In a post last week I referenced an article about the positive impact millennials can have in the workplace.  The article’s author, Andrew McAfee, ended his post by saying he would write a follow-up about mistakes millennials can make in the workplace.  True to his word, here it is.

In the post he focuses on two points:

  1. Filter what you share.    In his words, “narrating your every opinion, emotion, lunch, happy hour, hangover, etc. on your company’s emergent social software platforms is just narcissistic clutter.”
  2. Don’t “act as if all employees are equals, and equally interested in airing the truth.”

The first point comes down to self-discipline.  In a culture where privacy is getting increasingly difficult to protect a person is well advised to be careful what they make public.  Research indicates millennials are comfortable with a blurring of the line between their work and private life.  That is not necessarily a bad thing.  However, developing a filter for what you share on your office social networking site will help your credibility, increase traffic to your site, and maybe save your job.  Here is some advice about having multiple accounts for common social networking tools.

The author’s second point deals with some of the finer points of work culture.  From a learning point of view I disagree with his assertion that it is “a really bad idea” for millennials to “voice their thoughts on topics both related and unrelated to their job descriptions.”  Organizations with effective mentoring programs can use social networking to assimilate employees into the culture and educate them in the process.  Time spent contributing online should be monitored.  This too has value.  It can build accountability between a supervisor and the employee and also reveal opportunities.

Mr. McAfee refers to Gen Y as “digital natives.”  One characteristic of digital natives is that they are “indifferent to pre-existing hierarchies and credentials, and sometimes even hostile to them.”  This is a good observation.  Any young person has to learn the right times to contribute and the right times to listen.  This can be particularly challenging in an organization that has a vibrant online culture.  My experience has been the two ears/one mouth approach.

When it comes to online contributions, striking the right balance between making a meaningful contribution and interfering is difficult.  This goes back to developing an effective filter.  The best way to do this is through thoughtful experimentation.  Careful observation will let you know whether a contribution is acceptable and appreciated.  Another tip I would offer is to develop a thick skin.  I comment on things that I think will shed light on a subject that might otherwise go unnoticed or topics on which I can offer a unique perspective.  However, I realize no one may care what I write.  I accept that and don’t feel like I am owed anything.  I appreciate it when my site traffic goes up but don’t worry if it doesn’t.  My posts are for anyone who may get value from reading it.   I think this makes me a normal Gen X’er.  Phew!

After three posts on millennials in two weeks I promise to take a break.