Meander through any cube farm today and try to figure out exactly what kind of work is being done.
If you see an overloaded website with tiny pictures over the cube dweller’s shoulder, she’s on FaceBook. If there are small boxes scattered around the screen, and he is typing furiously, she’s IM’ing. If there’s a big black box, with three columns, filled with copy, she’s twittering, via Tweetdeck. If you see her cellphone lying next to the keyboard, chances are she’s getting text messages if not from her BFF, from the young lady in the very next cube.
This is old news to any manager today. For some time now, they have accommodated the new media and the time it takes away from “real” work. Mostly, it’s been near delusional rationalizing that somehow the added social-networking-communication advancements will pay off in increased productivity and efficiency.
What happened here was lazy management and missing leadership. Initially, managers were concerned, but over time and under pressure, lowered work standards and allowed these tools to multiply. Leaders even justified the activity, “it’s something Gen X and Y demands,” or “she’s learning the new tools of the 21st century.”
Lest you think me some out of touch curmudgeon, who is against new technology and how it impacts the workplace, let me take the blame for leaders everywhere.
We missed an opportunity here. We should have been out ahead, not lagging behind. We were uncomfortable with the lack of measurement tools to determine how effective the new social media tools were going to be in our workplaces. All communication is good, we reasoned, so why not? Until we have a better measurement system on what works and what doesn’t, we are left with messy, but awfully fun, new techniques and tools. In short, managers are allowing these not because we know they help our business, but because our workers demand it. A happy workplace and all that.
I do understand that new technology is messy. New developments often take decades to settle in, to find their markets and to gain productive use. Often they spurn new developments that take the original idea to new levels. The building of the nationwide highway system in the 50’s and 60’s did more for the auto industry than leather seats and FM radio, for example.
It’s not too late. Leaders should think clearly about the new media and figure out their own reactions and prospects for the future. We need to understand it as completely as possible. We should use it. Using our experiences as a guide we can then determine the best way forward.
Years ago, I noticed one of our managers had written a memo to his team members headlined: What They Want From Our Team. This memo was prominently displayed in each team member’s office.
When I confronted the manager, he was surprised at my reaction and insistent that he was not being disrespectful of the organization. To me, showing disrespect up or down in an organization nearly always destroys a positive company culture. Often, it’s these little things like the THEY in the memo that causes it to sneak into a department, then the entire company.
I had a good idea of what might happen if this activity had been allowed to go unchecked. Slippery slope, that.
With the new social media now prevalent in the workplace, I don’t have as clear an idea. So, in the absence of such clarity, we allow it and hope it all works out.
This seldom happens, of course. Until the sun shines more clearly upon the issue, here are six things leaders can do to make the use of social media work better in their companies:
Talent Acquisition & Diversity Exec, Jason Buss, is the founder and editor of THQ. Prior to starting THQ, Buss launched The Talent Buzz in 2008. He is also the Vice President of Talent ... read more