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The Old-Fashioned Phone

Updated: Feb 19, 2020

I had a conversation at dinner with a colleague about the different ways younger and older generations communicate.

  • Broadly speaking, Millennials prefer email, text, Instagram DM and Slack (or other instant-messaging business apps).

  • Gen Z favors text, Slack and Snapchat.

  • Gen X and Baby Boomers are still into email with Gen X gravitating to Slack and text.

  • The Silent Generation, also known as the Traditionalists, like a good old-fashioned phone call or face-to-face meeting.

Photo by Mike Meyers on Unsplash

Many societies around the world also continue to value in-person communication, but American Millennials and Gen Z workers consider digital communications to be faster and more effective—unless they are being ghosted (not responded to). In that case, I have seen them resort to the old-fashioned way… after being urged by a Gen X boss, like me, who knows that sometime a phone call is the best way to get work done.

As a leader, I understand the differences in working styles between the five generations in the workforce and I adjust for them. So, when a Millennial staffer was stressing over not being able to reach a reporter for days through email and text, I gently suggested she try calling him.

I try not to micromanage the people who work for me. That isn't good for anyone. I believe in giving my team autonomy to manage their assignments and report back to me on their progress. They have goals they need to reach and, if they’re not reaching them, we talk about different ways to do it. But in order for them to grow and learn, they have to try things out for themselves and learn to trust their business instincts. It’s like the old axiom—as toddlers, we need to topple over a bunch of times so we learn about balance and can then walk on solid footing.

After a few days of me suggesting that the Millennial staffer call the reporter, she eventually followed my suggestion and picked up the phone. Miraculously, she got the answer she needed after the reporter actually answered his phone.

In fairness, it is possible that the reporter was so stunned that the phone on his desk was ringing that he may have picked it up as a novelty. We cannot know the answer to that, but either way, making an old-fashioned phone call worked!


This story is also featured in Dr. Joanna Massey’s upcoming book “Culture Shock: Surviving Five Generations in One Workplace.” The book will be published this Spring by TVGuestpert Publishing. Please join JDMA’s mailing list for updates on the upcoming book and to be alerted to new blog posts.

To book Joanna Massey as a corporate speaker, please click on her speaking profile here and contact her agents Jacquie Jordan and Stephanie Cobian at 310-584-1504 or email

You can also check out Joanna’s LinkedIn profile for posts with interesting information on how to navigate the cultural revolution.

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