Sunday, June 29, 2008

Psssttt....Can GenYers Keep a Secret?

Generation Y (sometimes called the Millenial Generation) is often touted as being technologically savvy, great at coming up with new ways to work and influencing the workplace as never before. They’re also said to be a bit whiny and have a sense of entitlement.

Well, it also seems they can’t keep a secret.

Now, before everyone starts hitting the “comment” button to send me nasty messages, I just want to outline a conversation I had with Marian Salzman, who is touted as being one of the world’s leading futurists/trendspotters, and chief marketing officer for Porter Novelli.She noted that with the “total transparency” this generation practices, it can be a bit tricky getting them to keep their mouths shut – and their fingers away from typing or texting everything and anything they know or think.

So, maybe you're thinking this isn’t such a big deal. Maybe you think it doesn't matter what they put on MySpace or Facebook or even LinkedIn. But Salzman thinks it's a problem.

“We’re going to have to teach this generation the rules of confidentiality,” Salzman says. “We’re going to have to teach them to keep secrets and to learn the value of privacy."

This is an interesting point, I think. This generation has grown up with 24/7 news and they are accustomed to finding out anything they want with a few keystrokes. They’ve been privy to many "private" issues, from celebrity sex tapes to embarrassing conversations in the White House. They’re very comfortable sharing any and all information online.

Would it necessarily be bad if they made the workplace more open? Or, could their lack of discretion and judgment cause them to share information that could damage a company in the short or long term?

Maybe only time will tell. For right now, companies seem torn. At a time when they fire employees for blogging about the job, they also are entering -- or at least exploring -- the blogosphere.

Do you think it's a fair assessment that GenYers can't keep their mouths shut? And, does it really matter?


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Anonymous said...

Interesting point and perspective, Anita. I guess in a business setting, there really shouldn't be too many secrets, per se. We have had some issues with this one, expecially when someone happen to see some salary data. ouch!

Anita said...

Dear GL,
Salaries continue to be a touchy point, as evidenced when I wrote about it earlier on this blog. Some GenYers wrote that they still did not like talking about what earn, which may show they do know how to keep some things private -- especially if it directly concerns them.
Thanks for posting.

Ian said...

I don't think we have as big of an issue ask we might think.

Gen Y are also a generation that signs SLAs(service level agreement, we have to sign it in every job we take, since almost ever starting job are contract now.

We also tend switch more jobs/careers then the previous Gen, we are FORCED to know what can & can't be shared due to the SLA.

The big info and other critical leaks will less likely leak by Gen Y, since we signed for it. Although we might blog about the conditions or situations. (No, We won't throw out names or details) This might make it seem like that we are more likely to expose critical info, since we are more exposed.

Although it might be a good idea to remind us of the value of privacy so that we know what are the boundaries.

Besides, ever since 'google' became a verb, the idea of 'information is power' is not as applicable as in the 80s & 90s. (example: Job board posts salary info on various types of role already, so candidate or internal employees would know the amount if they try hard enough to figure it out)

Anita said...

Weird...but my response to your comment didn't get posted, so I'm going to try this again!

I think you make a valid point about GenYers being exposed to SLAs, but there are still plenty of those who are not. I think it's a matter of careful training. Companies cannot assume that an employee will behave a certain way. So, whether the employee is 24 or 44, employers need to be very clear on the importance of confidentiality, and outline clearly what that means.
Thanks for posting.

Anonymous said...

I work in an office with several young people, and I would have to say they have a terrible time not talking about things they shouldn't. They talk about client's business when other customers are around, but the boss doesn't seem to care. All he sees is that they can work a computer. I think it will cause terrible problems, especially when clients realize they don't care who hears.But I also think this is a problem that started in the home. Too many parents shared everything with their kids, and now the kids don't know how to be discreet.

Anita said...

I think I should go back to my point about training.
It's going to be critical in the coming years that employers do a better job of communicating to all employees that because of the increasing global competition, it's important that everyone work on being more careful about divulging client information. We can all compete on a level playing field such as technology, but it's innovation, creativity and new ideas that will make the difference. If an employee blabs about that, the game may be over.

Patricia said...

I think with the use of camera phones employers are worried they might be posted on the Internet as the next horrible boss. Employees don't seem to care that they might get caught, because the instant fame they will get by posting will make them feel a temporary celebrity status, at least for a day and for some it is worth it. Some of the reality television programs encourage this type of behaviour. It seems everything goes. Who cares that the information is wrong or taken out of context. Once the damage is done it is hard to get the real truth.

Anita said...

Excellent point about the cellphones...I know some companies forbid them because they are worried confidential company information can be photographed and given to competitors. I never stopped to think about the YouTube craze and exposing boss behavior.
Thanks for posting.