My brother Matt and I were talking last week about how to approach an upcoming social media training we were doing. On one hand we thought it would be appropriate to teach others about the new/old media currently being used. However, what we felt was missing was the idea of how a person chooses to use different social technologies to portray him/herself and the potential ramifications of the choices made. Whether we believe it to be common sense, or not, it is not out of the ordinary to have someone post a negative comment about an employer or share a photo containing unprofessional behavior. Many of us may be saying, ‘Well that’s just stupid,’ but it’s probably not hard for us to think of a time when either we’ve done something ourselves, or know of someone having done something, that could be construed as potentially hazardous to a career. We’ve probably even said to ourselves, “boy was that stupid of me.”
As we were thinking about how to broach this topic of personal online behavior with the group, a tricky subject when training adults, Matt and I began to talk about the idea that most of us have standard operating procedures, or SOPs, that determine how we act both personally and professionally. What we didn’t have the answer to was why one person’s SOPs might be different than another’s. Why do some people participate in riskier behavior than others? How can we affect their behavior to minimize the risks they are willing to take? How do we get them to make the correct choices without lecturing or scolding?
I’m not sure we’ve completely figured it out, but what we do know is that it’s more about helping them identify the risks associated with their online behavior than telling them it’s inappropriate. This concept can be found in our Belief: Behavior Connection article which suggests that all behavior is driven by a belief that the person has (i.e. if I believe I deserve to get paid more than I do, I might give myself permission to take certain liberties, such as using the business credit card to fill up my gas tank occasionally or take office products home for personal use). With this concept as our foundation, we must recognize that only the individual can change his/her belief around a topic. We, as outsiders, can only influence their belief – which is done by suggesting alternate ways of thinking and building discrepancies in their original belief.
Unfortunately, it is much harder to change a belief once it’s been instilled and the individual has experienced some success with that belief. For example, if someone put a negative comment up on Facebook and a few friends “liked” it, the individual believes that the comment is appropriate or okay. In the social media training, it became more important to give participants lots of information about consequences in order for them to make appropriate decisions going forward. This allowed them to put past behaviors behind them and only focus on what they felt was appropriate going forward.
So what do we do with employees who have begun to create negative beliefs about their colleagues, supervisor or the organization as a whole? I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but chances are these beliefs didn’t just spring up one day; most likely, they grew over time. What becomes apparent is that fundamental building blocks in the employee’s development got skipped along the way, and the behavior that presents itself is a direct by-product of allowing ‘personal preference.’
When we talk about SOPs, every organization has them. They tell us how to file paperwork, how to respond to emails and how to answer the phone. In just the same way, we develop personal SOPs that determine how we operate as individuals. These might include always saying please and thank you, not going more than 7 miles per hour over the speed limit, or brushing your teeth after you’ve eaten breakfast instead of before.
Whether talking about how we live our lives at home or at work, we must be able to articulate, to ourselves, the standards to which we expect. More specifically, as we began our training on social media, conversations quickly arose around what behavior is most appropriate. Without giving participants the answer, we helped them build SOPs for themselves around social media, and how each of them would like to be perceived online, and the degree of risk they were willing to take in their interactions.
If you’re thinking about how you might be able to curb some negative behavior as an employer or supervisor, begin to ask these questions of yourself. If most of the answers are no, then you know where to begin.
1. Does my company have a set of public values?
2. Does my department have a set of public values and are they in line with the company’s values?
3. When hiring individuals to I explicitly ask them if he/she is willing to work according to the company/department’s values?
4. Have I developed a set of standards for how an individual within my company or department must operate under certain conditions? (i.e. customer service standards, social media standards)
5. How are employees held accountable when they operate outside the threshold of these standards?
The world of social technology is a moving target. Many people can get caught up in the moment, not realizing the larger ramifications of being too open, too forthcoming, and too risky. Helping employees build their own Social Media SOPs is just one way to reduce their risks without sounding parental or controlling. If done in a group, employees can also determine the expectations they have for other colleagues as well.
If you’ve developed some social media SOPs in your workplace, let us know what you’ve done and how they’ve been received by your employees.