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9:30 Sunday night phone call? Someone better be dead.
June 4, 2010 10:40 AM   Subscribe

Businesslike behavior: Is it different today for 20-somethings? Maybe I'm just old...

The mid-20s marketing/sales guy my partner and I are using has good contacts and seems to be a go-getter. But he:
-calls us from parties, while eating, with off-topic background audio.
-calls outside of business hours for noncritical reasons.
-calls while putting down the bong (yes we can tell).
Maybe phone conventions have changed?

And he:
-prefers to talk and not email. Generational difference? Marketing weasel difference?
-isn't always timely (five days to "get back to "), and doesn't document his followthrough (if any).

My experience in corporate freelance is that anything that can squick your contact can queer the deal. And although we work in a highly creative, arty business, it's the product that's weird, not the method of doing business.

"Straighten up and fly right, kid," or just an old fart yelling "get off my lawn"?
posted by lothar to Work & Money (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
You're extrapolating the behavior of one person to an entire generation? This guy just seems unprofessional.
posted by desjardins at 10:41 AM on June 4, 2010 [33 favorites]


Most of the people I work with prefer talking to emailing (and I work with a wide variety of people -- both area of work and age), though I prefer it the other way around -- that just seems like something that varies person to person

The rest of it just sounds weird and unprofessional. And I'm find myself pretty offended that you think that's a "generational" thing for mid-20s people.
posted by brainmouse at 10:45 AM on June 4, 2010


As a mid-20s business person, thought admittedly not in marketing, this guy just seems unprofessional.

And seconding desjardins. I don't appreciate being typecast based on one mid-20s guy.

On that note though, in my experience in the business world, it is the older generation who prefer to talk and not email. I would just email everyone all the time if that was an option, but many of the older partners in my office really just prefer phone calls to hash out details, which I don't get.
posted by CharlieSue at 10:46 AM on June 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


Is he making sales and helping the business or is it all potential at this point? I am a mid 40's guy who would not tolerate this level of flake unless he was paying the bills. Don't think it is totally a generational thing. Part, but not all. I would speak to him about your expectations. Maybe he just needs to be told since he never was?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:46 AM on June 4, 2010


Speaking as a mid-20s guy with a bunch of friends in nontraditional/creative/artsy businesses: That's still pretty damn unprofessional.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:47 AM on June 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Here's how you handle those situations:

1. "Sorry, I can't hear you, call me back when you're in a quieter place"
2. "Is it an emergency? No? OK then, I'll talk to you tomorrow/Monday. Yes? OK, what is it? OK, that's not really urgent. I'll talk to you tomorrow/Monday."
3. OK I don't know how to deal with this one, it's never occurred.
4. "Can you email me that information?" Repeat as necessary.
5. "I need you to get back to me by tomorrow. Email me and tell me what you've done on this project so far."

I've worked with lots of 20somethings and marketing/sales people (though not freelance). None of them are like this dude.
posted by desjardins at 10:47 AM on June 4, 2010


You're extrapolating the behavior of one person to an entire generation? Seriously, how rude.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:51 AM on June 4, 2010


Nth the unfair (and non-representative) extrapolation based on one anecdote. I'm in the creative field as well, and though we don't all wear G-men's suits to the office, there's still professional and unprofessional behaviour.

I have, however, seen more* marketing/sales/ad folks in this age bracket behave this way than comparable designers/architects/creatives. The designers I know are more likely to call you at 10pm or later because they're still at the studio working on something critical, prefer email because it records our correspondence for convenience and CYA, and are generally more discreet about personal recreation habits.

*based on a low, and anecdotal, sample.
posted by a halcyon day at 10:55 AM on June 4, 2010


As a not quite mid-40s sales guy it all comes down to the dollars in sales. If he is producing business, and not offending customers in the process, I'd have a friendly chat with him but learn towards reforming him and keeping him around. If he isn't producing it's not your job to teach him how.
posted by COD at 10:57 AM on June 4, 2010


My experience in corporate freelance is that anything that can squick your contact can queer the deal.

