There’s a new workplace etiquette for the new millennium, and, no surprise, it’s all about transparency and authenticity.

The new etiquette is driven by the fact that young people who grew up online don’t know how to operate any other way except transparently. The good news is this means they have great social skills; the bad news is they have no idea that they’re breaking all the old rules.

Here a list tips to help people who aren’t used to living an authentic, transparent work life flourish under the new rules.

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?

Stop focusing on the exit interview and focus on how to quit like a pro. When you get a new job, your old boss is part of your new network. It’s up to you to make sure that parting ways goes as smoothly as possible so that you can shepherd this person into your network of supporters.

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.

This will seem discourteous to older people, who expect you to ask rather than tell. So be sure to give a reason why you’re cutting out. People like to know they matter and where they stand.

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.

If you don’t know what what social media tools are, then you’re probably not innately good at making connections and need to take those headphones off before you’re crushed by office politics.

4. Say no to video résumés.

This is one of the dumbest recruiting trends ever.

Any human resources person in their right mind would hate video résumés. If there’s a stack of 100 paper résumés, 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 résumé?

And it’s not just that they’re totally inefficient. Video résumés open up HR departments to a whole new level of discrimination accusations. There’s a reason why newscasters are all good-looking — it’s because we favor the good-looking on-screen. So if you don’t get hit on every time you step into a bar, forget about the video résumé. You probably look better on paper.

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.

So there’s a good chance that your CEO is registered, and it’s likely that she’ll really want to hear from you about what to do on Facebook, since she surely has no clue.

6. Do reconnaissance on your probable boss.

This tip comes from 20-something Hannah Seligson, whose book, “New Girl on the Job: Advice from the Trenches,” gives great tips on getting through the first years of work — most of which comes down to etiquette.

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.

Remember that it’s often the boss who makes the biggest difference in the workplace, so try using LinkedIn to search for someone who had the job you’re interviewing for. Former employees will always give you the most candid comments.

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.

Companies know that getting rid of difficult employees isn’t worth the cost and headache, too. So if the jerk isn’t moving and the company isn’t moving, you need to get moving with your job hunt.

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.

Writing a blog that people can actually find among 77 million blogs is very time-consuming. It’s a big commitment to write about what you know on a single topic, but blogging will help your career a lot. So why bother doing it if you’re not going to take credit for it where it matters most — with potential employers who haven’t met you?

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.

Of course, this also means that people are going home early all week long at random intervals. The result is that the weekend is fair game for phone calls.

If your coworkers don’t like being called on the weekend, they can tell you. But remind them that a flexible work schedule lets you put relationships first all the time, and a work schedule that cordons off five days a week for work and two days a week for a personal life means that the personal life takes a backseat every week of the year.

The best way to get a life is to stop being so rigid about the distinction between time for work and time for life.

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.

Anyway, the truth is that the most likable people get promoted, so this is an instance where following the unwritten rules really can save your career.

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  1. Caitlin
    Caitlin says:

    I have only had an exit interview once but I thought it was worthwhile. I had said everything I needed to say to my boss but the exit interview was done by the HR department and it’s anonymous. A few of us left around the same time and we gave similar feedback so I have no doubt it helped our friends who were still there.

  2. Erin Hallstrom-Erickson
    Erin Hallstrom-Erickson says:

    How do you dodge (or handle) the exit interview if they’re mandatory within your company? Follow rule No. 10 I’d imagine (be nice). Any other tips? Should you try to decline an exit interview if typically mandatory?

  3. Gerhi Janse van Vuuren
    Gerhi Janse van Vuuren says:

    Dear Penelope,
    I have been reading your blog now for a couple of months. Though I do not agree with you on a lot of points I have always found your posts thought provoking and stimulating.
    Today, for the first time, I clicked through to Yahoo finance and read the full post and some of the comments left there.
    I must say, I am amazed. I cannot believe the scathing remarks you receive on your posts. Is it that people do not, or are unwilling, to understand where you are coming from. Do they expect you to spoonfeed them with point by point legalistic instructions with exclusionary clauses and disclaimers.
    The main comment seem to be: “You don’t work where I work, you don’t know my boss or my workplace where it is do as your told or you’re fired so teach me something to cope with that or shut up.”
    As I read these comments I want to ask a couple of questions of these critics: Are you so desperate for a job that you are willing to be treated as a slave – a non-person? Are your workplace environment of such a nature that you can have no voice or opinion?
    Privately I think that if this is the case people either do not have a spine or they are masochists. If they had any sense, and could unplug from their workplace for torture chamber for a second, they would realize that their jobs are killing them and do something about it.
    Thank you for writing your blog. Thank you for you for continuing to write despite the negative criticism.
    I might still not agree with everything you say but you make me think. I really appreciate that.

