In my line of work I read a lot of articles geared towards a business types and if there’s one topic business types love almost above all other things it’s millennials. Most business types don’t understand millennials. They think they’re entitled, whiny, unmanageable and illiterate in all things that can’t be boiled down into 140 characters or that don’t start with a #.
Unfortunately, older business types have a nasty habit of keeling over or retiring. That has left middle aged business types in the unenviable position of, if they want their business to continue, having to hire millennials. Ick. As a result, the internet is packed to the gills with articles instructing business types on the proper way to interact with millennials, much in the same way that pet stores are packed with books teaching you how to interact with your new puppy.
I personally don’t think millennials are all that bad. I guess I may be a little biased. They’re my people. Sure we’ve got our faults, but so does every generation. At least we don’t go around calling ourselves the greatest of anything and god never tried to wipe us out with a giant flood, like certain other generations.
But business types’ reservations in regards to millennials aren’t totally groundless. There’s one very specific area where millennials are a complete and utter nightmare and I have no idea what can be done about it. If things don’t reverse course soon, however, there’s a very good chance that business as we know it will never be the same again.
What the fuck are we doing with handshakes, you guys? If you go in for a handshake with a gray-haired man who spent his glory days shooting at Nazis, you know exactly what you’re going to get. A good firm grasp, a couple of enthusiastic pumps and a shitload of eye contact. If he likes the cut of your jib, you may even get a hearty smile.
Go in for a handshake with anyone under say 30 and literally anything can happen. You might get the traditional, firm grasp, enthusiastic pumps. Or you might get one of those weird things where one minute you’re going in for a handshake and the next thing you know you’re locked in a half hug and the other person has his hand wrapped tightly around your knuckles because you missed the social cue of “I’m a cool guy, so get ready for a flashy cool guy handshake” and thusly had your hand in the wrong spot at the wrong time.
I was at a peer’s wedding this past weekend and found myself in two such situations. I went in for a traditional and the party on the other side went right into “cool guy mode.” The end result: painfully squeezed knuckles and lots of embarrassment.
My friends. My people. We need to get this sorted out.
Now, I get it. The very definition of what it means to be a business type is changing. Back in the day you needed broad shoulders, a well-groomed moustache and the ability to drink your weight in whiskey each day. Now, you can be a business type and wear jeans to work, call your underlings “Bro” and “She-bro” and poke all of them on Facebook.
Still, though. No one should be closing key business deals with the cool guy shake or any other kind of new-fangled kind. “Well, Johnson, you old son of a bitch, I think you got yourself a deal!” “Atta boy Jones, now let us pound fists to make it official!” “Don’t forget the fake explosion sound!” “You know it!”
Also, not everyone is destined to be a business type. But this age of anything goes with handshakes is just confusing. I shouldn’t be in mortal terror every time I’m introduced to someone new. It’s hard enough to remember the person’s name to begin with, and that’s without the social pressure of trying to size up a person’s handshake in the first one-tenth of a second of knowing them.
Hmm … chin strap beard, tribal tats, gotta be cool guy … Shit! Fist bump! Then suddenly I’m the weirdo because I’m holding on to his fist for no seemingly apparent reason.
I just want handshakes to be simple again. A return to the good old days when business, social, it was all just one handshake. Girls were girls. Men were men. And traditional handshakes were the sturdy, reliable rock that our society was built upon.