Millennial Workers Snubbing Desk Phones (At Their Peril?)
Much has been made of the differences between Millennials and their older colleagues (and we covered Millennials’ unique work habits in a series of blog posts last year). While some of the values espoused by young workers are in keeping with changes in the workplace as a whole – a desire for more work-life fit, for example – others are positively confounding.
Take, for example, their (our) apparent unwillingness to use phones professionally. As described last August by the Wall Street Journal, a significant number of Gen-X and baby-boomer managers are finding that their Millennial reports are reluctant to make phone calls.
Millennials – i.e., the 70-odd million people born between the early 1980s and the end of the 20th century – are even ignoring their ringing desk phones, the Journal learned.
Taken in the context of broader trends in communication, young workers’ distaste for phones makes some sense. Not only are we the generation of instant messaging via AIM and Gchat, we’ve been sending text messages since the early 2000s. In my personal life, I rarely make calls (except to family or friends back East whom I don’t talk to often). Texting is the norm now – and people younger than I have even more ways of communicating, like Twitter direct messages, Ask.fm, WeChat, WhatsApp and so on.
But, as the professionals profiled by the Wall Street Journal note, sending emails (or text messages) simply doesn’t cut it in the business world. Those communication methods are necessary – but not sufficient – means of communicating with colleagues, prospects, customers and others, those interviewed by the newspaper say.
“In the workplace, some managers say avoiding the phone in favor of email can hurt business, hinder creativity and delay projects,” the Journal writes.
A commentary on the strangeness of this trend is the emergence of phone “coaches” – people like Mary Jane Copps, a.k.a. The Phone Lady. Copps and others hold workshops and coaching sessions to explain to baffled Millennials how to converse on the phone.
On its face, the emergence of phone coaches reflects the silliness of Millennials’ refusal to pick up their desk phones. But companies are paying the coaches real money – Copps charges $1,800 for a full-day session – in a sign that not using the phone is a costly move. Even in 2014, phone calls have a place in the business world, whether it’s closing a deal, sharing order information with a valued customer or clearing up an issue with a colleague. The lesson appears to be: ignore ringing phone at your peril, lest you miss out on new business opportunities.