The Origin of STFU: Diplomacy and Gen-Y

STFU.My dad is a Gen-X’er. The embodiment of quiet rebellion, the dude is undeniably cool.

One thing he never put up with was diplomacy – in fact, it’s a pretty solid generational trait that Gen-X’ers hate talking out the sides of their mouth as much as hearing someone else do it. They’re much better, in fact, at screaming their point of view in what they leave OUT of conversations. They tell someone off by what they don’t say – consider it a sort of silent F-U.

It’s something that wasn’t lost on their Gen-Y children/younger siblings.

When I encounter someone who is more diplomatic than honest, I run the other way. Call it game-playing, smarmy, fork-tongued, or just plain old dodgy – these people drive me nuts. “Diplomatic” Gen-Y’ers earn my immediate scorn — because unlike their Baby Boomer predecessors, most Gen-Y’ers are just plain bad at playing social-political games.

Baby Boomers have finesse rather than smarm. Baby Boomers choke down a bad pie from Great Aunt Sue and never tell her how bad it is. They’ve got the art of the white lie mastered; my Grandma and Grandpa – also undeniably cool – treat unadulterated honesty as something vaguely naughty. You’d be hard-pressed to get either of ’em to lie, but they’re the “if you can’t say anything nice…” kind of people.

Gen-Y – a generation born with immediate and unmatched free-flowing information sources ranging from Wikipedia to Facebook – is simply not good at hiding or misrepresenting information. That freedom of information has given us exceedingly sharp BS filters, and where some Baby Boomers are appalled at what we share online, most Gen-Y’ers just can’t go without sharing any more than a cell phone can go without service.

There’s a reason. We picked up that, if you can scream something without saying anything, the most disrespectful thing you can do is to not say anything. By saying nothing, we deprive you of the most basic thing we’ve come to hold dear: information.

A complete 180 from our Baby Boomer managers, who say nothing to avoid showing disrespect; Gen-Y stays silent to show disrespect.

So, two things. One – if you’re a Gen-Y’er, and you’re BSing, know that you’re horribly, horribly bad at it. You should stop now. Two – if you’ve employed a Gen-Y’er, don’t expect them to be the cream of the crop when it comes to diplomatically breaking bad news. If your policy, your project management, your leadership, your marketing, your whatever – sucks, they’re going to tell you. Loudly.

Understand that sharing (and sometimes, dissenting) is the highest form of respect Gen-Y’ers can give anyone; if we don’t respect you, we say nothing at all.