Abhijit BhaduriFuture of WorkGuest Author

How social media is changing the work environment

By | Abhijit Bhaduri |Keynote speaker, Author and Columnist

Changes in media drive shifts in people’s behavior. People share their deepest secrets on social media. We are all getting comfortable handling much more information about each other than we have ever before.

The most visible shift has been in the way we seek information and make decisions both in and out of the workplace. It has blurred the lines between the information that is available inside the organization and the information that we can dig in to from the external world. What was once considered personal is now information that is freely shared with the world. How has that changed the workplace?

  1. Information overload: Information in organizations has been slow to trickle down. It would get filtered by the leadership for sensitivity and “need to know”. That culture is giving way to multiple versions of information being available. Someone who is exploring a role in an organization can get information about the organization, the leadership, the culture and even the interview questions. Some of this is posted by current employees and some that gets crowdsourced and built over time like a giant jigsaw puzzle. The employer too can get information about a candidate that goes well beyond what is listed on the resume. This information overload often paralyzes action which is the opposite of what we expect information to do.
  2. Influence through expertise: Social media requires a different set of competencies. Those who can leverage the new medium wield greater influence than those who are perhaps senior or officially designated to speak about an issue. Experts who share their expertise freely on social media have a share of voice that is very powerful. A new class of influencers has appeared in the workplace. Sometimes that also stifles the voice of dissent. People find it hard to go against the popular voice and view.
  3. Shorter response time: The more technologically savvy a person is the more impatient the person is likely to be. Email is not fast enough. Whether it is breaking news or gossip, everything travels like lightning. Leaders are expected to respond even if they do not have the complete information. Traditionally leaders have had the luxury of verifying the information and considering the repercussions of their stance before facing questions. Today the focus is on spontaneity and speed.
  4. Private and public information is mixed: Colleagues, subordinates and even competitors have access to information that would have been considered as purely personal. Knowing more about a leader gives people a chance to know the human being behind the role. Once it starts it is hard to stop the flow of information. Knowing that the doctor leads a certain lifestyle may affect our assessment of the person’s competencies.
  5. Unforgiving: There is no delete button on the Internet. People’s stance on an issue, a statement or an opinion is not left the limitations of human memory. The internet has become a giant collective memory that can flawlessly retrieve every digital communication on the subject. That makes it hard for people to revise their views and even fix their errors. The compulsion for people to be seen as consistent is often the side effect of this unfailing memory.

Social media has changed how much we know about our colleagues and the organizations. We all have more information than what we can comprehend. We look around for people who can make sense of this. That gives rise to a new breed of curators and experts. There is a new breed of paparazzi and spokesperson for the brand. Everyone who has a social media account is a paparazzi or a brand ambassador. We have become conscious of what we post on social media. What we have not managed to control is what others post about us.

Republished with permission and originally published at abhijitbhaduri.com

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