Susan sees half of her team seemingly always on their cell phone —not talking on the phone, but sending text messages, and she wonders if all of those could possibly be business related.
Whether it is Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, instant messaging on the computer, or any of those, plus texting, many managers wonder what they can do, what they should do, to curb or manage the amount of time people are spending, at work, on these activities.
Since many leaders are facing these questions, and I’ve been asked my opinion more often in the last few months than ever, I thought I would share my thoughts. Consider these four steps as a way to structure your thinking about this question as a way to come to your own conclusion.
First, the policy. What is your company’s policy about access or use of these sites and services at work? If you work in a larger organization, perhaps there is a policy you are unaware of. This is the logical starting place, and if a policy or guideline is in place, it may make this process much easier!
After policy, expectations. If there is a policy, perhaps your team members are unaware of it. (Heck, you might have been unaware of it until you checked into it!) Spend time with your team explaining the policy if it exists, answering questions to make it clear. If no policy exists, have a conversation about your expectations of people’s use of time (including the use of these interactive tools). Notice I said to have a conversation – include everyone in the dialogue about the use of these tools and what success looks like at work —rather than just telling them what you expect. It is difficult to reprimand or challenge people’s use until they know what is expected of them.
Check your assumptions. Is it possible that some or all of the activity you see could be work related? After all there are thousands of Facebook pages for business, and millions of educational You Tube videos. Of course, if you see someone posting a picture of their grandchild (yes, another assumption is the age of the folks who might be using social media during working hours), that likely isn’t business related… unless it is deepening a relationship with a Client or vendor. Check your assumptions— I’m sure you know the trouble assuming can get us into.
Results, not style, make the difference. Perhaps your issue about use of social media at work is exactly that — your issue. Are people meeting their job expectations? Are they getting their work done on time at the appropriate level of quality? After all, isn’t it productivity that you are concerned about if you are thinking about social media use? If they are “doing their job” at an acceptable level, perhaps it is time to stretch them. Maybe what you are labeling in your mind as “messing around” or “wasting time” is a hint that people need more, or more challenging, work.
For an additional perspective, re-read these steps thinking about personal phone calls rather than social media. That may help you realize that this isn’t really about social media at all, it is about recognizing and managing workplace behaviors.
In the end you must make a decision based on the context of your organization and nature of your situation. Hopefully these steps help you look at your decision in a well-rounded way and give you a perspective to make the most appropriate decision.