Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Is Facebook the New Water Cooler?




Crossposted on ThickCulture

Social media have been getting employees in hot water {remember the Cisco Fatty meme and the suspension of a professor for Facebook updates expressing frustration} and even candidates for office cannot escape the wayback machine glimpse into one's past. I don't think the "culture of optics" is a good thing and while before the advent of social media it was easier to control content, that is no longer the case without having a chilling effect on free speech.

The National Labor Relations Board has now ruled that a the Connecticut firm, American Medical Response, illegally fired an employee, Dawnmarie Souza, for criticizing her supervisor on Facebook, engaging in online conversations with others workers. Acting general counsel, Lafe Solomon , for the board announced::
"It's the same as talking at the water cooler...The point is that employees have protection under the law to talk to each other about conditions at work."
While many of the finger-waggers might think Souza et al. were engaging in a workplace facepalm moment and should expect negative consequences, the fact of the matter is that labour laws protect workers when discussing their jobs and working conditions, whether unionized or not. While Malcolm Gladwell may disagree, social media may provide an avenue for increased activism, including labour activism, which may be an issue if the economy remains in the doldrums and high unemployment creates a "buyers market" for labour.

Social media creates challenges for organizations to maintain their brand in an era of instantaneous and decentralized communications that can foster multiple dialogues outside of the control of the organization. These dialogues make the organization more transparent and can increase goodwill and trust. In fact, I would argue that the challenge of many organizations is to communicate both trust and competence with their stakeholders and social media can foster both.

What I think is going to happen is that organizations are going to continue surveillance of employees and focus on more rigorous screening at hiring. This won't eliminate the thorny issue of what to do when social media fosters conversations that the organization doesn't want to have or isn't prepared for...which is why transparency's a bitch.

Twitterversion:: [blog] Thoughts on NLRB ruling stating worker complaining about supervisor on Facebook was illegally fired. @ThickCulture @Prof_K

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