Two weeks ago, I pointed to the perils of taking listening for granted.  But what happens if there is a generational schism in how we communicate?  That is where this Business Lesson Found begins.

When used in an email, what does an ellipsis, “…”, mean?  How you answer reveals your age.  Boomers and Gen Xers use ellipses at a sentence’s end to indicate their thoughts trailing off.  Millennials interpret ellipses differently.  As one millennial put it, “the dot-dot-dot is the height of passive aggressiveness.”  This person emailed a presentation to his manager for review and received this response: “Thanks…Enjoy the weekend….”  Misreading the manager’s meaning, the millennial’s weekend was ruined as he spent hours trying to find the non-existent flaws in the presentation. When I share this story with owners my age, the reaction is usually: “These kids just need to grow a backbone!”

What if the “problem with millennials” isn’t their attitude or work ethic?  What if it is misalignment of perspectives between generations?  A difference in cultures?  As “leadership guru” Simon Sinek eloquently points out, millennials were raised differently than previous generations, resulting in a culture shift.  Some may say: “So what! We still speak the same language!”  Would you have the same reaction if a British national asked for “crisps” instead of potato chips or “chips” instead of french fries?  And commenting about a British woman’s “pants” may land you a harassment claim since she’ll think you are talking about her underwear.

Generational differences in culture leads some owners to view millennials as self-centered and lazy.  In reality, many millennials just have a different perspective about work.  Having seen their parents work long hours, often to the detriment of family life, these millennials prioritize quality of life over material belongings.  Further, millennials often view work as more than punching-a-clock; looking instead for purpose in their livelihood.

Why should we, as owners, care?  Because we are in a full-employment economy.  Hiring and retaining employees is the most difficult it has been in recent memory (or longer).  We need to do everything we can to attract and retain employees.  More importantly, owners need to ensure they are the “right” employees; committed to you and the work.  This is accomplished by articulating a unique company culture for whose purpose is clear and enriches employee lives.  The result will be more productive, long-term employees of every generation, including millennials.

Most, if not all, small businesses already have a very unique culture.  The trick is creating and then implementing a plan to attract employees with that company culture as well as instilling it throughout your business.   While owners want to work on putting together this and other plans for the future of their company, we feel tied to day-to-day operations trying to stay above water.  To learn how you can work with a group of your peers to make better decisions about the future of your business, connect with me by calling 717-439-6254 or email –

Life brings us lessons every day.  Sometimes from expected sources.  And sometimes from sources and situations we never would have thought possible.  Either way, they are a gift found. I am fortunate to find these types of lessons regularly and wanted to share them with you with this weekly series of “Lessons Found”.
Did you recently receive the gift of a Lesson Found that has helped you with management, marketing or another aspect in business? I would love to hear about it. Comment below or send me an email to let me know.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay