Penelope Trunk is an outspoken supporter of everything Generation Y has to offer. Most of the time, I agree with her. I do believe the workplace is changing to make the most out of the skills and behaviors of younger people — it’s “adapt or die.” But not all sectors of the working world are changing in tandem.
For that reason, some of Trunk’s ten new workplace etiquette tips miss the mark for most traditional workers in the United States. They may apply better to smaller companies that are involved with the types of services that rely on receiving attention from Generation Y, but the Old Guard is much slower to embrace this workplace attitude. Here’s why most of her latest tips won’t work for me in my day-job role.
1. Forget the exit interview. An exit interview won’t help you, and it’ll probably create bad will. If you have people to thank when you leave a job, do it at lunch. If you have ideas for how to improve the company, offer to consult. Of course the company will decline, because they don’t care. Otherwise you wouldn’t be quitting, right?
For an article about etiquette, skipping out on the exit interview would create bad will. The company wants the exit interview, not necessarily so they can “learn” from the leaving employee, but to make sure there aren’t any significant issues that would require human resources involvement. Exit interviews are not for employees to explain how to run the company better, they’re for the company to cover itself. Skipping out sends a bad signal and can create more bad will than badmouthing an employee during that interview.
2. Don’t ask for time off, just take it. When you need to leave work for a few hours or a few days, you don’t need to ask for permission — you’re an adult, after all. Make sure your work is in good order and send an email to the relevant people letting them know you’ll be gone.
I can agree you shouldn’t feel the need to ask for permission, but in my company, it is policy that vacation days have to be approved by your manager. That doesn’t mean you have to ask, beg, and plead; you can simply tell your manager than you need to take the hours or days for whatever reason.
This isn’t the worst piece of advice, but it depends on corporate culture and policy.
3. Keep your headphones on at work. If you use social media tools, you’re probably good at connecting with people and navigating office politics — good enough that spending all day at work with headphones on won’t hinder you.
There’s nothing more that signals unavailability than wearing your headphones at work. I think it’s great to listen to music while working, and it’s even courteous to make sure no one else can hear your music, but not every workplace gets things done with “social media tools.” Face-to-face communication, the telephone, and email are the social media tools used by my company, and only one of those tools allows for the opportunity of wearing headphones.
I think that instant messaging can be added for some people in my department, but most would see it as a distraction. They haven’t learned how to use tools effectively.
4. Say no to video resumes. Any human resources person in their right mind would hate video rÃƒÂ©sumÃƒÂ©s. If there’s a stack of 100 paper rÃƒÂ©sumÃƒÂ©s, the hiring manager will spend 10 seconds on each to decide which ones belong in the garbage. So how annoying is it that it takes 10 seconds just to launch a video rÃƒÂ©sumÃƒÂ©?
I agree that video resumes would be inappropriate in almost every situation.
5. Invite your CEO to be a friend on Facebook. That’s right, Facebook is for everyone now. And although the youngest members of the workforce are a little worried that having the adults there will ruin things, adults are psyched to be there. No one wants to miss out on all the fun.
If you’re the CEO of a multi-million dollar corporation with tens of thousands of employees and businesses all around the world to oversee, you likely don’t even read your own email, even if it appears you do. You also don’t drive your own car, mop your own floor, or dial your own phone in the office. You better have a Wikipedia entry, but if you have a Facebook page, which you probably shouldn’t, you didn’t set it up.
If you’re a CEO of an internet media company, you better have a Facebook page. Being CEO requires control of your image, and Stan O’Neal doesn’t need Facebook.
I’m just using Stan O’Neal as an example. I’m almost 100% sure that a Facebook invitation from a low level manager to the CEO will be completely ignored or trapped in the company’s spam filter. A division head would be far too busy to play around on the internet and invite the CEO to be his “friend.”
6. Do reconnaissance on your probable boss. Seligson recommends you find out all the dirt you can about your future employer, because the best gauge of how a company will treat you is how it treated other employees. So asking people directly is fine.
This is common sense and I wouldn’t consider it a new rule of etiquette. It’s proper due diligence before accepting a job offer.
7. Don’t try to improve a coworker. If you work with a jerk, just avoid him. We already know from dozens of studies that thinking you can change someone doesn’t really work.
I agree. I think this is what most people do, anyway. Obvisouly in a small office, avoiding is more difficult than if you are on a 30-person team.
8. Don’t blog under a pseudonym. It’s enticing to hide your name when you blog, because you don’t want to get fired, or harassed, or held accountable at work for the opinions you have at home. But the truth is that the majority of adults who blog are doing it for business reasons.
I’ll try not to personally take offense to this idea, but I obviously don’t agree. If your blog is something that will help your career and you’re willing to take responsibility for everything you write, then blog with your real name and help to build your own brand. If your blog is unrelated to your chosen line of work or if you for some reason want to include personal information, like income or sexual exploits, please use a pseudonym.
9. Call people on the weekend for work. With the Blackberry going where work has never gone before, it’s no surprise that the lines between work and not-work are blurring. The people who grew up being super-connected don’t differentiate between the workweek and the weekend, so they don’t mind working over the weekend on bits and pieces leftover from the week.
The problem with this is not everyone you work with has grown up being “super-connected.” This is a new phenomenon. Work with all Generation Y employees? Maybe they won’t mind. I’m certainly not calling my boss over the weekend unless it’s an emergency. My boss won’t be calling me, either. They absolutely differentiate between the workweek and the weekend. Maybe that is a result of working for a corporate support rather than a money-making portion of the business.
10. Be nice like your job depends on it. In fact, your job does depend on you being nice. The old days of office politics as a means of backstabbing are dead — young people are bringing their team-player, I’m-competing-against-my-best-self mentality from their self-esteem-centric homes into the workplace, and there’s nothing you can do except be nice back.
Being nice is absolutely a necessity. It doesn’t mean you should say “yes” to every request and let other people take advantage of you. At some level, there may not be enough time for pleasantries, so it depends on the culture of your immediate peer group.
Published or updated July 26, 2007.