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Generational Gem #1 – For Millennials, Is Telling Yelling?

Written by Sherri Petro on . Posted in Blog

Millennials, is Telling YellingAccording to Merriam Webster, there is a difference between telling and yelling. According to Millennials in my generational workshops, not so much. What’s this about?

Merriam Webster defines the two as:

  • Tell – to inform, say, divulge, reveal, narrate, order or direct.
  • Yell – to say (something) very loudly especially because you are angry, surprised, or are trying to get someone’s attention; to make a sudden, loud cry.

The two acts are differentiated by volume and intention.

How is it then that Millennials perceive the simple act of telling as yelling when the volume is not loud? I offer four things related to backlash from the self-esteem movement. Millennials are not used to yelling and they are misinterpreting telling as yelling. They may not have even been exposed to real yelling. They are also not used to being told what to do. Why?

QUALIFIER – Remember, generational information is an input not the end-all.

  1. MINI-ADULTS – Baby Boomers treated children as mini-adults with opinions that mattered. Traditionalists followed more traditional parent/child roles where children did not necessarily have voices that mattered. In fact, they said things like “Children are seen — and not heard”, a reflection from their own childhood. Boomers have taken the concept of being heard to heart in so many ways (two hour meeting where everyone has a chance to talk sound familiar to anyone?). When in conflict, Boomers might say “We’ll talk this out civilly – like adults do” versus saying emphatically “Because I said so!”
  2. EXPECTATIONS – Baby Boomers asked Millennials questions versus telling them what to do and gave them the freedom to answer with anything. Millennials may not be used to being directed. The simple act of telling can be alien since they expect to be asked – even if they don’t have an answer. Being told what to do can sound like yelling since it impedes on their freedom and may direct them to do something they don’t want to do.
  3. SPECIAL – We Baby Boomers wanted our children to feel special — and they do. We set this table – and yelling wasn’t on it. What’s this about? Not feeling special ourselves in larger families with the more stoic Traditionalists parents, who we did NOT want to be like, we chose a different parenting style. Traditionalists took roles learned from their parents very seriously. “I’m your parent, not your friend!” Yelling is an option. Baby Boomers parented, “I can be your parent and your friend.” Yelling as an option? Not so much. As a generalization, friends tend not to rage to each other. Rant, maybe? Rage, no.
  4. LIFE IS HARD – Baby Boomers, though with the best of intentions, removed consequences for their Millennials. We said that our children could do and be anything. We did not always follow that paraphrase with “….it’s going to be hard and you’re going to have to work for it.” And work can be hard places where yelling may exist since we are working with human emotions – the full range of which can be delivered in loud voices!

Make sense? Agree or disagree? There’s more but I’ll stop here and start the discussion.

What Are We Not Saying? 5 Ways to Speak in Order to Engage Employees

Written by Sherri Petro on . Posted in Blog

engage employeesA provocative question. This is not about interpreting nonverbal behavior or playing Hollywood Game Night at the company picnic. It’s about being tight-lipped with our employees when we could choose not to. It’s about the messages we could be saying that would go a long way in engaging them, something we keep saying we want but can’t seem to get out of our own way to create.

What do employees want? We have scores of studies that show us. Whether you review Ross DePinto’s Emerging Leaders research for the Center of Creative Leadership in 2003 or Pew Research Center’s work 10 years later, it’s fairly consistent. Simply, as employees we want to enjoy our work, receive reward (intrinsic and extrinsic) for what we do and we want to be treated with respect.

Let’s take some counsel from business woman extraordinaire, Oprah Winfrey.  No stranger to respect, gratitude, and enjoying work, she expressed some excellent thoughts in her 2011 talk show send-off about her experience. She spoke about the guests during the 25 year run of her show. “…and all 30,000 had one thing in common — they all wanted validation. … They want to know, do you hear me? Do you see me? Does what I say mean anything to you?”

Regardless of whether we are talking employees or guests, here are five sentiments I would like to hear a whole lot more of for support and validation in our business world. Let’s engage by saying — and meaning — the right things.

Click to find out What Are We Not Saying? And then learn 5 Ways to Speak in Order to Engage Employees on ManagingAmericans.

Sherri Petro, President and Chief Strategy Officer of VPI Strategies, represents VPI Strategies on the Expert Panel for Managing Americans. is a management blog with more than 300,000 monthly readers. Sherri contributes monthly to the Workplace Communication Skills Blog and is one of the most highly read columnists.