    Gerhi Janse van Vuuren

  4. Alex Ion
    Alex Ion says:

    Now that comment could have translated in a neat new article on Penelope’s blog. Guest blog entry.

    Would get lots of comments I think.

    Well said Gerhi. Very well said. People don’t like it when something is the other way, from what they’ve been taught. Take the ex-communists countries. Do you think someone over there will take Penelopes tips? They will comment like those guys you mentioned and that would be all. Nothing.

    Anyway, once again, well said Gerhi!

  5. Andrey
    Andrey says:

    Hi Penelope,
    majority of the points seem to be too controversial today.

    For instance, I believe that video-resumes is a nice idea. Having being perfectly developed in, say 5-10 years, it will be applied by recruiters as the ‘first-line defence’.

    There are many professions like entertainers, actors, journalists, sales managers, models etc. which must be able to self-promote or ‘sell’ themselves best-possible way. Thus, if they fail the ‘face-control’ video-resume, no doubt they are not impressive in real life too.

    Another proof of predicting a flourishing future for video-resuming and interviewing is that we all tend to get the full picture first, and afterwards – the details. That is we all send resumes with the best pics.

    I can almost see an HR Manager, sitting in his arm-chair, drinking coffee, and looking at a wall-size electronic monitor, where hundreds of candidates self-present. Isn’t it convenient? Of course, every such resume will be accompanied with short image and text notices about the content, highlighting the main idea and the strongest sides.

    Anyway, you’ve briskly touched many interested points, thanks

  6. Matt Bingham
    Matt Bingham says:

    Hey Penelope,

    I had to leave a comment on Yahoo because of my annoyance with all the harsh remarks. This article is how companies like Google are operating and there is a reason why they operate that way. Happy employees means happy returns. Hell, Google employees play beach volleyball and pool during the day. It is proven that good ideas come at times when you are not looking for them. Get away from the desk, shoot some pool, talk a bit and TADA…Ideas!


  7. Frank Roche
    Frank Roche says:

    Wow, I’m amazed at all the angry little anonymous people on Yahoo. Seriously, I think they need to use the whole names, real names, because that “anonymous attack mentality” is just nuts.

    That aside, you make great points. Companies ostensibly employ adults, and adults shouldn’t have to ask permission. Adults know what they need to do and when to do it, and they don’t need to “ask Mommy or Daddy” if they can go across the street. Angry managers on Yahoo can look at it like “I’m the boss.” But, as your book shows, there are no real “bosses” anymore.

    Keep writing what you write. Stir the little angry and anonymous hornets. Some day they’ll be amazed when they’re found no longer relevant at work. Surprise, surprise.

    P.S. Yep, Facebook is where it’s at. I’m amazed at its ascendancy and utility.

  8. Greg
    Greg says:

    Great post (as usual)

    If I may expound on some of them –

    1. Forget the exit interview.
    Make the last 2 weeks your exit interview; work hard through the end of the last day. Leave with kind words and a positive outlook. Note; Even if the interview is anonymous, if your former boss and coworkers get reamed out the day after you leave (and nobody else has quit recently), they will figure it out.

    2. Don’t ask for time off, just take it.
    But always, always know who to keep in the loop.

    6. Do reconnaissance on your probable boss.
    If contact can be made and some type of relationship established before applying for a job, there is a much greater likelihood of getting hired.

    7. Don’t try to improve a coworker.
    Apply this to all relationships, professional and personal.

    9. Call people on the weekend for work.
    While the lines are blurred, understand some times are sacred. Unless lives hang in the balance, do not expect me to answer my cell phone in the rest room, church, intimate dinner with wife, or designated “kids” time. In fact, i refer to dates with my wife and children as “appointments” and treat them as such

    10. Be nice like your job depends on it.
    And be nice like your life depends on it. Again, great rule for life, personal and professional.

  9. Marcia
    Marcia says:

    Wow. Read the article/comments on Yahoo. I think it’s pretty obvious that’s not your target audience. Still, we all don’t work at Google or Best Buy. Considering the vast number of companies that have more, umm, traditional cultures, you must realize most workers don’t/can’t enjoy these liberties (yet). I do think it’s changing, tho.

