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The biggest complaint “more mature” workers have about younger workers

Does this bug you? Maybe, you are guilty of bugging others?

Do you know what “bug” means?

“Bug” is one of those words use by people from a particular generation.

“To bug” is “To annoy”.

And what annoys (bugs) many “more mature” workers (over 30) about younger workers – is how many younger workers seem to pay more attention to their screens than they do to a person trying to talk with them.

Even if you are able to multi-task and pay attention, not giving eye contact is perceived as being disrespectful, being disinterested and un-businesslike.

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I was asked to run an induction session to help younger workers who were about to join a large engineering firm.

I asked the firm bosses what was the biggest complaint managers had about younger workers and this was it.

“They don’t look you in the eye. They are always looking down at their phone or computer”

It’s a “generational thing”. More mature workers usually give their attention to the person they are speaking with. Even if just for a minute.

It’s good business etiquette. It shows respect AND it can give the listener so much more information (body language/facial expressions) than just hearing the words alone.

For younger people it seems normal to listen or talk while you are also doing something else – like reading things on your smartphone or tablet or phablet. (phone tablet)

I have a son at school. He is usually looking down at some sort of screen – often two or three screens at a time. I encourage him into the habit of looking up at the person he is speaking with – instead of down at the screen.

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So if you are a younger worker – I encourage you to get into the habit of looking at people when you are speaking to them or listening to them. Especially when dealing with more mature colleagues.

Definitely when communicating with a manager or boss.

If you are a “more mature” worker or boss of an organisation, I encourage you to let your younger workers (and all workers) know about the importance of eye contact and paying attention.

Explain why it’s important and it’s what your business expects.

From my experience, it’s a good idea to spread this message at induction time – especially if your new workers will be dealing with people outside your business.

I know it sounds like just common sense – but this “generational friction” is just getting worse and worse.

Don’t let it be a problem for you.

Some pro-active organisations are “banning” smartphones being used in meetings.

Paying more attention to your phone or computer can be so annoying and “disrespectful”

annoying smart phones in meetings

What do you think? Should more mature workers move with the times and not get so hung up about eye contact?

Should “younger workers” realise that many of their “bosses” and clients are from older generations and they get annoyed by perceived lack of attention?
Please share in the comments section below.

If you’d like to fix this problem I’d love to help with an induction session about the value of “eye contact” and other business etiquette matters.

* Please let me add that while this “generational generalisation” is true in the majority of cases – there are younger workers who DO realise the importance of paying attention and eye contact. There are also more mature workers who like to “multi-task” and do something else while they are talking with you.

I always encourage people to be aware of and “mirror” the style of the person they are communicating with. For example, if someone pays you attention and eye contact when communicating with you, do the same for them.


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I blog about fun pop culture stuff as well as more serious business communication tips.

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These days, lots of people and organisations need help with how to COPE with too much work, too much information, too many meetings, delivering difficult news, business writing, business etiquette, inductions, effective e-mail, e-mail overload, cross-cultural communication, better social media engagement etc. I like to help people COPE.



2 comments on “The biggest complaint “more mature” workers have about younger workers

  1. David Herbert
    September 24, 2014

    It’s basic human courtesy to pay attention to the person you are talking to. I haven’t seen a task in an office (short of bomb disposal) which can’t be put aside for 2 minutes during a discussion. Also multitasking is a myth. It’s been shown people don’t actually split their attention – they redirect their attention quickly from one task to another. So the worker not listening to a colleague risks missing important information.

  2. efangelist
    January 22, 2015

    Reblogged this on efangelist.

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