I am a keen observer of the events around me. This includes how people act, how people interact and how society evolves and develops, or doesn’t. In recent months I have become increasingly aware of something that appears to have taken hold particularly within the media. It is also evident in wider society and it shows no likelihood that it is going to go away, disappear or be replaced by something else. What is this thing?
It seems that we are now living in a pantomime. There are the good people and the bad people. The good people are always good and the bad people are always bad. Bad people do bad things, well…because they are bad. Good people obviously are good and try to make sure the bad people don’t hurt or impact on them. This is the same for organisations. They are either good (paying their tax bill and helping customers) or bad (just after the profit at any cost).
There is only black and white, no shades of grey. In reality the world is made up of shades of grey and we are all a combination of good and bad things. Good people can, and often do, do bad things. Bad people have been known to do good things.
I am not going to talk about specific incidents or issues. I don’t need, to the phenomenon can be seen every day of the week in some way or other. Open the pages of a newspaper, turn on the TV or radio, and there will be some story about something that has happened and who is to blame. They key element of any incident both natural or man-made is who can we blame. Who has to take responsibility and how can we make them pay?
Was this the case many years ago? I don’t think so. Things happened and it was accepted that there is not always someone to blame – the ‘acts of god’ were just part of life. I wonder if this meant that there was a more analytical approach to things, more of a desire to understand what had happened and more chance of learning. If we are constantly looking for someone to blame is that where we are putting all our effort? Has that stopped us learning and developing our society?
Next time we are watching some events unfold perhaps we shouldn’t just scream our ‘boos’ at the person we see as the villain and instead we should try to understand and analyse the situation.
One of the most challenging things for communicators who are attempting to introduce social media into their organisation is getting everyone to the same level of knowledge. It is only to be expected that there will be early adopters, those that follow and then the latecomers. If you add in the hierarchical nature of many organisations then the mix can be a real problem. What happens when a middle manager with a lack of understanding about social doesn’t like the tweet or post?
Social media, like many changes in the workplace, can be seen as a threat, a distraction, a novelty, or as a strange and unknown world. It will always take some time to share knowledge and skills across the business. There is no easy way of getting everyone to the same point. People are all different and will approach things from their personal perspective.
The most important thing is how, as communicators, we deal with this issue. Will we put pressure on the latecomers? Will we impose sanctions on staff who may get a bit exuberant? Will we allow senior staff who don’t understand social networking to decide what does and doesn’t work? Will we be prepared to invest time and energy into training and sharing skills to everyone in the organisation? Will we stand up for what we believe or know is the right path?
Senior people and middle managers are often among the last to gain an understanding of social networking. They are often older and struggle to get to grips with the informality, the conventions of networks and the merging of personality into work based communication. If they look at what more junior colleagues are doing it is easy for them to become nervous and possibly to overreact. As communicators it is our responsibility to stand firm on what is acceptable and appropriate and to be able to articulate that to the uninitiated. We also have to make sure that we can provide appropriate training and learning opportunities for everyone.
The basic motto is ‘keep calm and carry on’. Don’t let bosses with a lack of knowledge derail your work to embed social media in the organisation. Be strong, be determined and you will start to reap the rewards.