  10. Yvette
    Yvette says:

    I was surprised by the negative comments on the Yahoo Finance page. I found them interesting to read, but I much prefer PT’s own web-page. Seems calmer. I do see a generation / culture gap and see both sides, for various reasons. (I’m 40 but work in high-tech.) Over my career (so far) I had four exit interviews, and they were all useless, to me and to my colleagues still there. Really I think they’re a thing of the past. (Personally, I think HR departments in general are passe.) Which isn’t to say “don’t go” but instead “don’t expect anything to change” if you do go to one. For time off, my boss complained that I just tell him when I’m going to be out instead of asking, but if I ask he says “yes, of course.” Go figure. I’ve seen the networking, technology issues, and flexible hours stuff debated a lot, and people seem to think they know what’s right because they know what works where they are, now. Whatever. My hope is to respect the person I’m connecting to. If my boss thinks a phone call into the office on my day off is weird, I don’t call him. I call my friend, who can tell me if anything happened that I need to know about it. Be selective about your behavior, and if you’re really good act appropriately to your audience of the moment. I’m certain there’s a variety of cultural views out there about what’s right / wrong in the workplace. But, know your boss’ view, to fit in, and also know society is large and complex, and there are trends of change. One might be more of a leader and less a follower, if they know a variety of behaviors. (Duh.) Lastly, I loved the “be nice” comments and how to handle a jerk (don’t). These are basics for me, on how to handle my feelings at work, lessons I never got in MBA school, or from various mentors, but I did read in Dale Carnegie (old classic) and I think some things never change (like human nature). In a large organization one’s going to find a fair number of jerks, or people that seem like jerks until you know them better. Best to keep your cool, and seek first to understand and then be understood. Don’t waste your time, though, by getting to know their life story and find out they’re still jerks. Overall, I’ve enjoyed reading this author’s blog, a great deal, find it very helpful, and recommended it to a few close friends. Some people “get it” and some people don’t. In my little corner of the world, my boss got so tired of everyone asking him about this or that day off (it is summer) that he had our department secretary put a calendar on a clip-board at the front desk. First come, first serve. Put your requested time off on the calendar, be responsible, and if you take time off when I need you here, then you’ll hear about it. (Talk about ducking?) In some ways it’s a harder world now, as more freedom means more responsibility. (Don’t I wish I could just “do what I’m told.” IMHO, those days are gone, my friend. If they exist, they won’t be there long, as the world becomes more and more challenging.) Of course, we’ve all heard that before (say the old-timers) and anyway, just you wait until the world changes again … to see what it’s like to think “ah the way it used to be….” Change isn’t easy, which is why I like blogs like PT’s. Anyway, I think the items listed might deserve more in-depth explanation, because the audience is so diverse, at least on the main Yahoo page. Ciao.

  11. David Cox
    David Cox says:

    Great article!

    I think that a lot of the points depend on the industry you are in. Video resumes are great for marketing/ad positions but might not be the best idea for all jobs as you said. I plan on initiating many of these practices when I open a business. Great open ended article!


    PS: Forget all those negative comments on yahoo finance, most are just angry individuals in general.

  12. Mary
    Mary says:

    Perhaps the negative comments come from employees who are mediocre in their work and couldn’t dream of doing a few items on the list because they never would get away with them. Those types of actions are things that an employer might target and use as an excuse for termination, if they want to get rid of you.

    If you are great at your job, get things done quickly and always with superb quality, are pleasant to work with, and help people excel at their jobs, it is amazing the freedom you can have. (I know from experience, not meaning to brag.) It’s because the company WANTS to keep you and keep you happy.

    It simply boils down to the more exceptional you are at work, the better leverage you have. Also my experience has been the more mediocre the company you work for, the less chance you have to be exceptional–because everyone wants to drag you down to their level. Which means you should find the exit ASAP, or else you will turn into the Zombies that post poorly-written diatribes on Yahoo.

  13. Adam
    Adam says:

    Wow, Today was the first time I went over to Yahoo and actually read the comments below the article. I’m speachless – so incredibly negative. I only read via this site and I’m almost always engaged in the article as it appears most people are. At times, I get frustrated with Ryan’s articles (both quality and content) but I’ve learned to take them with a grain of salt and have tried to put myself in his shoes.

    Imagine if Ryan posted over there on Yahoo – that would might send some people into a seething cardiac arrest.

  14. Marcia
    Marcia says:

    I just had to respond to Mary’s post. I totally agree that if you are an exceptional employee, you have many more freedoms. Absolutely! However, don’t get caught in the trap of describing the people who don’t agree with you (I mean Penelope) as “jealous” or “mediocre”. That’s just a way of dismissing their opinion as somehow invalid, when it’s probably not….altho there are some sick puppies out there who are pretty harsh. It may be that some of the naysayers ARE successful, which is exactly why they are complaining….this wasn’t the advice THEY followed to get where they are. But remember, they started out at a different time….

  15. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    Thank you for the comments today. I think a lot about why the commenters on Yahoo are so angry. It’s nice to hear your idas on this issue as well.

    I think you guys make a lot of good points. It comes down to personal responsiblity. I think those of us who are part of the community on this blog take responsibility for creating a life we want. And our comments reflect that.

    We feel responsible for changing what we don’t like in our own lives, so every bit of help in this area is welcome.

    For people who are scared to accept responsiblity for their own lives, advice on how to do that creates anger.