If this has anything to do with his age, it might just be that he doesn't have this experience yet. If he and the other workers his age never wind up getting this experience, and so they keep doing it, then conventions will have changed.

The one clearly generational difference in your post is your use of the word "queer" as a verb not relating to being gay.
posted by amethysts at 11:04 AM on June 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


All the more reason to have a business line, and a personal line (or two numbers on the same phone with different rings). When I was running my own business, the business line NEVER got answered outside of my business hours. It was a cell phone that just got shut off so things would roll to voice-mail.

Maybe I lost some business because I wasn't always available. But I kept my sanity.
posted by DaveP at 11:07 AM on June 4, 2010


One thing that I will say as a 20-something professional is that, with a (nice) laptop and a cell phone my company subsidizes, I answer email and make/take phone calls at all hours of the day AS LONG AS I KNOW THE PERSON ON THE OTHER END IS DOING THE SAME. A lot of this is because I have vendors and customers in different time zones (including on the other side of the globe) but I also field calls from coworkers at 7am and at 10pm, depending on what's going on. I've just accepted that I am pretty much permanently "on call" and that jives pretty well with my always-on email and phone philosophy in the social, volunteer, and freelance part of my life. If there's anything in this post that is "generational", that might be it.

But as far as putting down the bong to take a work call? No, not so much.

Though I did once run a conference call with Navy officers while I was getting a pedicure. In my defense, I was in the middle of a vacation week, and there was no way work was going to interfere with my pretty toes.
posted by olinerd at 11:11 AM on June 4, 2010


As a mid-20s business person, thought admittedly not in marketing, this guy just seems unprofessional.

And seconding desjardins. I don't appreciate being typecast based on one mid-20s guy.

On that note though, in my experience in the business world, it is the older generation who prefer to talk and not email. I would just email everyone all the time if that was an option, but many of the older partners in my office really just prefer phone calls to hash out details, which I don't get.


This, to me, is spot on. Sure, us 20-somethings do things differently, but on the whole we prefer email to talking, IME we tend to be faster at "getting back" to people, and want more separation between our work and social lives (i.e. not having to worrry about work at the bar....)

This guy is just unprofessional. I mean, no, calling your coworkers regarding business matters while taking bong hits is not the *norm* for us millenials.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:12 AM on June 4, 2010


No, having worked with dozens of Gen Y interns, I can confidently say that it's not "the new way," it's one guy being unprofessional.
posted by salvia at 11:27 AM on June 4, 2010


Excellent. I appreciate hearing how many of you are offended that I might generalize unprofessional behavior as a generational trait.

The use of "queer" in its original sense was intentional, to see if anyone would pick nits. No comments on "squick"?

I've experienced poor phone behavior with another 20-something who called for a final round interview forty-five minutes late without apology or explanation from the noisy streets of Calcutta, but I interpretted that as cultural differences. But since the plural of anecdote is data, I thought I'd ask all y'alls.
posted by lothar at 11:28 AM on June 4, 2010


There is certainly a generational difference in regards to email, at least such that we see on campus. Primarily: students as a whole don't use it, they prefer more instant and short communications. We have to constantly push them to check their email. We provide forwarding so it's not a matter of preferring a different account.

Whether that persists into the work force or extends beyond our student body I can't tell you, but it's something that's been noticed at our institution and which we have to take steps to deal with.
posted by phearlez at 11:30 AM on June 4, 2010


I'm in my 20s. I work in marketing, and regularly create content, images, and other elements as needed. We're very casual with each other and play it loose, but that's only internal. Anything client-facing is professional as fuck. This guy you're dealing with? Douche.

Somebody is going to need to tell this guy to knock it off with regards to his phone-contact behavior. Bong hits while on a goddamn call? Calling from parties and while eating? Good lord.

Preferring to talk rather than use email and his timeliness issues both need to be addressed, but wouldn't be major issues ion and of themselves if not for the additional call behavior.
posted by truex at 11:35 AM on June 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


If this were a dating/relationship question I think we'd all be saying "dump him". He's got poor people skills, doesn't have boundaries, doesn't write things down, and is generally unprofessional.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:43 AM on June 4, 2010


lothar: "The use of "queer" in its original sense was intentional, to see if anyone would pick nits."

