Personal Branding for the Business Professional
Web 2.0 Wednesday: Uncover Your Personal Brand

Will Social Media Help Your Boss Micromanage You?

I had an interesting call this afternoon with the team that's working on the eLearning Guild's upcoming report on eLearning 2.0--Tony Karrer, Brent Schlenker, Jane HartMark Oehlert, Will Thalheimer, Steve Wexler, Bill Brandon, and Sanjay Parker.

We're reviewing and discussing the most recent findings from the Guild's survey of its members on elearning 2.0, much of which you can find on their blog. Tony has also been analyzing some of the data--definitely some good stuff worth a look if you're keeping an eye on trends in using social media for learning.

Anyway . . . one of the issues that came up was whether or not misinformation is more likely to be a problem when you're letting people do things like write blog posts and edit wikis.This is obviously a concern that people have whenever you start talking about social media in the enterprise.

Reality is, misinformation, gossip and everything else are already spreading around organizations via emails, word of mouth, etc. As I've said before, using social media tools actually makes that stuff MORE transparent and therefore more visible. You actually have a greater likelihood of addressing bad information when you use social media than you do without it. 

That said, what I think MAY start to be a problem is micromanagement via social media. In fact, if it hasn't happened already, it's only a matter of time before some web savvy boss figures out that by following you on Twitter he can see if you're actually working or if you're tweeting about what you want to eat for lunch and the awesome mojitos you had at that bar last night.  He'll be watching your status on Facebook and monitoring your FriendFeed to see what you're posting and when. I can hear the conversations now:

"Was that an article you tagged in Delicious at 10:45 when you were supposedly in an important meeting? I think I've spoken to you before about this 'multi-tasking' you do and how I don't like it."

"I see that you seem to be asking a lot of questions on Twitter? What's up with that? Don't you know how to do your job? "

"I noticed that you have me on limited profile in Facebook. Is there some reason I can't see more of what you're posting? Should I be concerned about what's on there?"

"I've asked everyone on the team to post on their blogs 5 times a day with status updates on their work. I noticed that yours are always posted much later than everyone else's. Are you not at your desk working??

There's a downside to everything and it occurs to me that these same tools that can be so wonderful for collaboration and productivity can, in the wrong hands, be used as a heavy-handed monitoring tool--like having a co-worker who's tattling on everything you do directly to your boss's RSS feed.

This is not to discourage us, but to remind us that bad management practices will always trump great technology tools and that we need to be careful how we're using these things. I'm just saying. . .

Note--if you're a member of the eLearning Guild, you can read the article Sanjay and I wrote here and read other essays from the report here.


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I do worry about the same thing. My supervisor currently has me testing out ididwork and my first thought was "I'm the only person who you supervise." I can see how some applications work better with a larger team where managers may not get a lot of face time with everyone, or even worse, jobs where managers don't even know what their employees do or take the time to ask until that person delivers a 2-week notice. But they're definitely all tools that will be easy to lend a hand into micromanaging.

Anytime you increase the ability of management to see into the work processes of those they manage you face the challenge of how that manager will use the ability. I remember well a project we tried to get off the ground several years ago that was killed basically because we couldn't get employee buy-in. "Why should I put any info into that, I don't want them to know what I'm doing."

Even more interesting was the fact that the managers didn't want to know what the employees were actually doing, they just wanted to see the results. There may be some abuse of the increased visibility by managers at first, but they will quickly tire of the new "game".

I'd like to think that the managers would come to appreciate what the new technology actually brings to the table and take advantage of that -maybe even starting to use it themselves - instead of putting it to "evil" uses. Those are the managers that will, in the long run anyway, be more successful.

As the parent of two teenagers, I face somewhat the same challenge with how I react to things I read on my kids' and their friends' FaceBook pages. An interesting challenge, indeed.

What a scary post, Michele :)

Must admit I like using tools like Twitter because I know no one I work with are using it. Increased surveillance is the down side of us all using these tools, but so also the opportunities for increased collaboration.

Monitoring activities is a two-way sword - we can also see what our managers are doing. I am loving reading my boss's blog to find out what he is up to:

I don't think managers need newer or social media to micromanage, if they're going to operate in that way, it won't make any difference whether they have increasing access to newer and more social technologies.

Its weird though, people who feel that they 'need to know' everything about their team could utilise these technologies in such a positive way instead which would contribute to their longer term health, sanity and their personal productiveness.

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