    The Yahoo commenters remind me how lucky I am to have found such a large group of people here, on this blog, who think like me. It’s very hard to take charge of one’s own life and make it consistent with our values and our dreams. It’s much easier to do it together.


  16. David
    David says:


    You are obviously in a media related field and so your comments make perfect sense.

    I would suggest to you, that spending any time at all on FaceBook or related web-sites and blogs including yours during working hours is not exactly what many companies are seeking outside the media world.

    Best of luck with your success.

  17. Terry
    Terry says:


    You are purposely asking for controversy with this over the top list.

    I agree with "Don’t try to improve a coworker." Many coworkers are incredibly ignorant about things like soft skills or have blind spots that they are completely clueless about. So they keep acting like idiots until a disaster happens. I've seen some even die of heart attacks.

    If someone called me on the weekend for work I would make sure it never, ever, happened again.

    You seem to getting blasted on Yahoo lately. Good Luck.

  18. MM
    MM says:

    Along with others, I too have read the “interesting” comments on yahoo. Yikes! I guess I can see why so many people still hate their job. You are outlining what makes a successful corporate culture from a worker’s perspective. Smart leaders will recognize that it’s a culture that makes things happen, not their rules.

    BTW – I have done my exit interviews and you should just be generic and uninformative. If your one opportunity to communicate to people at a company is when you are leaving, it will not matter what pearls of wisdom you give them as they don’t care. These are like filling out the form that you have read the employee manual. Don’t burn bridges by refusing to participate, but don’t burn bridges by thinking it will change anything.

    Keep up the good stuff Penelope!

  19. MM
    MM says:

    “I would suggest to you, that spending any time at all on FaceBook or related web-sites and blogs including yours during working hours is not exactly what many companies are seeking outside the media world. ”

    I would agree that my boss would not be happy to think of me spending but one minute on the internet. The reality is I pump out ideas everyday on how to make our product better. It is not because I am a super genius, it is because I try to keep up with the geniuses out there doing interesting and new things. If your idea of new and interesting things is reading library books on your off hours, you are missing out on free creativity! Do some value add people!

  20. Greg
    Greg says:


    Perhaps you could post why you disagree, what has worked best for you, and how you would like to see the workplace change for each point.

  21. wayne
    wayne says:

    It offends me when some 20 something implies that I’m a mediocre or lazy worker, a massochist, or a chump for working somewhere that is as rigid as the fortune 500 company I work for is, when they have no idea what they are talking about. I have a wife and 2 kids to support. I don’t have a spine? I’ll tell you what I don’t have. I don’t have the luxery of parental support to fall back on (who gave you the down payment on your house Gerhi? or do you live with your parents? And what about your car?) when things get tough. I had a home based business for 6 years, and you know what things change and the bills still have to be paid. Yeah, I was “Mr cool don’t take no crap” too when I was single. But once you have people depending on you, the arrogance has to take a backseat or you find yourself another pathetic statistic contributing to our broken society.

  22. Jimmy
    Jimmy says:

    Wow, the comments are gone at Yahoo. I guess she can’t handle a little constructive … Oh well I guess you can retreat to the safety of your little sheep that love what you write.

  23. Albert Einstein
    Albert Einstein says:

    I didn’t get to read the comments in the Finance page b/c they were removed already but I think I can understand their pain…

    Why does the author speak down to the reader? It’s off-putting to be told there is only one way to do things and that if we are not using her terminology (i.e. social media).

    I haven’t done any research but what does Penelope Trunk’s resume look like? I’m guessing this is a case of, “those who can’t do, teach.”

    Prove me wrong, what corporate gigs has she had?

  24. Albert Einstein
    Albert Einstein says:

    I was finishing my incomplete thought about using buzz words and catch phrases like Social Media and before I could correct my post, it was removed from the article.

    Should I be happy that the author agrees with me that she chose her words poorly? Or should I be more put-off that she is not confident in the advice she publishes online. This is an ADVICE column afterall.

    I guess my advice is, “Have some balls”–dont let some online schmuck tell you how to give advice!

  25. Jake Einstein
    Jake Einstein says:

    What the hell is Albert talking about? I think he may be on drugs. I think the writer is a hottie. I might add that she’s very snooty, making her hotter in a smarty-pants sort of way.

  26. daniel reed
    daniel reed says:

    In my opinion, this article paints 20-something young professionals in a bad light. If this is what can be expected from the younger work generation; single minded, no concept of team, little respect for their team and only able to make connections and conversations when there is a computer in the middle of the communication, count me out.

