3 Reasons Why Social Media is Not Welcome in the Workplace

Joshua-Michéle Ross from O’Reilly Radar blogged about a real challenge that social media practitioners face and that’s the negative perception of social media as the domain of workplace slackers. Employers have a real concern about the impact of social media on employee productivity but as Ross rightly points out, social media is not the only distraction at the workplace,

The fact is that there are already tons of other outside distractions at work ranging from instant message, email, workplace socializing and the never ending cigarette break – so this is not a new problem – but an old concern applied to a new technology…

That’s a great point, but what makes social media so unique and different from other common workplace distractions is that it’s a highly visible media. One could IM all day long or surf the web and not be subject to any scrutiny but send out one too many tweets and you’re likely to be branded a slacker.

Much of this negativity can be traced back to conventional (misguided) productivity measures, lack of social media training, and company culture.

#1 When managers don’t trust their employees to do the job and use number of hours worked as the key measure of productivity instead of results, there is higher likelihood that social media will be perceived negatively. In such an environment, every minute away from the job is considered a waste and much more effort is expended on “looking busy”. However, at companies where results trump number of hours worked, the case for social media is made much more easily because it’s easier to track productivity when it’s tied to a tangible outcome.

#2 The second challenge is related to lack of understanding of social media and related training. The best analogy is email, which is a great productivity tool for employees who know how to use it, but there are others who are overwhelmed by it quite easily. Without formalized social media training, employees are much more likely to waste time on social media networks because they don’t know how to balance social media engagement with their core job function.

#3 Last and most important challenge is that a social media-centric culture requires a mindshift that has to be driven from the top. Here’s where senior management must set an example. In many companies, the senior  management  doesn’t pro-actively engage in social media, thereby fueling the perception that social media is for slackers and not for busy professionals.  When a highly visible executive starts engaging in social media, it paves the way for rest of the organization and provides an example of how to manage social networking efficiently in the workplace.

Company cultures and attitudes don’t change overnight but understanding the barriers will go a long way towards to bringing them down.


5 responses to “3 Reasons Why Social Media is Not Welcome in the Workplace

  1. Actually, studies have showed that 87% of employees using Facebook at work couldn’t define a clear business reason for using it.

    • Hi there,
      Agreed. There may not be a business reason for using social media sites at work for employees who don’t have “social media” in their titles. But then again, it’s the same reasoning businesses used, when they banned access to the internet at work. At one time companies were concerned that employees would spend too much time surfing the net and now that’s become more acceptable, the same pattern repeats itself with new media.
      Behaviors are changing and just like you can’t ban the employees from “socializing” with their peers offline, trying to control their online behavior too is misguided.

  2. GREAT post Mia. You raise many of the intangible cultural issues around social media in the workplace- and by surfacing them so clearly you open the opportunity for management to think about their motivations – and perhaps- question them as well. I remember in the not too distant past when many companies banned usage of “the world wide web” because they feared people would surf their day away – without understanding the powerful use of it as a business tool… and look at us now!

  3. Two points:

    1) If you lay down the law and block facebook and twitter at work, what will people do? They’ll use facebook and twitter from their phones, which takes longer and ultimately wastes more time.

    2) Just wait til your company wants its own Social Media strategy: externally or internally. You’ll be even further behind.

    There’s a good article/interview with Kodak’s Tom Hoehn here: http://moblogsmoproblems.blogspot.com/2009/07/social-media-mavens-interview-with_29.html – worth a few minutes, IMHO.

  4. This was a really great read, I am very glad I came across your site.

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