Study: 'Employees not sociable at work'; Gen Y needs to change everything

Study: 'Employees not sociable at work'; Gen Y needs to change everything

Summary: A new study shows that the current workforce are not 'sociable' at work. Unless the Generation Y change this, the relics of the 'employment Cold War' will remain for future generations.


A new study by Plantronics focusing on the communication habits in the workplace show that social networking, either on Facebook or Twitter or on business networking sites like LinkedIn, are the least constructive activities for business productivity.

The study conducted over the web by online survey showed once again the stark differences between the older and younger generations, in that the Generation X are still focused on what we would now consider 'outdated' technologies.

The report can be found here, by skipping through the typical online registration 'Oxbridge 2.0 pleasantries'.

What's been said: The Generation X

Email unsurprisingly has shot through through the roof in the last five years, increasing by over 70% according to the poll, which surveyed 1,800 knowledge workers in medium-sized and large businesses. Even though video and audio conferencing is on the rise, email remains at the top spot with mobile devices being able to take our written conversations anywhere we go.

However half of the 90% of those surveyed in the enterprise environment stated that they spend nearly a quarter of their working hours off site, making the need for mobile devices connected up to their corporate communications networks all the more important. But with over-the-air bandwidth being sluggish at the best of times (anybody on AT&T can confirm this) mobile email access is the only viable option.

Texting is limiting, social media is public and too 'personal' and instant messaging though can be useful, is often not incorporated into the enterprise world.

The way we communicate entirely depends on the profession that we enter into. Those working in policing and intelligence will most likely prefer text-based communications as it enables quick, effective referencing to on-demand data.

Journalists will usually prefer phone conversations or face-to-face over any text based communications because it enables vocal inflections to be detected; stutters, stammers and physiological impairments, because frankly we like to catch people out. Press and public relations, publicists and corporate spokespeople will of course in light of the aforementioned prefer email and text-based communications.

The study goes on to further purport the theory that though there are more ways to communicate than before, most prefer the traditional methods even though they often cause confusion. Email works only so well on the basis that the two or more people in contact are on a level playing field emotionally, professionally and in terms of level of knowledge, language and skill being used.

Using buzzwords and acronyms out of context or in an illegible way requires the recipient to spend more time emailing back and asking for clarification, which causes an imbalance in the working relationship; the person losing self-confidence while the other gains higher ground by exerting even more unnecessary communication to make up for their previous misgiving. A phone conversation will lessen this a great deal.

What has and will change: The Generation Y

As the Generation Y slowly start to integrate themselves as part of the 'legitimate' workforce, the numbers will change over the years and will probably only make sense in hindsight. Though email is still a predominate way of communicating because it's effectively free (though many will argue), it's secure enough and it is more mobile than it has ever been. It also has its barriers which keep this socio-personally restrictive bunch of people separated from the actual world.

Video, web and audio conferencing allows the social curtain to be brought down and open communications to push forward. It is designed to get people working together, chipping in on an ad-hoc basis, allowing free thought and uncensored imagery to fall through, unlike email which is doctored and carefully planned - manipulated almost, to appeal to the recipient.

The Generation Y will most likely not take on these pre-existing corporate ideologies and will use the innate skills and processes they are already used to; text messaging and Twitter though restrictive, it allows us to communicate our points effectively, swiftly, but more importantly clinically, which is something we have yet as a generation to fully engage with or comprehend.

Considered in my view, the study puts forward a simple enough excerpt which states:

"Posting or reading updates on popular social/professional networking sites and blogs was identified as the least critical communications activity for business productivity".

But as the Generation Y know this playing field so much better, not only the psychology behind the terms used and the methods of accessing these resources, these abilities to use non-traditional means of communication are the driving force behind an entire generation.

The boundaries are blurred between business and personal. But as we all know, the workplace is a sociable place. If the office or workplace that we see today remains as clinical and as clear cut where only the professional within can be expressed, then the values of this upcoming generation will be nullified and negated and the relics of the past: discrimination of sexual orientation, pay inequality to the gender glass ceiling that will never die out.

