Chapter 13. Let Them Communicate . . . Now

All these new communications tools are so disruptive and unsettling. They make those busybodies in every workplace who take it upon themselves to look over the shoulders of others feel like—gasp!—they're losing control. That's why a debate is in progress at companies worldwide. What types of communications should people be allowed or perhaps encouraged to do at work?

One side of the debate—usually led by HR and legal counsel—insists new forms of communications are frivolous at best and dangerous at worst. Fearing they might lose control these people prefer to clamp down on the use of social media at work.

To be fair, I do understand part of the argument here—anything employees say on social media can be seen instantly by the entire world—and that can be a scary prospect. Remember the pizza guy who stuffed cheese up his nose.

All sorts of things can go wrong in an age when one of your salespeople—after three martinis—can tweet insults to a New York Times reporter from his barstool. And when your potential business partner can see, on Foursquare, just how many bars you've been to this week. Given what can happen, no wonder people fret that we're going a bit loosey-goosey on the real-time communications front.

Then again, we've been through all this before. Where I worked in the late 1980s, company officials debated the wisdom of providing PCs and email addresses to staff. In the end, the bosses decided that only those at director-level could ...

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