Posted on 14 November 2007


How @twitter Changes Work (OR, Can You Handle The Truth?)

Written by Robert Merrill

Topics: Uncategorized



Twitter@Akula (Brett Nordquist) asked the question last night, “How does your company change if the majority of people use Twitter?” quickly following that up with “Maybe the company doesn’t change. But I think it does.”

I already noted that the evidence of Twitter becoming a mainstream communications tool is abundant, but considering what happens to twitter when it comes into play in your work life is an interesting subject to consider. Brett wrote up some thoughts on this topic at his blog, under a post titled: “Twitter Goes Mainstream at Work” where he noted five specific things that such communications would change in the office:

  1. Employee to employee email is reduced.
  2. Employee to employee instant messaging is reduced.
  3. Those who may be on the outside can suddenly be in the know
  4. The playing field is leveled. Titles don’t mean anything.
  5. Community is fostered.
    (source)

Well, thinking on that overnight, I recall what it was like when email and IM were first taking hold in the workplace. Brett’s points above all happened somewhat there as well. I remember joining a company where I was placed on the “engineering” email list and immediately felt like I was both “plugged in” and contributing to the physical progress of the organization.

You Can’t Handle The Truth!Knowing may be half the battle, the old G.I. Joe PSAs call out, but many organizations sadly seem to revel in not knowing, and even some workplace situations may even demand the kind of innocence that comes from managers and decision-makers being BLIND to their employee’s personal life, tastes and desires. Having the capacity to determine promotions, raises and other benefits based on someone’s work merit and NOT on information they may gather from any other sources is important. In short, old-school managers and yesterdays HR-laden management may not be able to handle the truth of what employees do with their own time.

So, some things to consider, with twitter in your workplace:

  1. Twitter is ALWAYS personal.
    Even if you and people you work with twitter (yes, I used that as a verb), and since you can’t have a “work” and a “personal” twitter account, this places an interesting strain on the work/life balance.
  2. Are bosses and employees mature enough to handle it?
    I haven’t met anyone who says they enjoy so-called Office Politics, unless they’re mocking it on TV. Can your co-workers and managers handle treating others professionally while knowing what happened to Marina’s hair this morning, or wondering if Chris Brogan’s comment about engaging enemies or Sterkworks’ comment about changing commission structures was secretly aimed at them??
  3. Can what happens on twitter stay on twitter?
    If an employee is passed up for a promotion or any other undue indiscretion is given to them because of what they say on twitter, that could be a bad thing.
  4. Where it works, USE IT
    This isn’t intended to be rain on anybody’s parade. Twitter, as an example of syndication oriented architecture (SynOA) works very well in certain circumstances. Phil Windley pointed me to this IT Conversations podcast where Jon Udell and Rohit Khare talk about how twitter can/does work.

Bottom-line: I feel like Twitter at work could be very helpful to an organization–IF THEY CAN HANDLE THE TRUTH.

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