Topics: Social Enterprise, CXO, Collaboration, IT Employment

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  • The overlooked difference

    between the two is that the "older technologies" like email work within a world where you don't know or have never really met many of the people on the other end, they don't need to give you their cell phone number or IM screen name.
    John Zern
  • Gee, where have I heard this before?

    Every generation comes up with the conviction that the "old ways" of doing things are worthless and that they will rock the world with their new ideas. After getting their feet wet, more times than not they learn that those old fashioned ideas are tried and proven, and that new does not always mean better. Sometime after that the realization sets in that those old fogies are smarter than the kids once thought, and that they can actually learn something from the elders after all.

    Some of these new tools will actually prove to be beneficial in the workplace, while others will turn out to be fads that will fade with time. Video conferencing, for example, is already a valuable tool, and its use will expand as bandwidth allows. Twitter, on the other hand, is little more than a tool for those with short attention spans who lack spelling and grammar skills. In 10 years we will be off onto whatever new fad comes along, and Twitter will be relegated to the dust bin of tech history.
    • RE: Study: 'Employees not sociable at work'; Gen Y needs to change everything


      Amen to that!
  • RE: Study: 'Employees not sociable at work'; Gen Y needs to change everything

    Us older folks are not "sociable" at work because we're WORKING!! :D

    Playing with gadgets under the guise of 'communicating' doesn't get the job done. You'll find over time that the older folks may be slower to embrace new technology because we have the experience and patience to see what really works and what's just a passing fad (Twitter!). Technologies that give a true benefit will be absorbed into the mainstream and become a critical part of everyday business.

    In the mean time, there's work to do and I don't think very many of you are getting paid to play with gadgets ....
    • RE: Study: 'Employees not sociable at work'; Gen Y needs to change everything

      @aureolin - Agreed very strongly. I think the younger generations have forgotten that in the end, it's work that pays the bills, work that earns income to pay salaries and get hardware.

      I've been to too many meetings where it could have been over in 15 minutes, when instead it lasted an hour and a half because people talked about vacations, etc.

      You want me to "hang with my homies" on the work front? Pay for morale events, paid time where we aren't working, otherwise quit bothering me with photos of your cat or the latest saga in your love life.
  • RE: Study: 'Employees not sociable at work'; Gen Y needs to change everything

    There is this silly assumption that if you are not using Facebook, you are doing productive work. Unproductive people will be unproductive with what ever 'tools' are available.
  • RE: Study: 'Employees not sociable at work'; Gen Y needs to change everything

    Back in the day, "being sociable at work" meant "screwing-off" and often resulted in unemployment.

    You're not there to socialize, or to surf pr0n, or anything other than doing the freaking job for which you are receiving money.
  • Though some 'modern' tools just aren't modern enough yet.

    Vocal inflections not only sidestep the frequent miscommunication of text, but also facilitate and accelerate communication. But text carries precision, and the ability to index and search. So let's combine them everywhere automatically.

    Unfortunately, service providers will have to catch this vision before they can sell it to us. Even though all the pieces are already in their hands, they seem lost, resulting in too many channels: e-mail, v-mail, fax, text, multiple phone numbers, and IM, too.

    There can be only one, and it should be a phone/e-mail/vm hybrid. There's just no reason for IM to remain separate from e-mail. Providers have already made it possible for me to text someone from my e-mail client, and vice-versa. They've even made it 'possible' (with some effort) to get my voice-messages in my e-mail. And there are even services allowing me to send and receive faxes from my e-mail. The USPS may even still offer a service which allows one to send paper letters via e-mail. So how is it IM can't be integrated into my e-mail somehow?

    And why can't I send someone a voice-message with my e-mail client as easily as I can e-mail, text, or fax them?

    And why do I have to choose which of their contacts is most suitable? That can really complicate communication away from a desk.

    All the providers really need to do is follow through, and integrate all our communication into a single service, and for a single fee.

