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Millennials Need A Helping Hand Learning to Handshake

What does a Millennial handshake feel like? As Donald Trump might say: Weak!

The Millennial generation is lacking in the grip-and-grin department. A new study finds handshake grip strength is a lot weaker today than it was in 1985, when Frankie said relax.

And apparently, the Millennials are a bit too relaxed in their business handshaking style! Researchers at North Carolina's Winston-Salem State University had more than 200 study participants exert maximum force on something called a "hand dynamometer," which is a pound-based measure of grip force.

The researchers found that modern young men's hand strength has decreased 20 pounds since the mid 1980s. Young women's hand strength, meanwhile, is 10 pounds less than it was when Gen X women were young.

What's going on here? Why is hand strength down over the last 30 years? The researchers point to heavy technology use as one culprit. All the keyboarding and thumb typing isn't helping our hand strength. But the shift away from manual labor -- e.g., working with our hands, and in the process building hand strength -- has also kicked our hands into low gear.

As a workplace blogger, I can't help but wonder what it might mean for the average workplace handshake. We Gen Xers learned that it's very important to put some strength into it. We were told to grip somebody's hand until you can't grip any more. Grip it like it's going out of style! A strong handshake signals that you're a confident, highly-engaged individual. Simply put, a strong handshake screams: "I'm powerful."


What does it mean, however, when work-related handshakes are noticeably disproportionate in strength? Are job offers being lost? Are Millennial bosses wondering why their Gen X grip-happy employee keeps trying to break their hands? And when the 45-year-old Gen X middle manager shakes hands with a 27-year-old Millennial, do they think "Wow, what a limp fish handshake. Think I'll pass. By the way, whatever happened to that band, Men Without Hats? Loved that song back in 1985. Everybody look at your hands, heh."

There are more Millennials in the workplace than any other generation now, which means they might forever change the traditional business handshake. Less grip, more grin.

If you're an older (meaning, you actually remember 1985) job applicant being interviewed by a 20-something hiring manager, then you might want to dial down the handshake strength to give yourself a leg up over the competition.

The study appears in the Journal of Hand Therapy.

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