Is Asking Questions Rude?
I had an interesting conversation with a colleague who is my age (42) but works with a group of 25-year-olds. It provided much food for thought about generational diversity.
She had brought in a financial expert to do a presentation to her staff about their 401k benefit, as this can be fairly complicated topic. When the presenter finished and asked if there were any questions, no one raised their hand. My friend was a bit surprised, but when the presentation was over, she went back to her office.
Then the instant messages started coming in. One of her staff started IMing her with questions about the presentation, and as she was answering them, other staff started doing the same. She ended up cutting and pasting some of the responses to answer questions that were similar.
Later she asked one of her employees about why the employee hadn't asked her questions during the presentation. The response: "I thought it would be rude." Basically, this (Millennial) employee felt it would be rude to take up everyone's time with her particular question. Selfish, almost. Why take up the group's time when you could send the question directly electronically? my colleague pointed out that maybe other people would have the same question, so asking and answering it in a group would contribute to everyone's learning. This hadn't occurred to the younger employee.
So my friend pushed a bit farther and asked how they handled this when they were in classes in college, and she was told basically the same way–they would IM the Teaching Assistant with questions and get responses.
So this story has me thinking. First, notice that the younger generation did not assume that learning required a group of people to be having a synchronous conversation in person. In fact, they thought it was "rude" to make people learn that way (I'm extrapolating a bit here, but you see my point). Second, notice that the boss did not sit these "kids" down and give them a talking to about proper ways to learn. She says now after she has a meeting, she runs back to her office and gets ready to handle all the electronic questions, cutting, pasting, making sure everyone is on the same page.
So is your organization that flexible when it comes to inter-generational approaches to learning? Might there be ways to learn and share information other than what you are doing right now?