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I just read a great article located at [url]http://www.forbes.com/2006/08/22/leadership-bizbasics-messaging-cx_tvr_0....

The summary is that Gen-Y's are bringing excessive IM practices as well as literal and figurative "limp handshakes" to the business world and that there are strong implications for the decline of business relationships.

I am not much older than the Gen-Y's in this range and was told for the first two weeks of my first white collar position to "USE THE PHONE, NOT EMAIL OR MSN." I got the message and it seems to have made me better.

Has anyone had any other experiences similar to this article and was it possible to get around these tendancies? I foresee this being a major factor in hiring and succession planning very quickly.

lou's picture

I found the article to be rather exaggerated. I'm either a Gen-Y or just beyond Gen-Y depending on your definition. I work with many Gen-Yers.

While I find that they're much more likely to drop me an IM for quick questions rather than pick up the phone, it's usually out of courtesy as they assume it's less likely to disrupt my flow. For casual conversation they still drop by (after sending a ping email to make sure I'm available). I will get a 'brb' or 'afk' but those are part of the language of IM.

I'm really unhappy with Forbes for writing the article this way.

TimBryce's picture

I didn't think the article exagerated at all. If anything, it didn't
go far enough. It has been my experience traveling through
the corporate world that office workers are becoming more socially
dysfunctional. I have been writing a lot about this phenomenon
lately.

Earlier this year I came upon an interesting study performed by Kings
College in London for Hewlett Packard, the purpose of which was to
study the effect of technology on worker performance. Basically, the
study said that excessive use of technology can have an adverse
effect on a person's brain power. Its a somewhat controversial
paper but I believe they are correct.

If there is anyone to blame for this, I believe it is the Baby Boomers
(my generation) who has done a horrible job of passing the
management controls over to the next generation. As far as
I'm concerned we've been doing nothing more than "rearranging
the deck chairs of the Titanic." In other words, instead of managing
the true problems we are faced with, we are content doing
short-term, superficial work.

All the Best,

MattJBeckwith's picture

Tim, I don't think your generation (Boomers) is to blame for poor communications. After all, it is the role of all managers, regardless of what "Gen" we are in to teach our new managers how to interact with people, in person or via technology. I have two brilliant department managers that report to me that were both in junior high school when I first became a manager. These two managers bring a unique perspective to my team because of their age but they each have a great understanding of the power of human interaction, which is something that I stress in my organization. I believe the blame should fall on senior level managers that allow weak managers (who don't even want to manage) to continue to poison their companies. It is these weak managers that take the easy way out and hide from giving the feedback that is so desperately needed, the ones that have been, "rearranging the deck chairs of the Titanic" (great line by the way).

gomer300, thanks for posting that article.

maestro's picture

I guess I'm a Gen "Y'er" (26?) AND a manager. That being said, I tend to err on the Gen Y side of things. Let's face it, Gen Y workers tend to be more technologically savvy, and like it or not, computers have become ESSENTIAL tools in nearly every walk of business these days. As a Gen Y worker myself, I can say that I view email as a non-invasive way to get my message to the recipient without playing vicious games of phone tag and/or appointment settings just to be able to communicate the same message in a different way. With email, the recipient can read the communication and respond, if necessary, at THEIR LEISURE. When I call them on the phone, drop by their office or ask for an appointment, I am asking them to accomodate me, rather than giving them the option to digest the info when it makes sense for them.

Let's be clear, I'm not referring to adjusting feedback and definitely not O3's, rather I am referring to the production and training communications/questions that can crop up several times a day.

I'll admit IM get's annoying and can be invasive, so I won't go so far to say that it is a "preferred" method of communication, but nonetheless, it does serve it's roll. Especially in a training type environment.

OK, there's my two cents worth...

AManagerTool's picture

I kind of disagree with your opinion of e-mails and their usefulness as an alternative to walking over and actually speaking to someone. I find that invariably both the reading and writing of the e-mail takes longer, is more difficult to word and is more prone to be misunderstood than "imposing" myself on someone else.

I guess I am a Gen-Xer (38?...maybe gen-w?) though so I may not be on the technically savvy level of a gen-y'er.

ambitious's picture

Well, this is very simple. Using what Mike/Mark teach us, the communication methods we use should be tailored to the recipient. All we care about is getting through and being effective. If some people respond better to phone calls, then phone calls should be used.

I find IM to be highly useful, especially in an open environment. Many offices today have desks out in the open, and people don't have much privacy. In this case, IM is a great way to communicate without disrupting the entire office.

Some of the trends mentioned in the article have perfectly reasonable explanations. For example, the number of self-employed people is growing. Online social networks are teaching all of us to be less guarded about our privacy, and therefore, young people tend not to separate their professional lives from their personal lives as much.

These changes are not going away and will, in fact, continue to grow in scope. I don't like the Forbes article because the position it is taking is one of complaining. The article is correct in that there are differences in generations, but instead of providing insight into dealing with the change in meaningful ways, it simply blows them out of proportion and complains about them.

Everyone who wants to be effective as a professional needs to be aware of different modes of communication, regardless which generation he/she belongs to.

noahcampbell's picture

I have to agree that IM is a valid form of communication. Where it gets ridiculous is when people try to communicate through IM when talking or meeting in person would be much more effective.

IM is effective for conversations that are transient, one off questions where a response is not necessarily needed. In a development environment, such a request might sound like: "did you check in your files for the latest build?" or "do you remember which version your test failed on?" The question be asked is looking for an immediate answer, if none is returned, it's not the end of the world. It also didn't warrant an email because it may not be relevant in the next 3 hours.

In a way, IM is for temporal, quick communication.

IM is slowly converging with phone (http://www.jivesoftware.org/asterisk-im/). Now an IM is a text base voice-mail. You answer a question and someone can respond inline.

I would not suggest trying to build a relationship with someone using IM, but I'm sure it can be done. O3's, Firing, Team Broadcasts and just anything else that will impact the other person should be done face to face.