The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Business

February 26, 2014

Balancing Act: Social media help co-workers bond

When Brian Goldberg learned on Facebook that he and a co-worker had a mutual love of craft beer, he invited him to lunch at a sports bar where his own favorite brand was on tap. While gobbling burgers and throwing back cold brew, Goldberg snapped a picture with his new buddy, posted it on Instagram and tagged it “(hashtag)bestlunchever.“ “It’s great when you find co-workers who have interests aligned with yours.“

Social networking has made it easier to form personal relationships with co-workers. On sites such as Facebook and Instagram, where people share their likes and dislikes, family photos and new hobbies, people gain insight into colleagues that could provide the basis for forging stronger workplace bonds.

“In some ways, (social media) has replaced team-building events that used to take place off-site,“ said Carlos Garcia, founder of Nobox, a social media marketing firm in Miami. “You get to know the people you work with on a deeper level.“

An online poll released in January found workers reported that social technologies in the office simplified communication, fostered stronger relationships and increased collaboration. Jim Greenway, executive vice president of Lee Hecht Harrison, the global talent mobility consulting firm that conducted the poll, believes those benefits to office relationships positively affect how much we like our jobs and how loyal we feel to our workplaces.

“Most of us want to be friends with co-workers,“ Greenway said. “When you look at hours you spend in the workplace, it’s often more than at home. The more relationships are built and fostered, the more productive the environment.“

Indeed, research by Gallup found that strong social connections at the office can make employees more passionate about their work and less likely to quit their jobs. Social media connection that opens the door to face-to-face conversation can play a role in deepening those friendships.

As the number of adult users on social networks increases, so does “friending“ co-workers. The typical Gen Y Facebook user has an average of about 16 friends who are co-workers, according to a study by Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and management consulting firm. In addition, a 2012 HRinfodesk poll of readers found 40 percent connect with co-workers on social networks through personal or professional accounts.

How much social networking contributes to building friendships may depend on organizational support. Some businesses ban all social media use in the workplace and block access to social networks through the corporate information technology system. Others have launched their own internal social media platforms, formed groups on Facebook or posted company updates on LinkedIn or Twitter.

At Nobox, Garcia not only welcomes social media, he has woven it into the office culture. Garcia allows his 40 employees to bring pets to his office and encourages them share photos on Twitter and Instagram, and to tag them “(hashtag)noboxpets.“ “It has helped bring people closer within the company,“ he said. “It also benefits our brand because people see us as a place where co-workers are friends.“

For his mostly millennial staff, combining work and personal life via online social networking creates deeper engagement, Garcia said. He notices his workers follow each other’s status updates and comment on pictures and videos about their travels, favorite restaurants or family events. “It breeds opportunity for in-person conversations.“

Some find connecting on social media opens the door for bonding with colleagues outside the office. Maria Andreina Garcia, digital account director at Nobox (and no relation to Carlos Garcia) said she noticed a co-worker was a fellow foodie and regularly posted photos of scrumptious-looking meals at interesting local restaurants. Now, Maria Andreina Garcia asks to join her on occasion. She also shares recipes with her on Pinterest.

In January, Garcia went cold turkey off social media for a month as a personal social experiment. She noticed it affected her work life. Co-workers would talk about posts or information they had shared online that she hadn’t seen. She has now returned to the cyber scene. “Social media definitely adds value to office relationships.“

Sharing with co-workers on Facebook or other social networks can have other benefits. A Fort Lauderdale, Fla., law office manager who is single found that by sharing pictures online of herself with her elderly mother, her co-workers learned she had family responsibilities, too. “They had no idea how much I was balancing,“ said the manager, who asked not to be named. “When they see you as a whole person, they can give you more emotional support.“

Creating ties on social media platforms can also bridge generational gaps. At a time when 2 out of 5 people work with colleagues spanning all four generations, social networks offer a way to break down barriers and make others seem more approachable.

Greenway at Lee Hecht Harrison says that when he was assigned to mentor a younger manager, he went right to Facebook and learned he was a drummer in a band. “It opened the door for good conversation, and I was able to develop a relationship on a different, more personal level.“

Of course, letting co-workers into your personal life carries risk. Some of us don’t consciously think about who will be reading every single status update. A simple post like “I hate Mondays“ or any comment that implies you don’t really like your job or boss can hurt you at work.