    If people on my team took off early a few times during the week then had to call other team members on the weekend to get work done I would fire them (and PT says they would tell me to go screw myself on the exit interview). What I hear PT is saying is that this is the generation of “me first” kids, and while I am a firm believer in balance, each person can find their own balance and you have to respect other people’s balance. The comment “if your coworkers don’t like being called on the weekend, they can tell you”. NO. You can ask them or let them know you will be working on Sat or Sun and if it is OK to call them if you need to. Are you seriously saying that if people don’t follow the same work rules you should just disrespect them?

    Also, apparently all good CEOs (those that spend their day on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, BLOGGER, etc) are female and those “jerks” at work are male.

    As a small business owner who has 20 somethings on the team I know this not to be the case. I find that people want the basics (what I consider to be basics, which is different for different people), they want respect, a good place to work, a place where they can feel a sense of ownership with respect to what they are doing and a place that they can reach a balance. I do agree that work life has changed, the lines have been blurred. I like it. I feel it means that employees can help shape the “rules” rather than a stodgy HR departments.

  27. David Harper
    David Harper says:

    Penelope, I am starting to wonder if you set out to provoke as part of your branding. Preaching to twentysomething choirs, like Anne Coulter does to her hardliners. In the land where straight dope is not nearly as good (read: branding, marketing) as telling them what the want to hear, especially if it’s over the top and “makes enemies.”

    I mean, your readers love this: “don’t ask for time off, just take it.” I can hear the drums beating. rally the (unemployed) troops. Do you care if this is an irresponsible message, is this what we tell future leaders?

    And really, to wrap all of this hooey under the banner of an authentic, responsible life. Gag me. What is at stake in this quest for the authentic? Life? Liberty? Sacrifice? No…not that…what then….oh, the right to wear an ipod and duck out with consulting my superior…I give up

  28. Brett
    Brett says:

    You’ve emphasized this before, but I the key to really being able to make these etiquette tips the norm at work is find a job that you AND your coworkers actually enjoy. I honestly enjoy the work that I do and would not mind it at all if someone called me on the weekend to discuss work (although it would surprise me a bit).

    I take off when I want because my boss knows that I get things done and trusts that when I take time off I will still get my work done. Its a matter of trust.

    I think we live in a society of distrust and our current, “traditional” workplace etiquette reflects this. For example, although I am able to telecommute (work at home) now, there was considerable pushback from senior management when I first proposed this. There were a numbner of concerns, but most were somehow rooted in distrust. How do we know that you’ll be working!?!? (maybe look at my work product) They finally agreed and it has been great for everyone. I think the level of trust at work has actually increased as a result.

    Your etiquette tips seem more like rules of civility and I am surprised that there have been so many dissenting comments. Most of these tips simply level the playing field at work. I guess the negative comments on Yahoo are indicative of how far we have to go until these etiqutte tips become the norm. They also might remind some of us of how good we have it. Thanks!

  29. holly
    holly says:

    I don’t understand the people saying that exit interviews are mandatory. You’ve quit! What are they going to do, fire you for not showing up?

    However, if they insist, go in with three key messages and keep repeating them. For example: “Thank you so much for giving me the chance to work for your company and team, I look forward to my future challenges and I wish you all the best.”

    It’s all about key messages, be like a politician and stick to key messages answering the questions you want to answer and answering the others with thanks and move on.

    Why are you leaving?
    It’s been such a privilege to work with you and your team and I’m really looking forward to the next part of my career.

    What could we do to improve the workplace?
    It’s been such an honour to work here and I wish your team all the best.

    How did you get along with your boss?
    It was such a privilege to work here with your company and your team and I’m eager to take what I’ve learned from XX into the next phase of my career.

    Make sure you tell your collegues what a pleasure it was to work there and tell your boss (even if you can’t stand him/her) how much you’ve learned (even if that’s short for, ‘I never thought an ass like you would get to the director level.’).

  30. James
    James says:


    I have been reading your blog for quite some time now. I do not consider myself Generation Y or X (I am a 32 year old Executive, and find myself texting constantly like a teenager AND agreeing with some points the old guard make). First, I think most of the harsh comments on Yahoo stem from the fact that you are labeled as a Finance Expert. I consider you more of a life coach, and think Finance is a poor category to put you in. The bulk of people who read Finance columns will probably be conservative in Nature, and by definition are not going to agree with your ideas. I personally happen to agree with a great number of your ideas, thoughts and columns. That being said, I have to take issue with point number two of today’s column, “Don’t ask for time off, just take it.” I disagree with this because I know that if one of my associates did this they would be on one very long, permanent vacation. I have never denied a vacation request, but I find the thought of someone just up and leaving extremely disrespectful to me not only as a manager, but as a person. We also try to foster a team atmosphere in our department, and if people just left whenever they wanted to it would cause undue stress on the people who are expected to pick up the workload in that person’s absence. This could lead to resentment when people are unexpectedly out during key projects. Just my opinion.

