Social networks, the fear of the unknown and employee control


Photo by carrotcreative

It seems that lately, everywhere you go, social media and social networks are there. Why, this post on this blog, will, immediately after I publish it, automatically be published on my twitter account as a tweet and from there as a status update on my Facebook account. For me, social media is not only a part of how I connect and engage with people it is also a tool for constant learning. I have friends who I engage with more through social media then through phones or even in actual meetings.

And the evil organizations (:)) want to take that away from me and my friends. I came across this post which summarizes the finding of a recent Computerworld article regarding social media. I was especially baffled to find this statistic:

54% of U.S. companies have banned employees from social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace

Why? What are they afraid off? No one would even think about not allowing employees to talk on the phone with a friend, go to a coffee break with a colleague from work or waste time in so many other ways. Why this ban on social media?

I think it comes down to two things: fear of the unknown and employee control. I have written of the later in this blog, from a different perspective:

But it is actually more than that. I think my friends represent an approach. An approach of control. When you work for me, I control you, your time and your thoughts. You must adhere to my rules, to my way of doing things and get permission from me to do anything that is not related to me. Like some of today’s jobs are modern forms of slavery. Many organizations think to themselves – if I don’t control all of his time he will use me and I will lose. So they try to make sure that the employee is occupied all the time and create system to supervise him and prevent him from doing things (like surfing to sites like facebook).

I think that organizations should do the opposite.  Not only should they avoid setting rules and boundaries and rigid process, they should actually encourage people to find they own way to do whatever they want, as long as they deliver the results. In “first, break all the rules”, Marcus Buckingham claims that great managers never try to teach people how to do their job, they just set goals and outcomes and let each individual get to them, in his own way. If the employee is creating the needed outcomes, why should the organization care how he does it or how much time it takes? Letting go of the control will eventually only bring benefits.

And fear from the unknown is just as relevant. Many decision makers in organizations do not understand social media. For them, it is a waste of time. It is a game. It is not something for serious people. And if they don’t understand it, it must be wrong and thus banned. I cannot allow my employees to do something I don’t understand and I don’t know about. It is another way the past is trying to stop the future.

But we know these tools work. There are some studies who say they even make people more productive. And obviously they make people more connected and enables internal organization communication. That is without talking about the obvious advantages it offers the business itself. Yes, it has some risks associated with it, but hey, they could be easily mitigated as Alexandra Samuel from the Harvard Business Review blog points out.

Let’s let go of the fear from the unknown and the attempt to control people. it is, after all, the 21st century. It is time to show a little trust in people.


One Response to “Social networks, the fear of the unknown and employee control”

  1. Saying goodbye to the mechanisms of control « The Comparative Advantage Says:

    […] off the chains of misconception about management that were developed in the world of production and our let go of our fear of the unknown. To change our conventional wisdoms about what management really entails. To celebrate the […]

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