August 15, 2010

The Rules of Etiquette In The Age of Social Networks

social networks
Imagine that, after a long day at the office, you enter to your Facebook account to see what your friends have done, and suddenly, the screen shows a message from the boss or a colleague about something urgent at work. Apart from the fact that your official office hours are ended, is our colleague driving himself correctly when he/she contact us through a social network? On the other hand, is it appropriate to add a colleague or superior to our friends list? And yet, in modern times that people seem to be available at all times thanks to the various devices available, can anyone really be considered "off duty"?

Facebook, Twitter and Blackberry, all which allow the user to be available 24 hours a day, are blurring the line between professional and personal life. For this reason, executives and employees are seeing the need to create new social norms governing the interaction through the new communications technologies. According to Wharton faculty, the process of developing rules to deal with the growing reach of modern communications is still in its infancy and individuals and enterprises will be, in large measure, the ones who will model it, and not orders from an expert in digital etiquette. According to Rothbard, a Wharton management professor, new communication technologies are eroding the boundaries between personal and professional life, which to companies is "a double-edged sword". "On one hand, we are more efficient, but, on the other, it can be exhausting."

Most people who use Facebook and other social networks, highlights Patricia Williams, a Wharton marketing professor, play different roles. "There is the 'me' for my friends, the 'me' for my family and my professional 'me'". It is interesting to note the extent to which we feel comfortable with all these "selves" at certain times. Williams and Americus Reed II, a Wharton marketing professor, are both doing research in analyzing the conflict between the different identities of people, "such as, for example, on the occasions that my role as a professional is in conflict with my mother role", says Williams. By mixing the personal and professional, people can be in the midst of embarrassing situations. "There are people who manage to find a balance between these two roles, others can't", keeping the information of a more personal course outside the professional context.

Sigal Barsade, Wharton management professor, says there are two possible methods of developing a label applied to new forms of modern communication. One of them was the hiring of new people by the company who would bring in standards that would gradually end up being accepted.

The other method would be propagation of social information within the company. The main determinants of socialization in any company are made by the management model of managers. Workers watch the managers and their immediate supervisors to see what is acceptable and, better yet, what is rewarded within the company.

With all that power, wouldn't managers start demanding unlimited availability all the time? "Not necessarily", says Barsade. "Managers recognize, increasingly, the disadvantages of continuous availability, and may even have to prevent employees who overuse the technology. It is what you see, for example, in companies that do not allow, on certain days or hours, workers to use the technology through computer. Besides, managers should be equally available at the other part of the relationship, what could be a problem".

About the Blog Author: Timpa has the mission of providing all entrepreneurs, whether experiencied or not in online business strategies, with the right information to help them manage their businesses online in the best, most time-effective and cost-effective, smarter way.