Way back in the old days, when I worked for Digital Equipment Corporation, I was lucky to receive excellent management training. One of the intense leadership development courses I remember taking included a discussion of different management approaches. The concept of X-Y management was explored.
In the 1960’s, Douglas McGregor defined Theory X and Theory Y which contrasted assumptions about how people operate in the workplace.
- Theory X postulated that people do not like to work, so tight control was required to get them to work effectively. Managers who believe in Theory X typically assume an autocratic management approach.
- Theory Y, in contrast, took the position that people are creative and eager to work. People like to participate in the decision making process and can perform well even a creative, less structured work environment. Managers who believe in Theory Y typically assume a participative management approach.
It seems to me that some of the recent questions from clients regarding employee use of social media are coming from people that missed – or forgot the lessons from – that course. The oft-encountered inquiry goes something like this: what data can you provide that indicates how much productivity is lost by employees using social media? What riles me about the question is the presumption that no good use can come from employees interacting on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and the like. And it also assumes employees are children who must be constantly watched instead of intelligent adults trying to find the best way to get their work done.
Now I’m not foolish enough to believe that all employees are equally productive or dedicated to their work. But if a performance issue exists, it’s not the social media that caused it. That’s rather like me blaming the five-star restaurant for my recent calorie intake (although, the chocolate mousse was well worth it).
So managers that are concerned about employees wasting time should first: find out what use case examples for social media exist, and second: help their people understand ways that social media can make them more productive. For example:
- Any sales person worth their salt is using social media to improve their prospecting hit rate.
- A perceptive marketing manager is tweeting about corporate news and events
- A smart researcher is looking beyond their traditional social network to find insight from the social web.
For another real-life example, check out the article Mining Human Behavior at MIT
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