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The Top 5 Rules for Gen Y Communication

Differences in communication styles can be a huge challenge in the workplace. Our  bosses keep calling us to set up a meeting, and we keep texting them to say, “k thx c u @430!!!1!!” Fundamental differences in how generations were raised as well as technological advances have forever altered how each of us chooses to communicate. Generation Y’s preferences  are: 1) texting, 2) e-mail, 3) social media, 4) face-to-face, and 5) phone calls. You know this is true if you've ever tried to get a Gen Y'er to answer their mobile phone.

Why do your Millennial employees converse the way that they do, and how can you use this pattern to your advantage? The Center for Generational Kinetics presents (drum roll, please):

The Top 5 Rules for Gen Y Communication

1. Tell us to read the whole e-mail.

I’m not joking. Gen Y only reads the subject line! We can go through a ridiculous amount of e-mail in an hour because we apply the “twitter filter” to our inbox. We gauge importance at a glance, and will only open an e-mail if we know that it demands a response. In fact, the best way to get us to read an entire e-mail is to explicitly write, “Read this entire e-mail,” in the subject line.

Caveat: If the information in e-mails labeled with this Gen Y signpost turns out to not be crucial, we will quit listening to the boy who cried wolf.

Any e-mail with the following subject lines will immediately be deleted:

  • Thank You for using [service]
  • [Season] is here!
  • Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: re: [anything]


2. The pointier the bullet, the better.

Now that we’ve opened your e-mail, the first thing we look for are quick bullet points. Millennials will try to discern the contents of an entire message from the first two bullet points they scan across. We refer to paragraphs as, “Walls of Text.” If you really, really need us to read every word, lead your Walls of Text with bold opening sentences. We will decide if said Wall of Text is pertinent to our situation based on those words, so choose them carefully.

Never, ever put critical instructions at the end of a paragraph.


3. If your e-mails have only a subject line, you are actually sending text messages.

Just switch devices, and there will be much rejoicing. This also works for one or two-line emails. Trust me; you will get a much quicker response when using Gen Y’s favorite communication medium.


4. If your meetings require no decisions or discussion, you are actually sending e-mails.

Being stuck in a meeting puts us in a distressing catch-22. How can we be polite and immediately respond to text messages while also being polite and not texting during a meeting?

Generation Y is the guru of group projects. We never call a meeting if an e-mail would spread the information just as easily. On the other hand, Baby Boomers call meetings just in case something worth discussing comes up. Generation Y wants to call a meeting only if we are certain that a decision must be discussed by the group.


5. A phone call is an invasion of privacy.

Generation Y hates calling people on the phone because we innately feel that texting is less invasive. Because we have spent more time texting our friends, we prefer to outsource casual interactions (such as scheduling, quick questions, and service conversations with strangers) to technology.

In case you’re worried, we are still capable of deep, meaningful conversation. However, we prefer to reserve this sort of engagement for personal friends and family. Like many aspects of Gen Y’s life, we gravitate towards extremes: we like our casual to be extremely superficial, and we like our serious to be with those we care about the most.


Baby Boomers and most Generation Xers first met text messaging and e-mail in the office, whereas Generation Y encountered these technologies on the playground or in the playroom. Baby Boomers see communication devices as productivity tools, whereas Generation Y sees them as recreational items that are constantly available at our fingertips. As a result, Gen Y emphasizes the casual over the formal, the convenient over the thorough, and the impersonal over the personal.  

Great conversationalists adjust how they talk based on who they are talking to. Helping people give their maximum value in the workplace begins with understanding them, and every generation communicates differently. A stronger, more efficient relationship with your Gen Y employees may be just a text message away. Or, at least, a faster response time to all those voice-mails you’ve been leaving.