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Employees, Social Media and Chocolate Mousse

by Carol Rozwell  |  September 10, 2010  |  7 Comments

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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Category: social-media  social-networks  social-software  

Tags: collaboration  collaboration-dynamics  social-media  social-networking  social-networks  

Carol Rozwell
VP Distinguished Analyst
11 years at Gartner
21 years IT industry

Carol Rozwell is a vice president and distinguished analyst on Gartner's Digital Workplace team. Read Full Bio


Thoughts on Employees, Social Media and Chocolate Mousse


  1. Saqib Ali says:

    Carol,

    I think there needs to be distinction made between employees interacting on an external (not contained) social media site (e.g. facebook) vs. on an internal (employee only, contained) social media site (e.g. yammer). Most employees, with the exception of Sales and Marketing, will probably be wasting their time on social media sites like FB. Sales and Marketing probably have an unique use case, where they can use external social media sites to engage with the potential customers.

    Internal social media sites tend to be self-moderated, in that the employees knows that his/her management are watching their activity. That is not true for external sites – not unless you “friend” your boss on FB, for example.

    Also setting up an internal (contained) social media sites (e.g. yammer) should NOT be the end-goal in itself. The Social Graph generated from the interactions on the site should be used to improve the employee experience e.g. using the Social Graph to add relevancy in the query results on the Enterprise Search Engine etc.

    Saqib

  2. Andrew Walls says:

    I no longer work in a shared office space. I work from a home office as do many of Gartner’s analysts. My office (my house) is full of distractions and opportunities for me to ‘waste my time.’ I can play with the dog, walk out on the deck to watch birds fly by or just wander around on the web and catch the latest videos on YouTube.

    Despite all of these distractions, I get work done. I am motivated to work for a few reasons. First and foremost, I am intrinsically motivated to work. I love what I do and I am fascinated by the topic I research (security). I also have extrinsic motivations. Gartner maintains a series of metrics on analyst performance. I need to publish regularly, talk to clients in inquiry and make presentations at Gartner conferences. The metrics may not be perfect, but they are used to determine whether I have been doing my job.

    In most offices there are plenty of distractions, yet work continues. Attempting to remove all distractions in the hope that employees will work because there’s nothing else left to do is not a sustainable form of management. Should we lock of personal mobile phones until the end of the work day? Block calls on landlines if they are not work related? Outlaw hallway conversations about what you did last weekend?

    If there are no productivity metrics for employees, managers cannot determine whether a worker is meeting performance expectations. If a worker meets performance targets why should I care whether they also spent a few hours on FaceBook? Motivation to work and performance against metrics are the key issue. If you are not motivating personnel and measuring their performance transparently, they will always find distractions.

    Now, where did I hide that Minsweeper application?

  3. Saqib Ali says:

    @andrew : I would agree with you, IF facebook enabled meaningful, thoughtful and well-articulated conversations. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

    I think Jevon McDonald describe the FB interaction well in this blogpost:
    “I feel like my social life has become a more mundane version of CNN Headline news. No depth, just pictures and blurbs and the latest rage about something new”

  4. Carol Rozwell says:

    Thank you for your comments. It’s always good to read different perspectives on an issue. I find it interesting that you are okay with marketing and sales people using social media but not as comfortable with other functions employing it. Our contention is that social media is already “table stakes” for many firms and in the next few years, will be essential for all. So today the competitive advantage goes to organizations that look beyond marketing and figure out how to use social media to tap the knowledge of the collective. If you are a client, you may want to check out the following research note: Look Beyond Marketing for Competitive Advantage With Social Media.

  5. Saqib Ali says:

    Carol,

    I am ok with employees using internal enterprise groomed social media apps. I think there is LOT of benefit in that. However I am a little wary of employees (with the exception of Sales & Marketing and Customer Support) using external social media sites like facebook. I don’t think a business case can be made for that.

    Saqib

  6. Carol Rozwell says:

    Social media is not a fad. Gartner recommends that all organizations explore its use for both internal and external uses. The workstream we are undertaking will explore this issue in more depth over the coming months.

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