Blurring of Professional and Personal Online Persona’s
How blurry can, or should it get, before you start to worry? Should you worry?
I am sitting in day 2 of personal development conference that I am attending on my own – no work agenda – my dime and my time ( Of course, I will happily and voluntarily share my learning’s with my employer, but I took the time off and did this for me 😀 ).
It’s the 2011 Northern Voice – Personal Blogging and Social Media Conference at the UBC Health Sciences Building.
I am not going to get into the nitty gritty of any one presentation during this post or the one following (Oh ya, two posts out this coaanference!).
What I want to share with you is a nagging point that keeps coming up, whether it was truly said or merely implied throughout the presentations.
That is the question, or questions of, “How blurry have our personal online lives and our professional online lives become? Does it matter? How far is too far? Should we care and/or fix it?”
This one is quite personal to me, and as I watch the room, a nagging issue with many, the presenters alike. Every time the question arises, or the implication that blurring is, or has occurred; it’s the same head nods of the audience(s) in unison, or a thoughtful pause by the presenter. All seem to be somewhat concerned, or if not concerned, thinking about this.
This is new stuff. These communication mediums are new. Although most in the room(s) are Social Media savvy and have been doing “this” for 5 years to 20 years, “this” is new in the grand scheme of things. Even the pros appear to still be learning the way these new mediums are interacting with greater society.
Never in our existence as a species have we been able to individually connect with so many, so quickly, so easily, with so little training or understanding as to how, and what we are doing. Screaming an opinion on street corner for maybe 50 to hear (maybe), to clicking a “send button” and potentially having millions hear! Taking a picture, putting it in an album for friends to see when they come over; to posting online, and never knowing the reach of that now “forever” memory that will never disappear once online!
This is concept is freaking out many employers and many employees. Freaking out parents and grand parents alike.
To be clear, I am not talking about the “usual”, “I hate my boss” post on facebook or the “is that your wife” picture that seems to find it’s way online (No – I have NO personal experience with that – it’s just what popped into my head as I am writing! I was thinking politics and how they seem to have knack for pics being released of the wrong person at the wrong time). These stories have been well written and overused.
What I am talking about is the situations like this; (hypothetically of course) where you have senior member of management who writes his or her own blog. Some of blog is quite personal (pics, recipes, stories, etc..), and some of it is very much work related (product or professional thoughts). This person may have a twitter, flickr, facebook and YouTube account that are all “clearly” theirs, and yet they are dotted with same issues of the blog above. Much of the content is personal and much of the content is work related. Individual is probably extremely transparent as that is what he or she was taught. Stay authentic and stay pure to yourself. Therefore you know a little about them, probably their family and for sure where they work.
This individual will most definitely have their views on life and all that that encompasses. Some of the ideas will follow what his or her company stands for and believes in, and many won’t.
If we “pretend” that this person worked for a retailer, we would have to assume that, he or she, shops at many different retailers that may, or may not, carry similar or even the same merchandise; in essence, a true competitor.
You would have to assume that this person would like a lot of the product and would like the services provided at his or her employer, and that they may also be inclined to purchase much in those locations. They may also choose not to purchase there either, for whatever reasons. And what happens if the person says or implies that they have made purchases elsewhere, or if they appear to be ok with other people making purchases elsewhere. What do we do about that?
What happens if an article or an idea is retweeted, shared, or blogged that may challenge the direction of that company? Or maybe it directs a consumer to reconsider a purchase? Maybe the article shines great light on products of services provided, and maybe it does not. Maybe it’s a political article or maybe its an article that has zip to do with anything that the company is doing or will ever do! Could be anything.
Remember we are talking about people here, not robots.
What do you with that kind of employee? What guardrails should be in place? What are the boundaries? What can be said and what cannot be said? What should be said and what should not be said? How transparent is “too” transparent? Do opinions need to be censored? Does the employer have the right to censor; or if not the right to, does it have the ability to, or should it even attempt to exercise these “rights” and or “abilities”?
My heart goes out to employers with those kinds of challenges 😉 Those type of employees must be a real pain the butt!
These are real issues and concerns that get debated at executive boardroom tables all across North American, and I would guess, worldwide. What do you do? Or maybe, and more importantly, what should you do, or not do?
My feeling has always been this. I think it is awesome that many companies have become “personalized”. There are real people behind these cold, lifeless entities (I know that is a little dramatic, but this conference was a little more leaning to that type of feeling and thinking, plus it just sounds better this way). People relate to people. They don’t relate to bricks and mortar, or tall glass high-rises. They get experiences, they get the smile or the frown, they get being involved in a purchase or product or services, they get satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) out of the adventure of interacting with people; live in front of them, or live online.
Now, I don’t mean that employees should air dirty laundry about what the hate a work and I don’t like dirty language online (from a company perspective). There is a time and place for everything and anything. But remember, these are “my” guidelines and guardrails that are set by me, and based on my education, upbringing, age, etc….. These quick rules work for me and my company (at least I think it does)., but in other companies and with other individuals, the rules change, whatever….. There are no all-encompassing rules. We are all different, remember, Not Robots!
These new mediums of communicating have just extended those feelings above into more homes and offices, and many times, a half world away.
I really think that the only way for any executive, at any company to answer the previous questions, is by doing this; “They must participate in the mediums to understand them”. And I do mean participate, not bystand. It is impossible to truly understand what is going on in today’s world of social media and social networking without being an active participant, and not just an active bystander, or worse yet, naysayer. You can’t hide from this one, this ain’t going away. The ones who will “win” are the ones who connect with people, their patrons and customers.
As Dylan says, “The Times, They Are A Changing”. Embrace the changes.
The lines are blurring, if in fact they have not completely blurred in many respects already. Companies are people, and people are companies. And you can take it evwn further with respect to what “company” is defined as: it could be schools, hospitals, cops, firemen, government, church etc…..
This is an exciting time and if there is anything these last two days did for me was to make me more excited and passionate about what I do at work and what I am doing personally (blurring baby, blurring!!).
Think about! Do something about! Get on board and connect! Life is fun in a “blurrrrr”!
Ciao for now @kootenayborn.