  31. Anonymous Tech Professional
    Anonymous Tech Professional says:

    Some of this advice is good (be nice; video resumes suck); some of it so very bad… Call people for work on the weekend?!? No way. Invite the CEO to be your friend on Facebook? Poor decision. I have spent the last 5 years at a hip, hot, well respected tech company that others are dying to get inside and those things would not fly here, much less at a more staid place. As for telling people you’re going to be out (instead of asking)- you’d better be tenured and tight with your boss before you pull this one. I do this now but only after earning the trust of manager and co-workers over time. As a manager, it would really rankle if a young new employee did this – they’d end up low on the dreaded stack-ranking spreadsheet and be more likely to get canned if a reduction-in-force came about.

  32. jd
    jd says:


    Great article. I forwarded this to everyone at work. I invited my CEO to check out my facebook. I’m going to take the rest of the week off to test your theory.

    Wish me luck.


  33. says:

    At our company we “can” people who don’t show up to
    work or don’t schedule time off. Your advice only
    works for young people doing near-useless jobs.

  34. dsgrntlxmply
    dsgrntlxmply says:

    The exit interview has very little to do with the interests of the departing employee, or with the company seeking feedback on how to be a better place to work.

    First, it is the place where the company gives, and makes a formal written record of the fact that it gave, explicit notice of any matters of policy that apply upon and after termination.

    With respect to the employee’s interests, the exit interview forum exploits the employee’s belief that this is a unique opportunity to make a statement. The only thing that a larger company is truly interested to hear, is whether the terminating employee is likely to sue over any matter which led up to the termination.

    Or, if you’re like me, the on-site HR person (this was a plant closure for a Big Name Company) was terminated before I was, and the exit interview is conducted by phone. The off-site HR person was so worn down from doing exit interviews for 150+ other people, that I had to remind her of items that she was not reading from her checklist.

  35. Gerhi Janse van Vuuren
    Gerhi Janse van Vuuren says:

    Dear Wayne,

    I do not think that I implied that anybody was lazy or mediocre but a chump, yes that I do think.
    Wayne, like you I have a wife and two children to support. I do not have parental support to fall back on. My mother in law invested in our current house but we have bought two houses before on our own financial strength. I drive a car that is sixteen years old and yes, incidently it’s my mother’s old car. I’m also pushing forty so I’m hardly a twenty something.
    When things get tough we make changes to our lives. I have moved, changed jobs, changed cities, downscaled from a house to a converted garage and upscaled again back to a house. I have people depending on me but my wife has also been my best supporter in every difficult change we have made. I accept that things can and do change and that my happiness and well-being are in my hands. That is why I cannot see myself, or treat myself, as a statistic in any form.
    There is a difference between cool arrogance and insisting on being treated as a human being. If the company that you are working for is rigid to such an extent that you are treated as cannon fodder on the commercial battleground then you have to think about your position. You were not conscripted, you voluteered. And if you voluntarily stay in a work situation that does not respect you as an individual or a human being then in my opinion, you are a acting like a chump.

    Dear you_are_dumb,

    “At our company we "can" people…” Does that make you proud? If you do not show up one day will you also be “canned” – no matter what your reasons. Will you still be proud of ‘your’ company on that day?


    James explains somewhat why people on Yahoo comes down so hard on your ideas; “First, I think most of the harsh comments on Yahoo stem from the fact that you are labeled as a Finance Expert.”
    What he doesn’t explain is why people who disagree with you don’t give considered reasons why they don’t agree, or stop reading your stuff and move on.

    Gerhi Janse van Vuuren

  36. wayne
    wayne says:

    well said. I am curious how living in a converted garge after living in a house affected your marriage, but that’s a topic for another day. I am canon fodder, sad but true, (I REALLY like that analogy! :-D ), but I am at the top of my earning potential and am having trouble finding another job that will pay enough to support my family. Yes I am here by choice, but once they have finished puting me through school….

    Anyway, I’m not really offended anymore knowing it was said by a grownup. A little constructive criticism never hurt anyone. Coming from someone who has been through ups and downs makes it wisdom, coming from someone who has never been through the low places makes it arrogance.

    Peace be with you

  37. MS
    MS says:

    I’ve noticed a pretty low quality of feedback on Yahoo in general. Because it’s such a well-known forum, it’s an attractive target for “vandalism”, derogatory comments, spam, “firsties”, etc.

  38. Catherine Jones
    Catherine Jones says:

    My CEO is my Facebook friend. He even ‘pokes’ me (and others) during office hours.

  39. tamar
    tamar says:

    re: “Facebook …. the youngest members of the workforce are a little worried that having the ADULTS THERE WILL RUIN THINGS [CAPS mine, for emphasis], adults are psyched to be there. No one wants to miss out on all the fun….”

