Why social media can promote antisocial behavior in the workplace
Some say it’s a trend that could change, but more and more it seems like traditional means of communication are simply being ignored (in and out of the workplace). So how “social” is social media really? If you are not in marketing, you may wonder what social media has to do with your work. The connection between social media and communication at work is becoming more visible with extensive use, and in many arenas, the reliance on alternative means of communication has diminished some people’s ability to have a productive conversation. I should also mention the lack of accurate spelling and abuse of grammar that creeps back into traditional communications from the bad habits developed through adulterations found in social media.
For people who work with and around other people, there is a level of skill required to communicate effectively with one another to get things done. Relying on social media to speak for you or as a platform for herding projects can end up badly. In many industries, the inability to communicate effectively via direct verbal conversations or through traditional written formats can lead to miscommunications that translate into a direct impact on someone’s success in the workplace. Avoiding issues and letting them fester or blasting blanket statements to a wide audience can cause acrimony and dissention. Leaders need to be able to bring people together, and demonstrating effective communication skills is a key ingredient for doing that.
Social media tools are a terrific addition to the options we have available to communicate. LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook are just a few of the methods for reaching large audiences and expanding your professional network. We have more formats and tools than we have ever had to reach people. Varied sources/formats allow us to adapt our preferences for receiving information through newsfeeds, blogs, emails, texting and IMs, and this flexibility is a great stride forward. However, when they are misused or any one of them is relied upon as the only option, the outcome can be messy. Asking personal or discreet questions, or sharing private information via a public or easily hacked social media site, can result in very negative consequences.
Avoiding 1:1 confrontations prevents us from exercising our communication skills and relating effectively to one another.
Blasting information to the universe and believing our message reaches the intended audience can cause even bigger problems and delay resolution. Completely avoiding 1:1 confrontations prevents us from exercising our communication skills and relating effectively with one another. We forget to ask questions, ensure understanding or affirm intent, and we can end up acting on false information altogether. The more we rely on emojis to replace words, text instead of talk and promote a practice of deleting emails without reading them, the more broken our communication becomes. We reduce our ability to ensure projects are moving along as planned or sort out conflicts when circumstances get complicated. Ignoring or simply failing to acknowledge communications can also create more work for people when they have to go back and double-check if something has been received. What happened to basic courtesies like providing a “thank you” when receiving information that was requested or replying with a “no, thank you” to decline an invitation? Why isn’t there more of an effort to introduce civility into the workplace?
It seems like the more noise there is, the more communication declines. I am not proposing that the solution is to ban social media or electronic communication. (I am obviously using an online forum/electronic medium to reach you, and I may not know you. If I had an issue I needed to sort out with you directly, I’d be using a different medium.) And I am not suggesting that social media and electronic tools are bad; they are simply used inappropriately much too frequently. It’s high time our educators and workplace teachers help people understand how to use these tools effectively.
Many employers have thrown group communication tools at their employees (HipChat, Slack, Campfire, Basecamp, Redbooth, Wrike, Kato.im, Skype, Google Docs, Microsoft Lync and Teams, to name a few) without training and demanded participation. Implementing a new tool as the “new best thing,” without instruction, has put off some workers who have opted not to use other social media programs and are unfamiliar with how they work. For some, it has been an added burden to figure out how to navigate them, so they simply don’t engage. People not connected to others through group communication tools or on social media, or are unable to use document sharing tools, will end up missing out on something if that is how information is being shared in their organization.
In addition to providing training on different tools and educating people on the purpose or best practices for each, we’ve got to learn how to talk again. Let’s move away from abbreviated texts as a substitution for important conversations and have discussions. Let’s learn how to voice a concern, plan an agenda, call a meeting, collaborate on solutions and negotiate new outcomes together. The more skilled communicators are typically able to provide a positive influence, lead productive efforts and further their careers. Isn’t that important to you?