AM
Re: Engagement in the moment
@Thomas: I have a rule that I don't have a rule during emergencies. Meetings are important, you should visit them every now and then to help others, if not yourself.
David Wagner
50%
50%
David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/22/2015 | 10:14:26 AM
Re: Engagement in the moment
@Tom- You must be a doctor. :)
TerryB
50%
50%
TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
1/22/2015 | 1:12:58 PM
Re: Engagement in the moment
Meetings, the practical alternative to work.

Funny video Dave. Your slideshow was way too useful though, I was expecting a more humorous take after reading you all this time. :-)

I never have problems with IT youngsters. Not quite sure why they look at Green Screen like a long lost dinosaur though. Don't they teach that in college anymore? And what is the "Twitter" thing you are talking about?

OK, enough chit chat on my typewriter, back to Fortran now.....
David Wagner
50%
50%
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. 
TerryB
50%
50%
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
50%
50%
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.
David Wagner
50%
50%
David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/22/2015 | 10:13:31 AM
Re: Engagement in the moment
@impactnow-the thing about the phones in the meeting is the power dynamic, right? Every time the boss says "I can answer my phone but you can't" it is a show of power. It is saying thatyou couldn't possibly have a call as important as mine are. It might even be true. But it is no way to manage. Because an effective manager is delegating enough responsibility that a call a team member gets should be important to the manager.
impactnow
50%
50%
impactnow,
User Rank: Author
1/23/2015 | 11:45:44 AM
Re: Engagement in the moment

Dave I completely agree, unfortunately that power play even rears its head in people's personal lives I have been at social engagements from religious functions to dinners and seen people unable to remove their downward gaze. Phones sometimes fuel people's unrealistic idea of being irreplaceable.

Someone once gave me great advice, they said you will always be replaceable at work so never fool yourself into thinking otherwise. Spend your time worrying about the places and roles you have that are not replaceable, mother, daughter, friend, sibling etc. I still remember that on days when I lose focus.

David Wagner
50%
50%
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.
impactnow
50%
50%
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. 

 

Kelly22
50%
50%
Kelly22,
User Rank: Strategist
1/22/2015 | 10:01:34 AM
Good advice beyond IT
Funny slideshow, Dave, and your advice applies to all young employees - not just those in IT. I think a lot of the disconnect between younger and older workers is due to a lack of good communication. Millennials get a bad reputation sometimes (which is unfortunate because I know so many that don't fit these stereotypes) and knowing how to communicate can be a big help.

 
David Wagner
50%
50%
David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/22/2015 | 10:08:37 AM
Re: Good advice beyond IT
Thanks, Kelly22. I get really annoyed with stereotypes of any kind. I know that for certain demographic purposes it works nicely for marketing and sales. But management is not a demographics business. You can't take your demos and apply them to your own employees. 

Knowing how to communicate for anyone in the business is essential. Since a lot of older managers feel that it isn't their job to figure you out, I figured I'd hand younger folks the key to figuring the old folks out. Think of me as a middle-aged translator. :)
Kelly22
50%
50%
Kelly22,
User Rank: Strategist
1/22/2015 | 10:15:13 AM
Re: Good advice beyond IT
Exactly! I'll definitely be sharing this with my peers, I think some of them could benefit from some added advice to break the stereotypes.
David Wagner
50%
50%
David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/22/2015 | 10:16:37 AM
Re: Good advice beyond IT
@kelly22- Thanks for the shares, Kelly. Tell them to jump into the chat, too.

Also, for everyone: Share this with managers, too. They might learn something about themselves. :)
asksqn
100%
0%
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
50%
50%
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. 
I give
100%
0%
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.
StephenS661
50%
50%
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.
rubiegarcia
50%
50%
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.
News
How GIS Data Can Help Fix Vaccine Distribution
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  2/17/2021
Commentary
Graph-Based AI Enters the Enterprise Mainstream
James Kobielus, Tech Analyst, Consultant and Author,  2/16/2021
Slideshows
11 Ways DevOps Is Evolving
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  2/18/2021
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
The State of Cloud Computing - Fall 2020
The State of Cloud Computing - Fall 2020
Download this report to compare how cloud usage and spending patterns have changed in 2020, and how respondents think they'll evolve over the next two years.
Video
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you.
Slideshows
Flash Poll