    Lest any reader misreads your message and senses a negative vibe in the phrase (ADULTS THERE WILL RUIN THINGS, which I changed to all CAPS), I suggest everyone and their elders visit Ronni Bennett’s exceptional blog and read this post: “Facebook = Elder Hatebook.” What Ronni reports is scarey, disgusting, and real. (

  40. J Chiu
    J Chiu says:

    How many of these “tips” work in Fortune 500 companies and does the author have any evidence that these suggestions are effective?

    If you work for a major law firm and tried to incorporate these ideas, would they applaud your efforts or fire you?

    If you work for a major investment firm, same question.

    If you work for any major corporation, what would happen?

    What companies actually embrace these suggestions? Does the author have a list?

    * * * * * * *

    The largest companies are leading in this respect. One of the most lucrative consulting fields right now is helping companies adapt to generation Y — the Fortune 100 is paying big money for this. The Economist just published an article about how the big accounting firms in the US are leading the way in workplace change. Here’s the link:

    Also, here’s a link to a study Deloitte did about how to adjust the workplace for gen y. It’s a great example of how much time and money these big firms have invested in adapting themselves to young workers:


  41. Working Girl
    Working Girl says:

    Hmmm. I wonder if you’re right that younger people are “more transparent” than older people. Maybe they just have less to hide!

    It’s true they have less at stake.

    Anyway, the whole point of etiquette is to make other people happy and comfortable. Some of your suggestions (don’t try to improve co-workers, be “nice”) meet that criterion.

    Others (just take time off, call co-workers on the weekend) maybe do not.

  42. Stacey
    Stacey says:

    ok, who let the yahoos in?

    * * * * * * * *

    Well, interesting question. Most weeks, I delete the comments from Yahoo readers that add nothing to the conversation. But this week I left a lot of comments up. As sort of a little exhibit of the kinds of comments we refer to when we refer to “the comments from Yahoo”.


  43. Jillian
    Jillian says:

    Another excellent article! Sorry for all of the insults you receive – obviously some of your Yahoo readership isn’t intelligent enough to decipher your advice. Now, two questions:

    1. Is it detrimental to use those new, cheesy yet fun Facebook Apps? Should there be a limit if you’re using Facebook for professional reasons (up until recently, I had used it only as a reunion tool)? Perhaps a post on Facebook rules is in order!

    2. Obviously, it’s a bad idea to discuss colleagues, work, etc on a blog – but is there a limit to things such as use of bad language? Is the occasional vulgarity okay in context?

    * * * * * * *
    Good questions. And I think they are related. Don’t waste peoples’ time with stuff that is not interesting. So don’t use Facebook in a way that starts feeling like jokes that people forward to co-workers. And don’t use vulgar language when it is not truly descriptive. For example, he’s an ****. If you put a swear word in there, I actually have very little infromation about the person except that you don’t like him, so it’s not that intersting a setence. Usually non-vulgar langauge is more interesting to use. That said, I use crappy and suck on this blog all the time.


  44. Jillian
    Jillian says:

    Oh, I also want to add – I’ve had three professional jobs since graduating from university, and in all three, at least 5/10 of the items on this list would have applied. As a development director, I could make my hours and wear headphones whenever I wanted (not to mention call my boss at 3 am), and in most non-profit office I’m intimately familiar with, the same applies. I would say the majority of non-profits would qualify for this advice (along with, of course, creative organizations, etc)

  45. Hmmm
    Hmmm says:

    The fact that there is so much negative commentary on Yahoo vs. this blog speaks to the impracticality of some of Ms. Trunk’s advice. The readers on Yahoo (of which there are no doubt many more as compared to this blog) are more likely to be in mainstream business, while those who read this blog are more likely to work for more progressive organizations (if they work for anyone else at all).

    I work for a nonprofit and I am very well regarded, but I would not just “tell” someone I am taking time off. At our place, we must ask. I also wouldn’t presume to call co-workers on weekends, even though we do have a fairly flexible workplace.

    More and more, I fear that Ms. Trunk simply makes up rules and touts them as common wisdom — take her post on an author’s name:

    She actually posited that a difficult name would be detrimental to an author. There is no evidence or research to back this up, and I suspect is the case for much of her advice.

  46. Doug Newberry
    Doug Newberry says:

    If her advice was not so completely stupid it would be funny. I think it’s sad that many people think she knows about which she writes…

    Professional beach volleyball player indeed… lol

  47. Kathryn
    Kathryn says:

    See, there’s a slight difference between negative commentary and irrelevant commentary. Doug’s lovely words up above me are a brilliant example.

    Notice how there’s no specific relation between the topic at hand and his opinion. It’s impossible to discern whether or not he actually understands the points Penelope attempted to communicate because he doesn’t talk about them. Instead he discredits her as being “stupid” and forestalls any disagreement with him by calling her supporters “sad” while simultaneously implying that we are gullible.

