Feeling old and stupid at work? Don’t worry, so are the 25-year-olds — why ‘micro-generation gaps’ are a concern

My story on CNBC. Click to read.
My story on CNBC. Click to read.

As recent college grads begin to enter the workforce this month, consider this:  Workplace generation gaps used to pit 60-somethings vs 20-somethings.  Not any more.  Tech changes so fast that 25-year-olds have trouble communicating with 22-year-olds now.  Sorry, Zoomers, but you’re kind over the hill now. (Join the club!)

Analysts are calling this problem mini-generation gaps, and it’s funny. (“I’ll pay you back with Venmo….What’s Venmo?”) But more is at risk than a few smirks and giggles, however.  Micro-generations who use different communications tools risk talking right past each other, creating a Tower of Babel. Snaps vanish in the time it takes to reboot a PC and send an e-mail.  When teams from different companies try to get organized, the problem is magnified – think about your worst video-conference failure and multiply that maddening interaction.

I explored micro-generation gaps for CNBC recently (the story also appeared on NBCNews.com). Happy to be back in the Peacock family after a brief gap. Here’s a quick sample of the piece but please read it over at CNBC.com.

There are some things you just shouldn’t say at the workplace. Like discussing a “carriage return” with a co-worker.

“I was showing a millennial how to use a computer application. I told him to hit the carriage return,” said Kevin Jones, 55. “He had no idea what that was. I suddenly felt as if I had been born during the gaslight era.”

Language like that is sure to attract unwanted giggles in the office. But over-the-hill smirks aren’t reserved for references that are several decades old. Tell a 20-something you want to connect on Facebook, and you might get the same odd look.

Jordan Koschei is director of user experience at Fusion Media, which works with Fortune 500 firms to improve their workplace tools. He calls these communication breakdowns “micro-generation gaps,” and says the struggle is real — particularly for “older” workers in their 30s and 40s who might not know how to use every new technology that arrives.

“When you start at an office, you are just expected to have proficiency in these tools, like Slack. If you ask how Slack works, you’ll get strange looks,” Koschei said. “It’s a shame than everyone has to feel stupid.”

Koschei thinks there’s light at the end of the tunnel – a flashlight app, perhaps?

“I believe things will smooth out, leaving the members of different micro-generations with their own smaller cultural experiences that are part of the larger whole,” he said. “Perhaps we will all wind up speaking different dialects of the same digital language.”

But I’m not so sure. What do you think?

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About Bob Sullivan 1443 Articles
BOB SULLIVAN is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called Getting Unstuck in 2014. He has won the Society of Professional Journalists prestigious Public Service award, a Peabody award, and The Consumer Federation of America Betty Furness award, and been given Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Award.


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