Or let’s say a team project is due and a co-worker notices your stream of updates from games like “Candy Crush.“ Now your work ethic is in question. Even a political comment or religious reference on social media could create friction with an office friend who disagrees with your viewpoint, said David Maxfield, vice president of research at VitalSmarts, a training solutions firm.

And, then there’s the potential to make a co-worker feel excluded. After posting his lunch photo, Goldberg returned to his office to find another office buddy angry because he wasn’t included. “Sometime you’re going to leave someone out. With social media, people are going to be more aware of it,“ Goldberg said.

For oversharers, self-policing is essential, experts say. Exposing drama in your personal lives on social media sites could affect how colleagues treat you at work. (One woman I know shared details of a bad breakup, and was mortified when her boss brought it up with her.)

Another warning from experts: Don’t let social media platforms become your default forums for high-stakes conversations or disagreements with colleagues. “It takes lots of conversations to build a relationship, but only one on social media to destroy it,“ Maxfield said.

Each social network has its own way of allowing you to edit content and customize who gets to see it. Experts suggest you set your privacy settings, review them regularly and be smart about what you post.

As the traditional ideas of work/life separation evolve, the way co-workers connect online will, too. Said Maxfield: “On the whole, it’s overwhelmingly positive.“

Cindy Krischer Goodman is CEO of BalanceGal LLC, a provider of news and advice on how to balance work and life. She can be reached at balancegalgmail.com. Read her columns and blog at http://worklifebalancingact.com/.

 

1
Text Only
Business
  • Balancing Act: How much is your time worth? Consider outsourcing some tasks

    Todd Paton has a booming business getting customers noticed on the Web. One tool he uses is generating online press releases to build brand awareness and create links that will send traffic to a customer’s website. But Paton, owner of Paton Internet Marketing, acknowledges that writing the releases is not his strong suit. Rather than spend his time doing it, he hires out the task.

    July 23, 2014

  • The Color of Money: No easy way to get out of debt

    Many people who are deeply in debt are desperate for a quick fix. They ask the question: What can I do to get out of debt?

    July 21, 2014

  • Watercooler: When to speak up if you see problems down the line

    Q: Our organization has hired a new director. I am one of a number of division heads; above us, there's the associate director, and above him is the director. The associate director is feared and disliked for his duplicity and dictatorial nature, though few have come forward because of his vindictiveness.

    July 18, 2014

  • Career Coach: Bringing a purpose-driven spirit to work

    Increasingly, religious beliefs and practices of employees are becoming more evident in the workplace. Religious diversity and concepts of spirituality are more prevalent in organizational settings.

    July 18, 2014

  • Ask the Mompreneur: It’s best to farm out your payroll

    When my husband and I hired our first employee at our Web development company, we had it easy when it came to doing payroll.

    July 17, 2014

  • Protecting against unnecessary losses

    QUESTION: I run a small bar and grill which is open 7 days a week and have to rely on others for some of the shifts. How can I ensure employees have not become my partners?

    July 17, 2014

  • A checklist for keeping you focused at work

    A quick check of Facebook and next thing you know, a half-hour’s passed. Start chatting with a co-worker and suddenly 20 minutes is gone and the report you were supposed to finish by lunch is late.
    Workplace distractions are everywhere, especially in an age of social media and open-plan offices. In the face of so much temptation, accomplishing what you’re paid to do can be tough.

    July 16, 2014

  • It could be time for a career coach

    Need a little help figuring out your next career move?
    If you’re putting in the hours and still not seeing the rewards, feeling undervalued or simply striving to be more successful, it may be time to hire a career coach.

    July 16, 2014

  • Your Office Coach: Turn to boss for help with disgruntled underling

    QUESTION: When I joined this company a few weeks ago, I discovered that the person who previously held my position is now working for me. “Sarah” obviously resents my presence and frequently says I don’t have the authority to manage her, even though I clearly do. Her negativity has made my job much more difficult.

    July 15, 2014

  • You are not trusted

    If it seems like employers don’t trust employees - well, they don’t.

    July 15, 2014

Business Video
Stocks