Millennial Report: Breaking the Ice: Millennial Communication Anxiety in the Workplace

My first real job out of college was nothing short of a disaster. I found myself in a situation where I had little direction and big responsibilities. But at the time, I had no real knowledge of office or email etiquette and no mentor to guide me. Needless to say, I fumbled the entire way through my first year. 

Most of my problems in this position revolved around communication. My questions were often met with annoyance, and occasionally hostility, so I quickly learned to stop asking. Of course, this resulted in me doing *quite literally* everything wrong. 

My plan to wing it didn’t work out great for me, nor did the job—I didn’t stay there for long. But the pressure I felt at that first high-stakes, professional experience stuck with me and continues to affect my perception of my own competence. 

This feeling of communication anxiety in the workplace isn’t some niche issue that a few pathetic Millennials like me experience. It’s actually enormously widespread among my age group. 

Recent research from The University of Law found that 97% of individuals between 25 and 34 fear judgment by their colleagues over how they communicate at work. 

I’ll repeat if for those in the back: 97%! That’s almost every single Millennial! Businesses must address this pervasive issue directly if they want to create a supportive environment that encourages open communication, collaboration, and transparency. By facing this head on, organizations everywhere can help alleviate Millennial communication anxiety and create a more confident and engaged workforce.

Millennial Work Anxiety Explained

Communication plays a vital role in the success of any business. Employees should feel comfortable conveying their ideas and collaborating with colleagues. However, studies show that most Millennials don’t have healthy communication at work

The reasoning behind our anxiety is complicated. In part, older generations often perceive us as inexperienced, even though most Millennials have been in the workforce for over 10 years, some nearly 20! And on top of that, Millennials grew up in a high-tech, connected world. As a result, we’re accustomed to communicating through digital means and typically find face-to-face interactions, public speaking, or phone calls intimidating. The pressure to perform and make a good impression, coupled with the fear of judgment from our colleagues, create a sense of unease and anxiety around communication. 

Wondering what types of interactions Millennials fear the most? The University of Law’s study highlights that Millennials perceive the most anxiety over the following modes of communication:

  • Face-to-Face. Face-to-face communication can feel really intimidating, even to the most social and outgoing Millennials. We’re often overthinking our body language, eye contact, and tone of voice. These insecurities can result in a lack of confidence in delivering presentations, attending meetings, or even asking for help.
  • Phone Calls. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Millennials hate phone calls. We abhor the small talk, awkward silences, and misread cues. We would always rather chat via email, text, or messaging app.
  • Public Speaking. Public speaking is often another anxiety-inducing form of communication for Millennials. Sometimes it even holds us back from contributing to meetings or sharing our ideas with colleagues.

How Businesses Can Support Preferred Communication Methods

To support communication that Millennials are more comfortable with, businesses should consider taking the following steps:

  • Provide Training. Help Millennials improve their communication skills by providing professional development. These sessions can include public speaking, presenting, and networking tips to boost their confidence.
  • Offer Multiple Communication Channels. Provide multiple channels for communication, such as email, instant messaging, or video conferencing. Offering various methods of communication allows Millennials to choose one they’re comfortable with.
  • Encourage Feedback. You’ll never know what your Millennial employees want unless you ask. Encourage feedback from Millennials about their preferred communication methods. This way, you can tailor your communication strategy accordingly.
  • Create a Supportive Culture. Create a supportive culture that encourages open communication, collaboration, and transparency. This will help Millennials feel more comfortable communicating with their colleagues.

Effective communication is vital for any business to succeed, and there are numerous ways businesses can support healthy communication for their Millennial workforce. If you’re hoping to create an engaged, connected team, consider their communication needs, too!

For more Millennial news and tips, check out Sophelle’s vault of Millennial Reports