Does the Workplace Need More Casual Conversations?

I have a pet peeve: when the composer of an e-mail takes three paragraphs to say what I would say in about three sentences. The e-mails sometimes are copied to higher-ups, so the childish desire to use fancy words, like a seventh-grader trying to bolster a bad essay, is understandable—the sender is posturing.

I’m hopeful that Workplace by Facebook might curb pretentious, overly formal e-mails. There’s a lot about social media I don’t like, but one thing I do like is it encourages casual conversation. Some would say overly casual, in which grammar is non-existent and over-sharing takes place, but if I had to choose between quick, down-to-Earth, messages sent on the fly, and e-mails that sound like they were composed by an insecure bureaucrat, I would choose the former.

Virgin Atlantic is trying Workplace, so it’ll be interesting to see what this seemingly progressive company finds. I will be curious to hear whether it’s faster, easier, and more pleasant than weeding through e-mails, and whether it affects productivity, for the better or worse.

I don’t know if Workplace allows for it, but it would be fun and useful to offer “status updates” about work. That way, instead of having a colleague e-mailing me or tapping my shoulder a million times a day to ask about an ongoing project, I could just make a note for myself to offer a few status updates about it throughout the day. It also would be a good way to express frustration in an easier, more casual way than sending a group e-mail, and addressing the group in formal letter-writing style, so that it sounds like a manifesto or dictate.

Instead you could write: “Hey, group, how’s the Penske File coming? I’m worried that we’ve been working on it for a few weeks now, and Mr. Penske will be coming in on Monday to meet with us, and all we’ve done so far is transfer the contents into a fancy folder. Is anyone else worried?”

It sounds more like a casual, commiserating gripe when sent openly to the group on a social media platform than it would in an e-mail in which it might come across as a manager filing a formal complaint. One of social media’s strengths is its ability to facilitate and encourage commiserating. Sharing misery as a team is the best way to combat a top-down culture with arrogant, needlessly formal managers who talk down to their employees—and who mostly relate to employees with “constructive” criticism and directives.

It also would be helpful to set up group pages as easily as you can on Facebook. Whenever a new project arises, the manager could create a page for it on Workplace where she could easily share information and due dates for the associated work. Plus, any member of the group could leave a comment and members of the project team could easily post updates about their work.

It also would be simple for groups of employees who are not in the same location to share photos. Rather than texting a group of co-workers through a personal phone, it would be helpful to have a platform where you could post a photo as easily as you post a photo and accompanying text to Facebook.

Just as you get alerts about friends’ birthdays on Facebook, you could have alerts set to notify a work group about each day’s due dates and meetings. That already can be done with Microsoft Outlook, and other work e-mail systems, but I’m hopeful it might be even easier to do with the Facebook platform.

Having a platform that most employees are already deeply experienced with in their private lives can do nothing but help the workplace. It offers a tool that requires no adaption time, and may even dial down the emotions in the room. Keep it breezy, is what I say to most workplace communications. There’s nothing more off-putting than a formal dictate sent from on high. Hopefully, this platform in the workplace will deflate arrogant communications.

Now I’m waiting for Workplace by Instagram—wordless communications with colleagues because, really, a picture (even in the office) can be worth a thousand pretentious words.

Is your organization planning to try Workplace by Facebook? Or do you use a comparable platform? What are the advantages and areas of concern about using a social media platform for workplace communications?


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