4 Concepts That Get Lost in Translation Between Generations

Written by Sherri Petro on . Posted in Blog

between generationsLost in Translation?  A great phrase. It means that words, once translated, can lose the original intent of their meaning.  Or for those who loved the movie, it is the name of the insightful and curiosity-piquing film by Sofia Coppola released over a decade ago.  Either way, people, we have something to talk about.  We’re missing something in our communication.

In the movie, Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson play mismatched souls who keep running into each other then begin a fledgling relationship.  Two different generations reach across the great communication divide to create meaning.  YES!  Oh, but wait, must it only happen in the movies?  NO!  Lest we get too excited, we must realize we do have issues when the generational communication wall is scaled.

It’s like we are talking in tongues thinking another generation understands our point of view.  We’re losing meaning in our communication because we don’t have the same meanings to start with!   Meaning is established by shared experience.  And, duh, we don’t share the same experiences, growing up in very different times.  End game?  Concepts are getting lost in translation.  We need to gen up (gather as much as information as we can) about the generations.

Lost in Translation Between Generations. Read the rest of Sherri’s blog on ManagingAmericans.

Sherri Petro, President and Chief Strategy Officer of VPI Strategies, represents VPI Strategies on the Expert Panel for Managing Americans. is a management blog with more than 300,000 monthly readers. Sherri contributes monthly to the Workplace Communication Skills Blog and is one of the most highly read columnists.

Dealing with the Rude Co-worker: Snarky, Snappy & Sarcastic

Written by Sherri Petro on . Posted in Blog

dealing with rude co-workerDealing with the Rude Co-worker?

No, Snarky, Snappy and Sarcastic are not the names of three additional dwarfs.  If they were, I think Snow White would not have been so optimistic!  Ever been in a great mood only to have a rude remark waylay your cheery disposition?  What to do?  What to do?  This is not to be confused with the seriously detrimental effects of bullying on employees’ psyche and health.  I’m talking about the under-one’s-breath-day-ruiner, the run-in you wish you had NOT experienced or the (ahem) gesture you received while driving into the parking deck this morning.

Do you walk away and fume?  Bite your tongue?  Pretend the person does not exist?  Do you view them as internal customers, believing they are the king or queen and you should accept the behavior? It may be smart; nonetheless, it can leave a mark and, potentially, cause YOU to react.

How do we handle the case of the rude coworker?


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Do you ever wish you had the Dalai Lama, Warren Buffet or your own personal Gandalf as a mentor or trusted advisor? Me, too.

Written by Sherri Petro on . Posted in Blog


I could have used a conversation with one of them recently. Ironically it was because I was asked to participate in a mentoring event for young professionals a few months back.  Mentoring continues to be a hot topic — and for good reason. Mentees seek ideas, tips and secrets to success. Mentors seek to share words of wisdom and add value.

As for me, I had to come up with a gem or two that I could share with emerging leaders.  What should I say?  I thought hard. That’s a lie.  I agonized.  I spent far too much time coming up with the required text.

This prompted me to think about my own and other people’s mentoring experiences. What could we all learn as we seek to enhance our communication skills?  I canvassed colleagues of each generation (Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y) on their mentoring experiences and counsel.

Here are some of my favorite sentiments:

From Mentors’ and Mentees’ Mouths: Five Lessons Worth Sharing

1. Ask the Provocative Question

Former CEO Scott Suckow, received a cosmic 2 by 4 on channeling ego by a mentor who posed an excellent question about what Scott really wanted.  As the CEO of a non-profit that had a great deal of success and growth, he was dealing with a board leadership transition that was not going well.  He was sure all he needed to do was to help the other person understand just how wrong they were. He was asked the question, Do you want to be right or keep your job?”and told that he might have to choose.

Scott continues, “That simple question really pulled out the complexities of ego, and whether as CEO I would be able to put mine aside for the greater good. It was explained that if each of us give 50% and meet in the middle, that puts half the responsibility on the other person.  That’s half that we have no control over.  Rather, if I was committed to success, why not do everything I could to ensure it, even giving 100%?  This seems like such a simple observation, but I was rooted in my belief of being right, my ego didn’t allow me to see how much power I actually had.  To this day, when I find my ego keeping me from exploring new ways of doing things, I nudge myself along by asking this question “Do I want to be right or………..?”

I blog monthly on ManagingAmericans. I invite you to read more of my favorite mentoring sentiments on Managing Americans.