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Controversial work act all Aussies bosses should ban: 'Blunt'

OPINION: The humble full stop can make a message take on new meaning for younger workers. So should they be shafted from the workplace?

Text messages
A simple form of punctuation can completely change the tone of a message, which can have consequences if you're a boss with younger employees. (Source: Yahoo Finance Australia)

Tell me these two messages have the same vibe? You can't.

And maybe if you think they come across the same, this will make for an interesting read.

I thought it was a feeling we all knew. When you get an email, text or Slack message from your boss and there are unnecessary full stops.

Your heart sinks and you convince yourself you are in trouble.

I sit in the Gen Z/Millennial category, meaning I am young enough to be actively posting on TikTok but old enough to know what Limewire is.

Growing up as social media has evolved has impacted the way we read into communication.

For me, seeing a message be overtly formal for no reason, is almost like a personal attack.

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It makes me, and many in the younger cohort of Aussie workers, think we’ve done something wrong, or are in trouble.

A blonde woman in a pink dress holding a coffee.
Abbey wants to remind managers that they may need to tweak their communication style when working with younger staff. (Yahoo Finance Australia)

Since getting into the 9-5 corporate life, I’ve learned communication can differ wildly across generations. It makes sense, how we communicate has changed.

From ‘to whom it may concern’ to ‘hey girlie’ (obviously I am joking, but not really). From sending a fax to constant emails and online DMs on Teams, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn.

It’s not just emojis, it’s text tone abbreviations and voice notes (the latter in my opinion is the way of the future).

But the bosses, managers and more senior members of the office need to remember: We are the generation of overthinking.

We have been the most exposed to over-communication.

Work is an environment we want to be doing the right thing in. And it’s little things at this level of communication that can be misread.

I am not the only one who feels this way.

Take a look at “texts my boss sent me” or “emails from my boss” on TikTok.

The commenters are horrified at the lack of or just flat-out wrong type of communication for younger workers.

This includes:

  • The overuse of ellipses (makes us feel like it isn’t the full story… not in a good way)

  • The thumbs up emoji (the most passive-aggressive emoji award goes to)

  • Full stops (which make sentences feel like an abrupt gut-punch)

“They WANT you to be worried and stressed,” commenter Stephy said.

“The stress of a boss doing this would probably have me job hunting,” another added.

James Wilson said his boss’s communication has been vague enough to be intimidating.

“It has sent me into a panic attack a few times,” Wilson said.

“Can’t forget the ellipses of DOOM,” Mary said.

Another pointed out how this can be relevant outside the workplace too.

“My mum doesn’t even say okay. She just gives a thumbs up emoji,” they said.

I lived a prime example just the other day and my millennial boss proved she gets it.

“I dictate to Siri a lot so I’m not grumpy it’s just Siri 😂😂,” she wrote.

I work remotely so it can be hard to read between the lines, but it’s like she read my mind.

I work remotely and my boss has made sure I understand the tone of her messages.
Abbey works remotely and her boss has made sure she understand the tone of her messages. (Supplied)

Even linguistics experts have found Gen-Z's default to a largely punctuation-free style of communication has changed the way the full stop is perceived. As a deliberate act, rather than a natural end to a sentence.

"If you send a text message without a full stop, it's already obvious that you've concluded the message," Leiden University's Dr Lauren Fonteyn said.

"So if you add that additional marker for completion, they will read something into it and it tends to be a falling intonation or negative tone."

Now Gen-Z make up more than a third of the global workforce so I think there should be a middle ground.

To the bosses out there, if someone has been brave enough to give you the feedback that your communication is “short” or “blunt”, or you’re just trying to think about how to adapt your style to younger employees, maybe try to soften your communication.

Ditch that 20-word email subject line.

Nowadays communication is quick, instantaneous and easy. It only takes two seconds to add a thank you or a simple “😊” in your comms.