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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impactnow
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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.

TerryB
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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
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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. :)
Kelly22
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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
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/22/2015 | 10:14:26 AM
Re: Engagement in the moment
@Tom- You must be a doctor. :)
David Wagner
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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.
David Wagner
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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
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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.

 
SachinEE
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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.
SachinEE
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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.
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