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Millennials May Be Too Candid In Their Conversations

President Of TrainSmart, Inc.

Sadly, this is not uncommon. American businesses are not known for cultivating open and inclusive environments. That’s one of the reasons organizations task their training departments to teach and encourage employees to learn how to have candid conversations with their peers, superiors and team members.

Businesses executives know that a lack of candidness is very bad for their business.  Working in a culture that punishes candidness can result in everything from ethical violations to low engagement. Ultimately, the inability to have candid conversations affects retention and the bottom line.

Seasoned employees will tell you that being candid is too risky. Many admit they censor themselves for fear that what they say will result in a career-ending move.  This is probably not paranoia speaking, but rather deeply held beliefs earned from years of personal experience and observation.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Millennials entering the workforce. Candid is their middle name.  When asked what skills Millennials need to be successful in the workplace, many people say Millennials are TOO candid.

The BBC reports that Millennials  are perceived as having a tendency to “be very candid and chummy on social networks with people they barely know, including authority figures, and they often carry that approach over to emails and in-person conversations.” Implicit is that this is a bad thing.

Oh, the irony.  While seasoned employees resent the fact that they can’t be candid in the workplace without fear of retribution, these same employees think that Millennials are TOO candid because they are comfortable saying what they think.

The attitude that Millennials are TOO candid raises an interesting question.  Is candidness a quality that comes in degrees? Can you be 50% candid? 88% candid? Or, is candidness like a prime number –something that can’t be divided?

While there are certainly communication skills that Millennials do need to learn, when it comes to being candid, older generations may want to examine their discomfort around Millennials ease in saying what they think with everyone in the organization, regardless of rank.

Instead of seeing Millennials candidness as something that needs to be curtailed, older generations may want to encourage, study and model the behavior of the Millennials.  Instead of seeing their frankness as evidence that Millennials don’t understand appropriate behavior, maybe it is precisely the behavior that needs to be adopted by all employees.

Would this be a radical change? Absolutely.  The question is, would the Millennial-style openness be better for business?