Five business etiquette tips all millennials need to know

generationsIt’s amazing to me how many younger people there are in the workforce these days. I guess that means I’m getting old. According to statistics by the Pew Research Center, millennials now make up the majority of the workforce. In 2015 they surpassed Baby Boomers and Gen Xers in number of workers.

Millennials bring many assets to the workforce including digital smarts – having grown up with tech tools at their disposal.  They are also ambitious and innovative. But there are down sides to these traits as well. Millennials’ reliance on their digital tools can be annoying and off-putting to others. Their ambition and restlessness can seem brash to those generations who patiently put their time in to get to where they are in their careers. Millennials can avoid generational clashes by being mindful of a few etiquette tips that seem to particularly apply to their generation.

Be More Formal with Your Technology Tools

Yes, I know your phone is another appendage, but it still has its place. Don’t look at or use your phone when you’re meeting with others. It’s like turning your back to someone when they are talking to you.

Treat emails like a business letter rather than a text message. Include a greeting (“Hello” or “Hi,” not “Hey” or “Yo”) and a closing (“Best regards,” “Best,” or “Sincerely”). Avoid using abbreviations. Spell words out. And, avoid casual language like, “you guys,” “no worries” or “dude.”

When it comes to texting, avoid sending texts to your clients or your boss unless they have specified that it’s okay to do so. Texts are very casual and somewhat invasive, so you should only send them to people you know fairly well and who are comfortable receiving texts. Always ask first if you’re not sure if texting someone would be okay. And, be a little more formal when you write your texts.

Be Punctual

It’s a sign of respect when you show up on time. And, when you’re late you could miss out on important information or risk not being included because of your tardiness.

Be Respectful of People with More Authority

Yes, you have fresh, innovative ideas, but many of the older folks you work with have years of experience and knowledge. Be respectful of that.

Share Your Opinion but Be Humble

Rather than assuming you know everything, listen and watch. It takes time to understand a company’s history, nuances and culture. Allow yourself time to get the lay of the land or the gist of the meeting before you jump in with your opinion. And when you do share your opinion, be complimentary of others’ contributions.

Dress Professionally

Dressing professionally doesn’t necessarily mean formal; but if you work for a company with a business casual dress code avoid wearing jeans, sweats, t-shirts or flip flops. When you are dressed professionally you show you want to be taken seriously.

Millennials, you have much to bring to the workforce and we’re counting on you to make the world a better place. Just remember to mind your manners along the way.

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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>


  1. Roald on July 4, 2017 at 5:50 am

    Thank you for sharing your views on workplace behavior. I have very different ideas about what I want from working and how I want to interact with the world around me tho. I wouldn’t want to work in an organization where I have to heed to your advice. Luckily, I don’t need to since plenty of companies realize that to stay relevant, they need to adapt to the new generation instead of the other way around.

    I’d give the following tips to my fellow millennial professionals:

    Writing proper emails and texts is a good tip. Treat it like a letter. If your manager, CEO or even clients have whatsapp or snapchat on his/her workphone, that is implicit consent to use it. Use it. It is not casual or invasive at all. It can even make them feel connected with the younger generation when you play the angle smart. If they don’t have it or don’t seem to be getting messages, stop using it and revert back to emails and memo’s. If you don’t get one from the company, get a separate workphone. It’ll help you keep work and private life seperated.

    When you have an appointment, be there early. If you don’t have an appointment, it’s not important where you are at 8:30 am. Especially if you are of the “getting things done” mentality. A workplace that demands that you are there at specific times without a valid productivity reason, is a workplace that fears losing grip on you. If you are productive, there is no reason why you should work 8:30 to 17:00 instead of 9:21 till 18:49. They demand flexibility from you. Demand flexibility from them too.

    Don’t work for places where authority is valued over bright ideas. The atmosphere will suffocate the life out of you and you will be denied chances and opportunities that you should get based on your merits and competence. People who pull seniority feel threatened by fresh ideas. They do not have the companies best interests in mind, they’re sitting there for their own benefit. It’s ok to dismiss argument free objections without offering counter arguments.

    Always be respectful of others contributions, give them praise. That being said, never be humble. Humble people don’t get to the top. Your ideas are as valid as others. Throw them out there. Be able to take constructive criticism on ideas tho. Ideas that can’t stand criticism aren’t good ideas. And your ideas might not fit in the current organization or the project. Having shared them, places them in the open tho. They might go around the office and find a place in a different project.

    Dress neatly, altho not necessarily formal if your function doesn’t require it. Never underestimate the power of formal wear when you need to influence outsiders tho. Dress to impress is an unconscious process that always works on in the background. People really are less inclined to give a multi-million contract to someone who looks like he just came out of the club.

  2. Arden on August 1, 2017 at 12:40 pm

    Thank you for your comments Roald. I may not agree with all of them, but I appreciate that you shared your perspective.

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