As a young professional in the business world I try really hard everyday to fight the stereotypes bestowed upon my generation: lazy, incompetent, entitled. Sadly, for every qualified, ambitious young person I know who is trying to climb the corporate ladder, I know of five more who show up late, in flip flops and spend most of their day surfing the net and wondering why their bosses don’t treat them with the respect they think they deserve.
While the young generation may be ushering a new way to do business, the most successful young people I know are the ones who are following the rules, not the ones intent on breaking them.
Case in point, a recent profile by the Wall Street Journal draws attention to the deconstruction of proper business correspondence by recent graduates and other entry-level workers:
After interviewing a college student in June, Tory Johnson thought she had found the qualified and enthusiastic intern she craved for her small recruiting firm. Then she received the candidate’s thank-you note, laced with words like “hiya” and “thanx,” along with three exclamation points and a smiley-face emoticon.
“That email just ruined it for me,” says Ms. Johnson, president of New York-based Women For Hire Inc. “This looks like a text message.”
As someone who holds a literature degree, I understand the argument that language is constantly evolving, that grammar rules are dynamic rather than static and blah, blah, blah. But regardless of this, I have to ask:
Why are so many of today’s young people lacking basic social awareness?
The Wall Street Journal explains:
The trend may reflect a cultural divide between younger and older workers, says David Holtzman, author of “Privacy Lost: How Technology Is Endangering Your Privacy.” “It’s driven by the communication technology that each generation has grown up with,” he adds. Workers in their 20s and younger are accustomed to online and cellphone messaging, and the abbreviated lingua franca that makes for quick exchanges, he says. “It’s just natural for them. They don’t realize that it’s perceived to be disrespectful.”
Does emotional intelligence not dictate that we communicate differently with different groups of people? Language that would be appropriate for your peers would not necessarily be appropriate for your parents/teachers/professors/bosses. Is this such a hard concept to grasp? Hasn’t this social etiquette been unchanging for generations?
To add insult to perceived injury, young recruits are not only using communicating inappropriate messages, they are transmitting them using inappropriate media.
Some job hunters are earning the rebuke of recruiters by taking thank yous to another extreme — by sending them hastily from their mobile phones. The move suggests an on-the-fly mentality, as if the applicants haven’t taken time to think about why they want the job or why they are saying thanks, says Wendi Friedman Tush, president of Lexicomm Group, a boutique communications firm in New York. “It always says ‘From my Blackberry,’ ” she says. Candidates “should sit down at their computer in a thoughtful way and do it, not while they’re on their way somewhere,” she says.
Most folks over 40—heck, over 30—aren’t familiar with text messaging. So why would someone think it acceptable to text message an older, potential employer? And personally, I agree that as a hiring manager I would not appreciate a hastily written thank you written mere minutes after an interview. It just rings false. I would much rather hire a candidate that shows they can take time, think thoroughly through an issue and craft an intelligent, thoughtful response than a candidate that speeds through a “nicety” while walking and chewing gum at the same time they check their email and scan the latest sports scores.
I think young people today are just as smart, capable and productive as the generations before them. But they are stumbling when it comes to emotional intelligence. And emotional intelligence is what makes good managers, top sales people and successful business people. Until these folks learn the subtle intricacies of social grace, there will continue to be friction between old and young generations.