Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

The importance of judgment and prudence in a Facebook and social media tell-all world

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on September 26, 2012

We all live in a social media-shaped world where the norm has become one of telling anyone and everyone, anything and everything.

• But does it actually help us or anyone else if we insist on telling people at work, who do not want to hear it, all about our friend’s recent surgery and in every possible blood-soaked detail?
• Who are we helping and what are we accomplishing that could in any way benefit us if we extemporaneously tell our supervisor that we have decided to start looking for a new job, and that we expect to bail out and quit where we are now sometime in the next four or five months and in the middle of whatever assignments we are then responsible for?
• What do we accomplish repeating off-color and arguably discriminatory jokes that we saw online, on some YouTube video?

In general and as a general rule, do we really want to say things that leave our supervisor, colleagues, customers and others wondering why we said “That,” and leaving a conversation with us thinking we are less reliable and less capable than they had previously imagined? The issues I write of here can be a real problem for employees and would-be employees who have come of age in a Facebook and Twitter and more generally social media world, and from inappropriate comments shared in job interviews on through our day to day on-the-job work life conversations.

Listen to what others say and the types of details they share while at work – and watch the reactions that they get, but sometimes without their actually seeing them themselves. Look for rolled eyes and uncomfortable body language; look for positive reactions too. And ask yourself what was said and to whom and under what circumstances, and particularly where reactions might have been more of discomfort than anything else. Do you want to be the one who develops a reputation for over-sharing about way too many of the wrong things and always at the wrong time and place, and who creates that level and type of disruption and concern for being there because of that?

• Look for people who seem to always say the right things and no more and who would serve as positive role models for communications behavior and for judgment and discretion, and certainly for when sharing views and information at work that are not about or directly related to work.
• Ask yourself what they would say and do before sharing non-work personal information, and if they would say this thing here and now.

I am definitely not saying that we should never speak about personal or non-work matters at work. Wider and fuller conversation and the interpersonal relationships and even friendships that can come from that can add depth and meaning to the workplace. I am however saying that this, like our work-related conversations, should always be tempered by judgment. So when I am considering sharing ideas and opinions, and more personal narratives with others at work, start by asking yourself some basic questions as a preliminary due diligence.

1. What precisely am I trying to say and convey, and both as a message and for its information content, and for what saying this would tell about us?
2. Who am I considering saying this to? (A friend, a colleague, your manager, a customer or client, everyone in the room, who?)
3. Why would I share this? What am I trying to accomplish by telling it?
4. Is this the right place and time to discuss or share this?
5. Would my sharing this have an impact on my work or on my work relationships and if so, what would it be? Would it be positive or negative?

As the saying goes, sometimes less really is more – and certainly more effective and for us ourselves and for all others involved. So certainly if you are new to the workplace and just finding your way around, start out listening more than speaking and definitely when entering into non-work related conversations. Listen and learn what types of things are and are not shared and where this happens as a part of learning your way around the corporate culture of the place.

And whether you are new there or have been working at that business well past any initial probationary period – if in doubt as to what you should say and what to withhold, look for role models and for insight into how others share non-work and more personal opinion, judgment and fact. And strive to become one of those positive role models in your own conversations. That will increase your chances of getting hired, of passing that initial probationary period when you are starting out at a new job, and for landing promotions as you proceed there. This is a big part of being that person who others want to work with and who can succeed in your workplace and for most any workplace.

You can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2 and also see my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development.

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