Etiquette expert William Hanson discusses millennial behaviour

The millennial generation are not to blame for their entitled and self-aggrandising behaviour - that's the fault of their parents and upbringing.

What the millennials can do, however, is to adapt their behaviour and modify their instincts to get on and progress in the workplace.

So, Generation Y, I present you with some immediate suggestions and improvements you can make, starting today.

Know your place!

You may have been captain of the rugby team at school, a pretty big deal with your university's social committee; your parents may be oozing with pride for you, but, millennials, when you join a firm in a graduate position you are bottom of the pile.


Get used to it or get out

You'll rise through the ranks in due course, but do not enter the work environment thinking or behaving like you are still a BNOC. You need to start over and prove yourself from scratch.

Sorry, it's not all about you.


The millennial generation have grown up with technology at their fingertips and are skilfully adept at holding conversations via Whatsapp, iMessage and email.

When it comes to interfacing with human beings in the flesh, where communiques from one's lips cannot be edited before emitting, they struggle.

To truly excel above the (hopefully) friendly competition of your peers know when to turn off the buzzing mobile and step away from the slavish keyboard.

Want to make your clients feel special and wanted? Ring them to arrange your next meeting, send a hand-written thank you note after you attend one of their events, and don't look at your phone once when you get together.

Even if they pop out quickly, when they return they should see you looking at your written notes that relate to their business and still mentally tuned to the meeting, not scrolling through emails.

Shake it off

How many of the top tier of business men and women - even your own firm's CEO - swan in to the first meeting of the day with their takeaway designer coffee or healthy green shake they've just picked up to power-up their morning? None.

These props add no cachet and mean nothing to non-millennials - they just think you're a fairly tedious poseur.

Stop messing about!

Fancy pranking your colleague and filming it for your Instagram or Snapchat story?

Sounds fun, right? Yes, it does. If only someone was paying you to do that. Thing is, there aren't. They are paying you to work.

Do not succumb to using the workplace to fuel the amusement of your social media followers with unprofessional antics.

Crossing the line

Office 'banter' is not a human right.

One employer recently shared with me the tale that one of their graduate intake had given some feedback during their end of year appraisal that they'd like to improve the office banter. The employer admitted that this person's card was then marked.

Camaraderie in an office is healthy - it helps bond a team - but this is not an extended stag do, or a night out with 'the girls'. Keep the banter dial turned down to low. Or to off: off is an option, too.

FaceTiming a colleague or client might not be the best idea. Photo / 123RF
FaceTiming a colleague or client might not be the best idea. Photo / 123RF

Deadlines: mother's not here to help now

As obvious as this sounds, millennial minions, if your line manager gives you a task to complete by a certain date you must complete it by that date.

This isn't school where you can go running to a parent to write in to explain how much stress you are under to buy you some more time. This is grown-up life now.

Grow up and apply yourself.

Open office - open ears

Millennials sometimes struggle with adapting the conversations they may have had with friends in a crowded bar or coffee shop to conversing with colleagues.

Most offices now are open-plan and although their eyes may be focused on their screens their ears are still open and roaming.

Avoid asking someone across the desk how to spell 'jihad' or 'chloroform' and keep anything non-work related quiet (or preferably silent) until your designated breaks.

Can you add the boss on Facebook?

In time, you may become friendly with your boss. But that does not mean to say you are friends.

It is up to the boss to add you on Facebook, not the other way round.

Twitter is for everyone, so that's fine to add superiors on there (but don't cry yourself to sleep if they don't follow you back).

Instagram should only be for close friends (which can include colleagues who you see frequently outside of work). If your line manager or big boss have private accounts then it probably means that they don't want their staff prying on their lives. Again, let them add you.

Charity mugging

Millennials are certainly the most active of the generations, always trying to appear to be over achieving and having that perfect work-life balance.

The internal email system, however, is not for you to solicit donations for your latest 10k or tough mudder.

Half the people on the email don't know you and on pain of death do not email clients about your latest venture.

Beware - you could alienate rather than impress.

Entitled fridges

I'm never really been a fan of the concept of shared office fridges:

they lead to too much agro. Fine for the office milk supply but when you get every worker wanting to store their salads and yoghurts trouble is always close at hand.

Of course things are going to go missing - people are awful! People will take things.

Studies have shown that fridge thievery has risen of late, perhaps due to the entitled generations thinking that they can just walk up to a fridge, as they may have done at home as children, and help themselves to whatever treats lie within.