    Now that I think of it, this could obviate smart-phones.
  • it is silly to expect

    that real face-to-face socializing can be substituted with FB or TW posts. For some reasons, the definition of "socializing" was replaced by its virtual non-sociable surrogate - typing words and hoping that somebody will look at them and type something back. In fact, these technologies may work against "sociable" experience. I am guessing the GenY will quickly realize that it is much more fun to have a real party than a virtual one... even with a business partner
  • Email still king

    Email allows me to schedule the times I choose to be interrupted. IM intrudes on my thought process.
  • RE: Study: 'Employees not sociable at work'; Gen Y needs to change everything

    Beyond my belief that the point you are trying to make is just wrong, our language skills are bad. You use words such as "purport" incorrectly, make assumptions without any supporting evidence, and are just generally sloppy in sentence construction. Pretty pathetic for someone who is claiming to be a journalist, and more than a little ironic in this context.
    • Actually....


      ...considering the sorry state of journalism today I would say that he is very well prepared for his new profession.
  • RE: Study: 'Employees not sociable at work'; Gen Y needs to change everything

    Employees are not sociable at home, either. And those out of work for whatever reason are the worst of them all as opposed to using ther netorks sensibly to regain fruitful employment. It's a pervaseive thing in the US at least and for a good part, Canada too. Mexico, well, it still takes bribes and who you kiss-a__ to get anything done there. There are magnitudes more closed minds today than there were just a decade ago and helping your neighbor, at home or at work is a lost cause. Breaks, in fact, were opportunities to discuss ideas and results with others not on your team. Even hallway-talk was often valuable. Because people go on break doesn't make them lazy bass turds.
  • RE: Study: 'Employees not sociable at work'; Gen Y needs to change everything

    Help me to understand: "...where only the professional within can be expressed, then the values of this upcoming generation will be nullified and negated and the relics of the past: discrimination of sexual orientation, pay inequality to the gender glass ceiling that will never die out."
    By these words, you're assuming that the "current" generation discriminates. By that very assertion, you are discriminating. Values, in the coprorate workplace, are most certainly supported and are referred to as diversity of thought, act, gender, and group. I agree with other commentators: social media products (ever consider that they are products, and not just "how we do things"?) are just the latest tool in the toolbox.
    I do not agree that remaining professional segregates. In fact, the more professional we become, the more democratic we become.
  • RE: Study: 'Employees not sociable at work'; Gen Y needs to change everything

    Gen Y will eventually disover:<br><br><a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"></a><br><br>I've not gone thorugh a legal "discovery" process, but everything I've heard is that it's about the most uncomfortable procedure around, short of being on trial.
  • RE: Study: 'Employees not sociable at work'; Gen Y needs to change everything

    A phone for voice and a full sized keyboard for email and IM are still the fastest information entry devices. Even people who text fast are not as fast as someone who learned touchtyping / keyboarding and can really use a full sized keyboard to best advantage.
  • RE: Study: 'Employees not sociable at work'; Gen Y needs to change everything

    I should have also said that as new younger workers enter the work force and discover the pace that is expected, I believe that they will learn these lessons that their parents already understand from years of experience.
  • Did the commenters look at the original study?

    Zack's take on the original Plantronics study (really a survey to bolster their marketing of voice technology, apparently) is his opinion piece, and not really an explanation of the study results. For those of you that don't know who Zack is - he is a student in the UK, and regularly contributes interesting comments to ZDnet. What I found particularly interesting from the original study was that China seems to rank video conferencing very high as compared to other markets! Maybe that facial expression or slight inflection is very important to the Chinese (or maybe avoiding those traffic jams!). IMHO, Facebook and similar technology mixes personal life with business life in most cases, and would not be suitable to most focused business exchanges (but that is pretty much what the study was indicating). If you look at the study overall - having a phone number that follows you allows for those urgent calls (if you really want to take them!).
  • If Social Networking is so very important for work...

    How come my boss's Generation Y son had me put a block on all Facebook and Myspace traffic. For some reason Gen Y in our company views these as "screwing off" and got tired of Gen X in our company that was doing it.
  • Preach brotha! Preach!

    Agreed. Resistance is futile. All that you know that has been... is now... over. You will be obsolete in the new order, and your technological and professional distinctiveness will be integrated to service US! Thaaaanks! --Gen Y