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Smarty Pants Colleague

Argh… right off the bat, what did I do? Violated rule (A) at the very time I wrote it. We can all just be thankful that I didn’t violate rule (B) -- that would be... uhm.. well, I suppose that's best not brought to mind.

Regardless, in reading this, me thinks you're kind of right; perhaps a mention somewhere, somehow — common sense guidelines (since of course, common sense is anything but common). Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Seriously, in my tiny mind, there are three separate things to consider:

1. Policies governing the use of such tools (personal use of organizational resources). I let these fall under “Trivial and incidental personal use” and specifically allow such in our policies governing telephone, photocopying, and the internet (writ large).

2. Specific prohibitions on the use organizational resources for inappropriate stuff, such as stalking, harassment, criminal acts/illegal activities, transport of seagulls across stateliness for immortal porpoises, etc. This includes things like using your email address for political campaigns, fundraising, and, of course, lobbying in any shape or form.

3. Guidelines addressing the new grey areas that suggest people consciously separate their voice from the voice of their organization IF they are not actually speaking for their organization.

On the other hand, …
Rationally speaking, however, there has to be some rationality in all this. I think it would be inappropriate and bad for organizations to adopt policies that restrict personal expression simply because the organization is bonkers or paranoid or, well, bonkers. Mine, however, isn’t bonkers. Really, it’s quite sane.

(Maybe it’s apropos for some that are in the public eye, on-the-edge advocacy groups perchance... but that’s just wise self-preservation.)

All this reminds me of a past experience where a (former) employer tried to get me to sign a “do not compete” agreement that effectively limited my options for two years following my departure from their loving caress. A close reading revealed that I was pretty much limited in options — it was either ditch digging or, if I stretched it, prison guard. I told them to get stuffed (although I didn’t tweet it. ‘tis a shame.)

The whiter shade of pale; the disappearing line, the grayness of it all, between that which is me and that which is not, between the personal and the professional is more and more difficult; more sketchy by the day. It seems now, not only do I work all the time, and have email pinned to my hip like a blackberry tattoo, I now must curb my wayward tongue, and watch my “P’s” and “Q’s” (whatever that means). ‘tis lucky that the internets offer anonymity of a sort.

As I have often said, and am want to write, social media does not scale to the organization, nor does it fit with the organization. It is messy, casual, and often down-right rude. That’s not to say it can’t be effectively used by the organization.

Aargh.. I’m still torn.

You see, there are other parts of our lives where we don’t seem to think a “policy” is necessary. For example, there is no “Kinkos Policy” to warn us against printing up our own local newsletter and distributing it door-to-door. Nor, do we see fit to append and amend our organizational policies to cover possibly more damaging acts and actions, like:

Staff should note: It is against policy (and relatively unwise) to run through public spaces, naked, shouting epithets at your lover(s), pursued by debt collectors, while drunk.**

Frivolously Yours,
Smarty (pants) Colleague

** I distilled this rule from my first (and I thought relatively hilarious) FBI security clearance interview. It took the agent about an hour of weird and roundabout questions before I realized what he was really trying to ask. Three questions: Are you a drunk? Are you in debt or do you gamble lots? Could you be blackmailed about your sinful life? I said "No" to all three. Really.


My boss is on twitter and facebook. We communicate using both. Mostly around our charity - which is on both FB and twitter, but sometimes, it's not about work, it's just a fun snippet here or there. We retweet stuff that I send out on our @alscanada account. And we also put a personal face on the organizational account and hopefully show people that we're a team that has fun and does good things.

If my Twitter use becomes a management issue, he'll let me know. He's a nice, fun guy - but he's also my boss. I'm smart enough to know that and he's smart enough and skilled enough to manage that.

Guidelines are good, but sometimes they can inhibit creativity, relationships and other good things.

I know what my job is and I know what's expected of me. If I'm not meeting the goals and expectations of my role, I expect to be fired - regardless of how much or little we communicate via social networks.

Laura Norvig

I'm wondering what "3. Guidelines addressing the new grey areas that suggest people consciously separate their voice from the voice of their organization IF they are not actually speaking for their organization" would actually look like.

I can see obvious stuff like not saying, "Here at Company X we believe Y," when you're actually tweeting as yourself, but for people who are passionate about their work and discuss topics related to their work, and become somewhat known in the social graph, don't things get gray very fast?

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