Being one of the youngest people at your workplace is interesting. Communication and learning practices that are ingrained in me and others my age can seem weird, off-putting, or even scary to those who didn’t grow up with the internet.
This is not meant to stereotype “young people” or “old people,” but hopefully to help bridge some generational gaps that I’ve noticed from the last couple years of working:
Asynchronous v. Synchronous Communications
When I have a question, comment, or update on a work project, my default communication technique is email. If it’s a really quick question and I know the person is online (gChat), I’ll shoot off an instant message. If I happen to run into them, or if it really involves complicated, 2-way communication, I’ll talk in person.
Until a 30something coworker pointed this out to me, I never realized that it can be seen as “rude” or “asocial” to use asynchronous communication techniques like email, IM, txt, etc. Some members of previous generations think it’s more appropriate to call or talk face-to-face.
Some members of younger generations, myself included, view asynchronous communication as more effective. Why would I walk across the building to ask “did you get my email?” or call someone and have a 5 minute phone conversation, when I could get the same result with an email in a fraction of the time?
Both synchronous and asynchronous communications have their place, but if you are a younger person in a workplace dominated by older people, think about how your IMs and emails are being perceived. If you’re comfortable with your supervisor, talk to them about this and see if you can get on the same page about how to communicate so you’re both happy.
When I want to learn something, I Google it. I can learn how to do pretty much anything after an hour of Googling. For older generations, this is not how they typically learn new skills. For them, learning involves in-person training, conferences, reading books, watching instructional videos, calling someone and asking them how to do it.
I’ve also personally noticed that for older generations, it’s about depth and not breadth of knowledge. They want to learn everything about a particular issue before delving into a solution. For younger generations, we’re more interested in quickly learning a little about a lot, and skimming through Google when we need to learn something new.
This has been a particularly difficult issue for me in the workplace, even after discussing with my supervisors. I end up in awkward situations where I’m repeatedly turning down week-long conferences because I will learn more in an hour of Googling (for free) than I will at a conference (for a ton of money). Or I’ll implement a new piece of technology and spend time putting together what I feel is adequate links to websites that explain how it works, only to have to then do in-person training on the same material.
Younger generations value efficiency and self-education in the workplace. The more you can get done quicker, the better.
Older generations value personal contact and thorough knowledge from others. The more in-depth, personal communication, the better.