A letter from a Career Management reader:
I have a coworker who, at least once a day, IMs me with a complaint about how much work she had to do. This same person sends me links to articles that aren't work related or tells me something she's found out on some TV fan site.
The irony of complaining about a workload and then using work time to do personal surfing is lost on her. I think on some level she believes that since all her work happens online that being online for any reason is within her rights and that the whole shebang counts in the workday. How can she expect to get any sympathy for working too much when she does so much nonwork-related stuff?
I've seen some of this myself. In her defense, here are a couple of reasons that she feels this way. First of all, studies have shown that women are better at multitasking than men. In other words, if she can do four different things at one time then she doesn't feel that her surfing is taking away from her work time.
In addition, I learned that this particular person is a millennium (born between roughly 1982 and 2002). This is a group of ever-connected people who have grown up with computers. Their brains don't differentiate between the things they're doing online. They can IM a friend about lunch while they're writing some tech documentation. To this woman, checking Facebook is as normal (and as part of the workday) as her 50-year-old boss checking his watch.
Now having defended her reasoning a bit, I have to say that she also has to make a conscious effort about how others perceive her. She has to understand how her sending a funny YouTube video to her boss while also complaining about a workload could come across, especially if that boss is the 50-year-old watch checker. He, or a coworker, might think that she is clueless or that she has a sense of entitlement. If she wants to spot-check her Facebook page 30 times a day or spend some time over on LOLCats, she should keep it to herself, especially if she is complaining of being overworked.
Toni Bowers is the former Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.