Please don't do this.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:54 AM on June 4, 2010 [19 favorites]


I think some bros are attracted to sales because they think that it's a dudely environment full of swagger and fun parties and loads of extra cash since all they have to do is sell the product/service not deliver on it. They are often right about that. That attitude coupled with inexperience may be what you're dealing with here.

You're not a fuddy-duddy and I think it does a disservice to all the people he's selling for to not set this guy straight. That just perpetuates this attitude that sales runs by a different set of rules. Call him in and be specific about the kind of behaviors you've noted and be specific about what kind of behavior you expect in the future. Tell him this is a warning but that he'll be under watch.

I remember working with an intern years ago, she in her very early 20s. She asked if she could use the phone on her desk. I said, "yes, of course." What followed was a week of intense phone use, talking to her mother, talking to her boyfriend about all kinds of personal stuff. I had to step in and tell her it wasn't appropriate. She looked shocked and said, "but you said I could use it!" So, once I clarified about professional phone use and why the company provided phones and what "limited, personal use" meant she totally didn't abuse it again.

Now, I think your guy is probably an idiot but you should talk to him if you think he's worth it to the company. It's way out of line.
posted by amanda at 11:54 AM on June 4, 2010


The use of "queer" in its original sense was intentional, to see if anyone would pick nits. No comments on "squick"?

Answering your question is what AskMe is for, not getting into debates because you think you are being provocative.

Also, no. Professionalism is not different today for 20-somethings.
posted by spec80 at 11:55 AM on June 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think, as mentioned above, that younger people have less experience in general, and as a result, may be perceived as less professional than their elders, who have more experience, and probably higher ranking positions that require a more professional attitude. One of my roommates is a good 10 years younger than me, and I need to remind myself regularly that I've been in the work force 10 years longer than he has. He's not a bad guy, he's not as professional because he's still learning.

But the specific individual in question sounds like an exception, and in the worst possible way. That's just bad behavior.
posted by GJSchaller at 12:23 PM on June 4, 2010


As a 27 year old advertising supervisor at an agency who has been client-side as well doing marketing/inside sales, here are my thoughts...

- Don't overgeneralize, this guy is an exceptional and unprofessional douche

- The suggestions for how to handle the various instances listed above are spot on, but I would add that if you see him doing more work with you in the future, set him straight. He is freelance and you are the client--he needs to work around your business needs and if that includes not wasting your time on the phone let him know.

- If you have concerns about his assumed drug-use impacting your business, you are free to end the relationship at any time most likely. But frankly, as a business-minded person, I wouldn't give a rats ass about drug use if he was bringing in the business. Some of the quirkiest sales people can be the best. However there is a difference between using drugs and using drugs while on a business call.

All of that said, he needs to learn how to be professional. If he is not, you need to be firm and explain exactly what you consider unprofessional. If he is not performing well, get someone who will.
posted by Elminster24 at 12:25 PM on June 4, 2010


But since the plural of anecdote is data, I thought I'd ask all y'alls.

Umm, just FYI, but the saying is actually "The plural of anecdote is *NOT* data." There's a reason for this.
posted by FatherDagon at 12:32 PM on June 4, 2010 [6 favorites]


I work in visual effects, which is thick with 20somethings, 30somethings, 40somethings, and their bongs.

VFX guys who smoke don't do bong rips on the phone with production or clients. It's bullshit and unprofessional.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 12:51 PM on June 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


"The use of "queer" in its original sense was intentional, to see if anyone would pick nits."

Do not do this again. Take further derailing discussion along these lines straight to MetaTalk. Thank you.
posted by jessamyn at 1:51 PM on June 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


20-somethings are called "millenials" and do have generational differences in working style, but this guy sounds just plain unprofessional.
posted by kenliu at 8:59 PM on June 4, 2010


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