Why Communication is Key (and may require #texting)
We're back by popular demand! #ihavebeenreallybusy Our apologies for the delay in your favorite #LawBlog!
Today I'm going to write about one of the most talked about topics when it comes to Millennials in the workplace: COMMUNICATION. (dun, dun, dun....)
I recently taught a really great class through ECU CMGT that was divided into students and professionals. It was a boring legal seminar where we only talked about two cool things: (1) drones and (2) Millennials. When I added the Millennial section to my HR presentation, I was worried that people would give me The Glare. For anyone who has not taught before, The Glare is the look people give you when they feel like you are wasting their time or otherwise ruining their day. For anyone who has taught a legal seminar, you pretty much get The Glare the entire time you talk. Regardless of this imminent threat, I added the Millennial section anyway and as a compromise so this entire section wasn't just about me venting about things, I focused the section on paid leave as a recruiting tool for Millennials. Shockingly, I didn't receive a single Glare from anyone. In fact, this part of the presentation sparked some of the most interest and questions and made me realize that I, the quintessential Millennial, had in fact done something right. #selfhighfive
One of the greatest topics discussed at this class was communication and how to preserve interpersonal communication in a world where we only seem to text, instant message, chat on Facebook, etc AND how this common concern plays out in the workplace. To jump start this post, I ask one simple question: What is interpersonal communication?
While an undergrad at UNC, I actually studied Interpersonal Organizational Communication Studies as one of my majors. If you are a Duke or NC State fan you can go ahead and stop laughing (b/c I never had a "paper class"). Everyone made fun of this major. The comments I received from people were rarely positive but more like: "You're learning to talk?!" "Don't you already know how to communicate?" "How will you ever find a job?!" HAHA! Not. Considering communication and how we communicate is one of the biggest topics surrounding Millennials, the joke is on all the #haters because I learned to define "communication" based on the value of the exchange and not so much by its mechanics.
FOR EXAMPLE: Professional Poker players have excellent non-verbal communication skills. They can play the "poker face" and cause their opponents to fold. Is resting "you-know-what face" a valid form of communication? Sure - considering it did exactly what the player wanted it to do.
FOR EXAMPLE AGAIN: I text my law partner and ask him to get our mail. He gets the mail. Success! That text was a form of communication. #10-4
FOR EXAMPLE AGAIN AGAIN: I email a client and ask for documents. Client sends documents. #Winning
JUST FOR FUN: I text my spouse a bunch of cat emojis while on a run and when I get home, he has hidden my car keys. He clearly got the message that I wanted to bring home a bunch of stray cats encountered on my run. #boom #messagereceived
See where I am going with this?
We are facing a reality where they are more options to communicate with others than there have ever been before. Due to this plethora of communication types, we are more connected with one another than we have ever been in the past. Before texting, we had email. Before email, we had phones. Before phones we had telegraphs and before that, letters. Before letters we had a face-to-face communication. Interestingly enough, when the phone was invented, it was lauded as one of the greatest inventions of it's time. When texting became a recognized form of communication about 15 years ago, it was seen as a social demise by the adults and one of the easiest ways to communicate with friends while in a classroom by the youngsters. Alas, here we are with the #GreatDivide and I haven't even discussed the rise of Emojis...
I give you this extended background to point out that text messaging, as odd as it may be, is still communication. Because this is fact, not fiction, non-Millennials are going to have to learn how to deal with a generation of texting and emails as opposed to telephone and in-person conversations.
The caveat to this general rule: you tell the Millennials otherwise. It's a shocking concept but for the Employers dealing with this Millennial issue, consider telling Millennials you prefer they call or talk in-person as opposed to text messaging or another alternative (albeit equally useful) form of communication. We're not all idiots so we tend to respect our authority in the same way we listen to the airline attendants: we don't want to lose our coveted jobs just like we don't want to crash a plane. If you get lip from some cocky Millennial (looking at you 15-20 year olds), then you hopefully have policies and procedures in place that would permit you to pass down some discipline. If they don't want to work with you after that, then let them rejoin the unemployment line. However, you cannot expect your Millennial employees to forgo from texting their boss if their boss is texting them so the conversation needs to go both ways and apply across the board to avoid confusion.
In other words, don't yell at me for poor communication if you haven't communicated your expectations to me first. After all, you said it yourself that communication is key!