I wish the above meme were more true—that we could compartmentalize our lives into one area or another. And, like it or not, a good portion of our lives—both private and professional, public and “friends-only”—involves social media. The murky distinction between private and public and between work and play is certainly an issue Miracle and I discuss regularly. We want to maintain our private lives and have memories just for us. But why are the boundaries between the different portions of our lives so amorphous?
A short story: I log onto LinkedIn and see that a former boss has commented on someone else’s post saying that folks are treating LinkedIn more like Facebook. I agree. Years ago, LinkedIn was definitely more polished and less personal. It was a digital resume or your online rolodex. Now, it is more personal, less polished. Opinionated. Why is that?
We could default into the lazy kids-these-days talking points or blame the workforce. But anyone who knows me or regularly reads my commentary on work culture knows that I find the employer to be the controlling force behind work culture. Responsibility for the organization resides at the top. Larger paychecks means larger share of responsibility. Leadership should be held to a higher standard than the lesser-paid employees. All that jazz.
Anyway, maybe LinkedIn and Facebook look so similar because workplaces have collapsed the boundaries between the personal and professional. If an employer expects an employee to work from home at odd hours, take calls when they are off the clock, or spend their personal time pursuing credentials for work, why then would that employee not see a distinction in an already-blurry line?
Let me ask this of employers: If you view LinkedIn as the professional platform and Facebook as the personal platform, then why do you also scope out potential hires on Facebook? If you have social media rules for how your employees can behave on Facebook, then aren’t you making Facebook more like LinkedIn and narrowing the gap between the two?
Here are questions for employees and HR folks: Is your workplace trying to act like your friend or family? I mean, does a person who can fire you, regularly send out emails that referring to those under their charge as family? Do they have social events during off hours organized (and policed) by HR? Do you have wellness incentives that require you to give over personal information or allow tracking?
So the issue is not really that folks aren’t using social media platforms correctly; the issue is one of boundaries—poor boundaries. Poor boundaries drawn out by and routinely redrawn and violated by employers as work continues to bleed into our personal lives. You want a workforce that knows where work space ends and personal life begins? Stop creeping on employees’ Facebook and Twitter accounts. Refer to employees as employees; they are not family and they are not friends. It is a business relationship. Leave your employees alone when they are not at work. Offer wellness incentives, but without data collection or consequence. If employees want to get together for a party, let them organize it. And if they post something you don’t like on LinkedIn, make sure your shit don’t stink before you post.