If you’ve ever wondered why the Baby Boomers and Millennials are two generations having difficulty getting along in the workplace, you’re not alone. It’s their deep-seated differences in communication styles that seem to be at the root of most of their issues. And you can pretty much sum up the root of all of their communication issues with two little words, call and text.
The Huffington Post recently ran an article called “Coca-Cola Workers No Longer Have To Listen To Voice Mails And We’re All Jealous.”The article said, “Communication is changing and…Voice mail is dying, and the world’s largest soda maker just pounded another nail in its coffin.” It’s not the age gap between these generations that’s causing the issues, it’s the frustrations that come along with miscommunications, and misunderstandings.
“The soda giant gave workers the option to shut off their voice mail with the goal of “changing the tools and methods in which we communicate as a company,” Amanda Roesster, a Coca-Cola spokeswoman, wrote in an email. Just 6 percent of workers opted to keep getting voice mails, she wrote. With the change, Coke is one of the first big companies to publicly catch on to the reality that checking your voice mail is a waste of time because if the message is important the caller will email, text, or call you back.”
There are some easy generalizations to be made about these two generations: the baby boomers don’t know how to carry through an effective “texting” conversation, while the Millennials don’t know how to pick up the phone and make a proper phone call. Millennials typically do not like voice-mail, often miss information because they forget to check it, rarely return a phone-call with a call, and are more likely to send a text or e-mail as a reply. The Millennials don’t want to stop what they’re doing, take the headphones off, talk in front of other people, and make a phone call, when they can just simply text exactly what they want to say. They type out what they want to communicate, edit it, and hit send. With a person from their generation, this plan is usually effective. When the other person corresponds via text, and they go back and forth, there are usually no issues.
However, it’s when you have the two generations attempting to communicate across the two platforms that the waters get muddied. There’s a certain unspoken etiquette that goes along with texting amongst the Millennials: you respond to a text when you see it, this gives the sender the conformation that you received the message, and you’ve understand what you read. Millennials find it annoying to receive a phone-call in response to a text message. A text takes a few seconds, where a call can take several minutes. Because Baby Boomers aren’t as good on cell phones and find it annoying to receive texts, they’d rather pick up the phone, say what they have to say, and be done with it; avoiding the back and forth situation that comes along with texting. Millennials think phone-calls and voice-mails are awkward because they haven’t honed their phone speaking skills like the Baby Boomers have.
Addressing the problem is the first step to finding a solution. People don’t change, we’re hardwired to stick to with what we’re familiar with, it’s a matter of getting the generations to speak each other’s languages, and come up with an etiquette system that reaches across all platforms of communication: texts are the beginning of the communication process, and should be responded to via a text reply, e-mails are suited best for formal business relations, while a phone call should only be returned by a phone call. Getting the generations to respect the different communication styles, and understand each other’s preferences, will hopefully allow them to meet in the middle, and improve the quality of their working relationships altogether.
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