    Doug also appears to disagree with the idea that one can be a professional beach volleyball player or at least seems to find the idea humorous. The denigration of Penelope’s employment record is another means of discrediting her without actually rebutting any idea. It’s a distraction. (I actually find the fact that Penelope is a former professional athlete to reinforce her authority on giving multi-career advice. It’s evidence of her skill at parlaying one mode of experience into a completely different area of authority.)

    It’s completely fine to disagree with a person’s opinions. It’s also wonderful to provide counter-examples of areas where an argument fails. This is how progress is made. However, the frank dismissal of another’s opinions without any attempt to recognize the content of those opinions is not productive.

    Doug, I’m sorry that I had to use you as an example of bad commentary. I invite you to a reasoned rebuttal and welcome an explanation of your ideas.

  48. Hugh Meighan, CEO
    Hugh Meighan, CEO says:

    Penelope I commented on your article that I viewed on Yahoo and find it to be quite misleading and just plain wrong. Your ideas contribute to the problems many business owners such as myself face when looking for talent to work for us. The younger generation, mind you I am only 40 years old, is grossly unprepared for corporate America and is lost when it comes to having a plan to ascend in their careers. Your article does not assist these young people to find their way, it simply adds to the confusion. Your suggestions fail to address the need for young workers to find thier talents and develop them with supervisors, managers, mentors, and the like. You address the younger generation as if they have reached or attained greatness before they even began to work. In order to grow as a person, as an employee, as anything you must be humble, learn from those who have come before you, and dare to dream. Your ideas are not in tune with what is needed in America, but unfortunately contributes to the cause that hurts our economy, our small business communities, and our future. I hope you take some time to reflect on what virtue, respect, and humility means to ones development.

    * * * * * *
    Hi, Hugh. The article reflects the fact that corporate America needs young people more than young people need corporate America. Here is a link to a coupld of articles about this:,9171,1640395,00.html


  49. Chris Harmon
    Chris Harmon says:

    I agree about some of the tips but not all of them.

    “Just take time off” – this really depends on the work culture… my current employ supports this, but previous ones definitely did not. I believe my role is to be respectful of the environment, and their rules and them to be respectful of me in kind.

    Interesting comment about “the offer to consult” upon leaving. The one time I did it, they took me up on it and found that the majority of my issues with the job were not experienced consulting for them. I strongly anticipate that this depends on the reasons for quitting, but if you actually would like to continue the work as a consultant, genuinely make the offer. You never know…

    I’m not into the FaceBook thing that much (I unregistered) – more into blogging.

    I don’t think the rule to “not improve a co-worker” should be hard-and-fast – it depends on if there is actually a friendly 2-way relationship. I guess I chit-chat a lot more than others, but I don’t rule out providing ideas and feedback but I don’t look at it as trying to “improve” someone. Seems way to one-sided and looking down on others.

    I totally don’t agree about calling people over the weekend for work. Hey if you want to work over the weekend, either you have enough to do alrady or can figure that out before the weekend, right? Like at least one I work with, I definitely am not as much thinking about work over the weekend (well, sometimes I might but usually not the case).

    I kind of think we should be nice in whatever we are doing – not just at work. I wish I could agree that others feel there’s “nothing you can do except be nice back” though.

  50. Jody
    Jody says:

    I suppose if I was lazy or not educating myself then the advice in this column would scare me. Which is why I guess I like it, it’s counter-intuitive.

    “If I had an employee not give me a heads up about when they would be out, THEY'D be out. That advice was really foolish and, if followed, could get a young working professional fired.”

    When I read the article, I didn’t see where it said to not give a “heads up.” It said to not ask, but tell. Obviously, you should do this in a professional manner. Schedule the time off as far in advance as possible, make sure your work is caught up or explain how it will be made up, let people know you are going, and then just take it. If your boss has a problem with this, he or she will let you know, at which point you need to be flexible in changing if necessary.

    Where the asking fails is when you wait to the last minute, or make the boss do the work of figuring out how to cover your work, or being demanding instead of flexible. I am always amazed at people who never take time off because work won’t let them, and they complain about how unreasonable their boss is. Yet, they work for the same company and boss as me. Oddly enough, these same people don’t get promoted.

    It’s about treating your boss and fellow employees with respect and expecting the same in return. And, on the other side of the coin, I am not naive enough to think that if I always cave to my company’s demands, that they will keep me around out of some sense of loyalty. If it is in the company’s best interest to let me go, they will, it’s just business. So, I might as well make sure I don’t get trampled on the way.

    Oh, well, it’s best that most people don’t get these concepts. Less competition for me.

    p.s. Admittedly, the Facebook thing doesn’t make sense to me. Seems potentially awkward, and do you need to invite all your co-workers and bosses and not just the CEO?

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