Even if you missed the season premiere of Saturday Night Live a few weeks ago, you probably saw the skit called The Millennials, which took a certain generation to task on their workplace conduct. Casual dress, the hunched posture that comes with near incessant smartphone interaction, and an entitled lack of self awareness that’s become synonymous with the so-called “Me Me Me” generation. But is this merely a caricature of bad stereotype, or is it true that we literally cannot even get workplace etiquette right?
(Photo Credit: Ryan McGuire/Gratisography)
Manners Are Dead. Long Live Manners!
One of the most-frequently lampooned millennial traits is their tendency to be ultra-casual when speaking. In practice, this recklessness in both syntax and diction, could make us look super unprofesh around the office – or at least kind of rude to the CEO.
But the list goes on: countless articles bemoan the fact that millennials can’t stop looking at their phones, avoid eye contact, are allergic to the word “thank you,” and are constantly looking for a better deal – in both social engagements and salary ranges. And while it may not look the same in every employee, it’s hard to deny that this generation has adopted a new way of holding itself around the office.
But what if it’s not that these practices are unprofessional, and are rather the mark of a shift in definition? In 1922, Emily Post, the standard bearer of etiquette, suggested, “a lady never takes off her gloves to shake hands, no matter when or where, and never apologizes for not doing so.” Certainly the handshaking working women of today aren’t offending most with their attempts at gloveless human contact. Cultural values have simply evolved.
A Case for Millennials
With 100 years in between, some extreme cultural changes may be easier to swallow, and it’s likely harder to embrace the shifts as they are happening. But consider the fact that this generation is more diverse than any in our nation’s history. According to Pew, millennials are less white, less religious, more active online, and the list goes on. Values are naturally going to shift, and that includes the values we place on certain human interactions.
As the above-linked Washington Post article notes, millennials’ detachment from certain institutions isn’t a bad thing, but that has to also be understood in light of the fact that Millennials are only 19-34 years old. We do not have everything figured out yet. As HBR notes, workplace etiquette is meant to foster considerate, respectful, and honest relationships between co-workers. There’s not just one way to do that.
There can be a fine line between rude and just new, and we’re still working some of that out. Breaking up over text? It’s happened more than once. “Yeah, yeah, yeah”-ing your way through a business meeting while you struggle to craft the perfect tweet? Time to grow up.
Tell Us What You Think
We want to hear from you! Are millennials driving you mad with their constant bastardization of the English language and lack of eye contact? Is this author completely biased in favor of his generation? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below or join the conversation on Twitter.