There's a lot of things to be scared of: The dark, speaking in public, that weird dream where you show up and forgot to put clothes on. But what about using the wrong emoji?
According to The New York Times' The 37-Year-Olds Are Afraid of the 23-Year-Olds Who Work for Them, there's a real gap between twenty-somethings and their older bosses and colleagues in the workplace. It's millennials vs. Gen-Z. The old heads up against the young gunners. And the result of this? Tense communications (definitely exacerbated due to remote work and reliance on Slack, Zoom and other offline technology), debates over corporate wokeness, shifting attitudes about work and the worst offense...using the wrong emoji. “I heard that using this emoji isn’t cool anymore,” a 34-year-old tech product manager asked in her company Slack. “Yeah I only use that emoji at work for professionalism,” a younger employee replied. “H8 2 break it to 2 u Jess.”
#Fail! *Face palm emoji* Amirite?
Generation gaps are nothing new. As a millennial. Wait. Actually, I'm a geriatric millennial according to the latest slang. As an "OG millennial" (That sounds less harsh), I vividly remember entering the workforce and Gen X, Gen Y and Boomers freaking out: Who are these wide-eyed and ambitious graduates with optimism and big dreams? Why are they poking each other on Facebook and flipping those Sidekick phones? And what is with Auto-Tune on every damn song?!
Some companies doubled down and there was a lot of fist-waving and "get off my lawn" sentiment. Here's some of the fun things I was told: Nobody is paying for YOUR opinion. Don't leave the office until your boss does. No, I don't care if you have nothing to do. You'll stay here all night if that's what it is. No one cares about YOUR ears. Drake? Hahahah. That guy from 'DeGrassi' will NEVER be successful as a rapper. And so on...
Others leaned in to the new school. Ping pong tables showed up in office lobbies, "hip" speakers and artists were booked at corporate retreats (Kids love The Black Eyed Peas, right?) and some companies went so far as to create millennial advisory committees to help ingratiate the guppies into the deep end--- while simultaneously pumping them for information to stay cool (Translation: Teach us how to use Facebook).
Looking back, Gen-Z is just as idealistic, innocent and hell, brazen as we were. It's easy to write them all off as entitled snowflakes with weird tattoos, itchy fingers just waiting to air and cancel people and terrible taste in music. I'm sure many of them are bark and no bite. Let's be real, when you're still on Mommy and Daddy's family plan at Sprint and live with five roommates in Bushwick, it's kind of easy to puff out your chest with lofty demands. That's kind of the point of being young (and having the privilege of not paying bills). Adulting feels far away and being 30? Laaaaame. You see the world through dreamy lenses with zero knowledge of how business (or reality) works. Don't worry, we were all Pollyanna. Back in my day, we just aired out our grievances on MySpace.
Jokes aside, there's also a lot of truth to what Gen-Z is saying: The system is broken. Sure, their delivery can come across all wrong (You attract more flies with honey than vinegar, kiddos) but the essence of it is real. As a culture, there needs to be dialogue about inclusivity and organizational failures. Companies that choose to position themselves as culturally relevant (which by the way, is a choice) need to realize that it's deeper than posting a black square for Black Lives Matter or going on Urban Dictionary to spout the latest lingo. Seriously, if I hear one more brand tweet that they, "understood the assignment", I'm going to scream.
I often grapple with the "put your head down and shut up" mentality I came up under. Some of it is definitely Stockholm Syndrome; remembering fondly what was really some fucked up times. And looking back, systematic discrimination, abusive behavior and unhealthy 24/7 expectations were ignored (and even fetishized) in the name of being a "team player" or go-getter.
revealed exposed companies and organizations who want the pat on the back of being woke and relevant without doing any of the actual work. Top companies want to attract top talent. That isn't new. So, forget the free Keurig in the break room or surface level posts on social media. As a company, who really cares if you have a D&I board that has no power to enact change? I care even less if you know what's cheugy. And seriously, nobody uses that word any way, so just stop.
Use this moment in time--possibly the most transparent in this OG millennial's memory--to start a real dialogue. Want to be a cool place to work that attracts and retains the best employees? Then, get real about diversity in the C-suite. Keep it 100 about pay equity. Do you have a mentorship program to help employees--especially women and people of color-- to navigate the org chart?They don't teach corporate politics even in business school. What about paid family leave? Let's throw in some reproductive resources and call me crazy, but how about not pressuring/shaming women to sit at their desks while deep in menstrual pain? Acknowledge mental health and create an environment that's safe from harassment. Wow. I should really be a CEO.
Treat employees like human beings. It serves the bottom line and earns social media fuzzies. It helps everyone-- regardless of generation.
*Prayer hands emoji*
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