Some emails I write with such diligence and care. Whether I am writing the email to express anger, appreciation, regret, or an idea, I want to be sure I get it right. I also want the recipient to know the message is important to me, and I want my care and hard work to be apparent.
I write my message. I make edits. Sometimes I completely delete an entire draft, and rewrite the message from the word “Dear…” I do one last review, and then I hit “Post,” or “Send” or “Tweet.” And then, depending on the platform, I might get an automatic notification that the email has been read. Or they click the “like” button in Yammer, Twitter or Facebook.
Now that I know the message has been read by the recipient, for some reason, the entire situation has changed for me. Now I know the person to whom my message was being directed with such care and concern has actually seen what I shared with them. They read it! I must now re-read the entire message myself. No changes are possible. What’s done is done, but now that I know they have read it, I now have to review the sent message, Tweet, memo or post word for word, but this time through their eyes. I may not get a response immediately, or ever, but at least I know it has been read, interpreted, and maybe even scrutinized
When communicating with friends and family, it is nice to know our messages have been read, and it is nice for people to respond. At work however, acknowledgement of a message, and sometimes a response, is often necessary. Recently, Yammer introduced “Seen by” counts. Now, when someone makes a post, they know their audience in real time as people review their post.
“Seen by” counts was a feature often requested by Yammer users, but for every new feature Yammer introduces, it seems Yammer users want more (and can you blame us?!?). As Yammer is primarily used in the workplace, the needs of the information shared are often different. Notice that “Seen by” counts are not available in Facebook. We know how many friends we have, and we know that our post appears on everyone’s feed. Either they click “like” or they don’t, but my life will not change very much just because I know 800 people have seen that I posted a silly cat video (I have never posted a silly cat video).
Work is different, though. Knowing that a post of mine was read by dozens of people throughout the organization is helpful, but some Yammer users now want to know who each of those “Seen by” users are, and I think that is problematic.
The argument is that if I share a document with my department, I want to know that it has been seen by everyone in my department. I want to know who has seen it, and when. On the surface, that seems like a fair request, but we all know what the work day is like. We scan through emails, Yammer posts, texts, video calls, and on and on. Just because a file as been “Seen by” me does not necessarily mean I have had the time to give the file the attention it deserves.
I think that introducing (I will call it) a “Seen by whom” feature would set up unrealistic expectations for supervisors. If my boss sees that I clicked on a file she shared, she may think I have thoroughly reviewed the information when really all I actually had a chance to do was to download it to my computer before I had to shut down so my plane could take off.
Now, it could be argued that if I knew my boss could tell that I clicked on a file, then I will be damn sure to read that file before moving on to my next thing. Now, I am feeling accountable in a way that I may not have felt before. Now, I am going to read every file that is shared with me on the Yammer platform for sure.
Or, maybe the “Seen by whom” feature will just drive me away. If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there, does it make a sound? If a file is posted in my Yammer network, and I don’t visit my Yammer network, was it ever really shared in the first place?
For so long, I have worked tirelessly to encourage my colleagues to use our Yammer network with promises of greater collaboration through more transparency and generosity. Transparency not about colleagues being able to monitor everything you do, but rather transparency about welcoming people into your work. Collaboration is not oversight. Transparency should provide more opportunities, not more risk and exposure.
Yammer, I may complain about you. I may wish for quicker development of more features. I may ask for easier access and more customization. Personally, I hope you never decide to reveal which people have accessed which files and which posts, that is, unless we choose to be known by offering a response, or clicking “like.”
Let the tree fall. No one needs to hear it.