Technology enables us to do so much. We can immediately communicate with almost anyone at any time. We can easily address tasks and work in our lives, be they momentous or mundane, great or small. With just the click of a mouse or the tap of a screen, we can do almost anything. We can do almost everything!
At work, we use our computers to communicate. We can send emails, texts, instant messages, or we can make a post in an enterprise social network…most likely, the list of options goes on and on.
Personally, in any given work day, I will most likely receive messages in the following ways:
These are all platforms I need to moderate, and there are unique rules, best practices and norms (either written or perceived) associated with each one. We have many, many ways to connect with many, many people, and there are lots of rules to follow.
In fact, you can probably send an email to every person in your organization very easily and very quickly. As we all know though, just because we can send an email to our entire organization doesn’t mean we should. Most likely, our colleagues would become annoyed with us, and we would lose so much more credibility and trust than we could possibly gain through such a wide distribution list.
In fact, when we are typing a memo, we can use the technology to emphasize an important point. We can make the text bold, underlined and italicized. We can change the size of the font and the style of the font so the point we are trying to make really stands out. As all know though, just because we can do all those wonderfully creative things doesn’t mean we should.
A colleague of mine was talking about the Yammer enterprise social network they use at work. In a private Yammer network, conversations and resources are organized in discussion groups. At some organizations, these discussion groups are carefully planned so that work related conversations can happen in a deliberate and meaningful way. Some organizations even create policies and procedures to help govern the creation of new discussion groups.
My colleague was having a difficult time because another employee at the organization was not following the policy, and created a new discussion group that should not have been created at all. The group was deleted by the network administrator, and the employee was reminded of the policy. Then, the employee again created a group that should not have been created. The group was deleted again, and the employee was again reminded of the conversation. The cycle of events happened over and over again, the employee’s supervisor was brought into the conversation, and still new groups were being created that should not have been.
When reminded of the policy, the employee argued “well, if I should not be allowed to create a new group, then the platform should not allow me to make a new group. If the platform allows me to create a group, I will.“
What? Seriously? My colleague was a little confused, a little frustrated, and not sure what to do next. I suggested that the employee should be told that though he can technically slam someone else’s head in his office door, that doesn’t mean he should feel free to do so. Just because you can send an email to every person at your company doesn’t mean you should. You should not make text bold, underlined and italicized all at the same time, and definitely don’t make new Yammer groups if you are being asked not to!
Technology should absolutely be explored, and boundaries should be pushed, but if there is a policy in place, that policy should be followed. And to be fair to the employee who is so brazenly breaking the rules, it is not enough to simply remind that person that there is a policy that prohibits their actions. Take the time to explain why that policy was created in the first place, and what the organization hopes the ongoing benefits of following the policy will be.
Whether we find comfort in the sense of order provided by policies, or we search for creative and operational space between the policies to work in a way that reflects our personality and approach to work, the rules of our workplace enable our workplace to operate. Follow the policies when you can, disagree with and suggest new policies when you must, but recognize they are there, and that they are there for a reason.
Just because technology enables you to break a policy doesn’t mean you should feel free to do so.