Gen Y: TMI

The lines between personal and professional life continue to blur in the world of social media.

A new study by Millennial Branding, a consulting firm based in Boston, finds that Gen-Y workers (people aged 18 to 29) “are inadvertently sharing too much with co-workers,” according to founder Dan Schawbel. Based on data mined from 4 million Gen-Y Facebook profiles, the study reveals that while these young workers primarily socialize with friends and family online, they also average 16 co-workers in their group of “friends.”

Yet, when identifying themselves in their profiles, 80 percent of Gen-Y workers list a school while only 36 percent list a job. This, according to the study’s authors, indicates that the nature of their updates is not primarily intended for professional contacts, but that’s who sees them — profanity, lewd photos and all.

This may or may not be the big faux pas that the consulting firm makes it out to be. Most of the Gen-Y workers in the study toil away as servers in Starbucks, cashiers at Wal Mart and other such jobs, and they don’t stay very long (the average tenure is just over two years). It’s not like the VP of research is sharing trade secrets with all her Facebook friends. But once again it raises the question: Do you know what employees of  your company are “inadvertently” saying about their workplace, their co-workers or their boss? And does anyone at your company care?

Social media have entirely changed the nature of public relations and branding, and they have elevated the importance of employees as brand ambassadors. What used to be a limited event of bitching about one’s job at a backyard barbecue now has the potential to go global in a matter of minutes.

If your company doesn’t take seriously the potential for disgruntled employees — whether Gen Y, Gen X or Boomer — to damage your brand, it should start doing so. Right now.


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