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Funny things are happening on our enterprise social network (or work FaceBook) and they’re making me feel uncomfortable.

There have been some great things happening – the practical works particularly well, how do I….?   One enterprising person took the bull by the horns and bust open the mysterious room bookings system and made it simpler to use – awesome.  Much praise ensued.  Time and money was saved.

As with the rest of social media it’s at it’s best when people are being authentic, helpful and transparent.

The thing that is making me feel uncomfortable is that there has been a, what I call, disagreement.  For a while the same contributors have been popping up with a lot to say, but not always in the most constructive way.  When it is pointed out that their tone could be misconstrued, or put others off joining in, their reaction is to claim that their freedom of speech is being curtailed.

There are a couple of interesting things happening as the debate is rumbling on.

1) If this were a team IRL (In Real Life) we would probably say that it was at the storming phase. Everyone has been fairly polite and helpful until now, and although that is still on going some recent online events have uncovered fundamental differences in perspectives.

2)  This is being left to rumble along.  No one has breached the code of conduct, no one is bullying.  We might not all agree with each other or how we say it, but I think there is a recognition that this is new.  How things come across on line and in person is different – for example sarcasm is not especially effective.  There seems to be a tolerance while people work this through.

3)This has been left to self-manage.  Partly maybe because not a massive amount of people are using the network (we’ve yet to reach that tipping point). Partly because there is a definite movement within my organisation to become truly social. Sometimes this simply means trusting people to let things rumble along and see what happens.

I feel uncomfortable because, as HR person, I feel like I need to do something and intervene.  Shouldn’t we have clear guidance on exactly what people can / should say and do on our forums?  If I don’t do anything where am I adding value?

But no, in the social organisation this is not the case.  We already have clear, explicit,  values and standards of behaviour for all our staff. They are assessed against these regularly.  We have a code of conduct and disciplinary procedure.  We have the outlines, no need to colour it in.

Being this open is a massive change.  Senior leaders have never been more accessible, the rest of us have never had such an opportunity to make our voice heard – both on internal social networks and externally.  Control is not the answer, trying to censor the internet always ends in tears.

These early adopters are working it all out, for others to follow.  We, HR, can add value by joining in the conversations, helping people to develop the confidence to join in, facilitating & nudging, recognising & rewarding, working with Comms, IT, leaders (and anyone else is interested) to make it happen.

Once I had put my ego aside and abandoned the urge to plough in and send people off to mediation I could relax and see this for what it is.  A team working out how to work together in a new way, it’s just that it’s out there for everyone to see… and it’s very exciting.

For more on getting socially engaged you might like to check out the Engage4Success Digital Engagement Sub-Group – for more details contact Katherine Bassey at [email protected]

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