Tag Archives: Social media

toxic talk and anger

Toxic Talk, LinkedIn and the Anger Iceberg

Toxic talk is prevalent but has now reached LinkedIn

For some years Academics have becoming increasingly concerned about the potential fallout from “uncivil discourse.”  So called “toxic talk” can end up polarizing opinion “when individuals rather than issues are attacked” (Stryker, Conway, & Danielson, 2014). The concerns over incivility extend to the online information environment, where “nasty comments can harm healthy constructive dialogue.

Posting on social media is a potential minefield and can lead to inches of toxic talk. We are all aware of the rise in incivility in these areas, but I am still astonished at the aggression and vitriol which even the most mundane comment can produce. I have seen it on Facebook and Twitter but I had never encountered it on LinkedIn.

Last week I had very minor exposure myself to toxic talk, where it seemed I had the temerity to call out a male coded infographic on a post on LinkedIn which was used to illustrate a modern day workplace. All the icons were male. Male coded workplaces are one of the key reasons women leave organisations. It was evident that I touched some hot buttons and the level of push back was interesting and surprising.

My input was considered “brutal.” Really.

” If you choose to see more in it because of some inferiority complex, and haven’t got help for your own insecurities, that’s all on you.”

“Stop making problems.”

I could go on. I was tempted to engage and expand on my comment, but remembered the time honoured phrase don’t feed the trolls.” I didn’t feel further input would add value and would only engage me in a flame war. The conversation stopped. The influencer who posted the original topic and was in a Bystander role in this instance, did not moderate his stream. Why should he? It was heady click bait fodder.

I have seen some people include in their post requests for people to be polite and constructive, with the intention of eliminating any toxic talk. This shouldn’t really be necessary. But the fact that it is required is a sign of the times. Even factoring in the potential for miscommunication posed by email and posting on social media present, these extreme responses seem exaggerated.

Maybe I’m being a wimp but I had also not expected this on the professional platform LinkedIn.

Anger Iceberg

Compared to the experiences of others, I am fully aware that this small pushback is inconsequential. Women in the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, and those who stood up after the Parkland shooting have experienced horrendous trolling and toxic talk. Some of this is from leaders who should know better. Dianne Abbott a UK MP received almost half of all abusive tweets (both racist and sexist) sent to female MPs before the 2017 election including death and rape threats. She said the ‘volume’ of abuse she received was ‘debilitating, corrosive and so upsetting’

In today’s world anger seems to be the go-to surface emotion.

Sofie-Ann Bracke, Belgium based mediation expert, shared this Anger Iceberg infographic from the Gottman Institute which resonated.To lash out at someone online (they are probably unlikely to do so in person) we have to take a close look at motivation behind their reactions and responses. Sometimes all negative emotions which are expressed as anger are actually rooted in something else.

Emotional Intelligence

The ease at which toxic talk becomes a common pattern of communication also taps into levels of emotional intelligence. Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist who helped to popularize the concept, says there are five key elements to it:

  • Self-awareness.

When we are self-aware, we have an understanding of how we feel and why and know well that, our emotions and your actions impact those around us.

My takeaway from my own experience now, is to anticipate a negative reaction. Rather than make a statement of fact, (“This is a very male-coded infographic“) I will probably try and elaborate with tried and tested intervention techniques. “Help me understand why a male coded infographic was used to illustrate the workplace which is 50% female.” Perhaps that would have made a difference. I will let you know.

  • Self-regulation.

People with emotional intelligence are able to self-regulate effectively rarely verbally attack others, make irrational or emotional decisions, stereotype others or compromise their value. Self-regulation is all about staying in control and not blaming other.

It’s easy to tap in an emotional response and hit send.

  • Motivation

This is about looking for an upside in every situation or challenge, no matter discouraging is a sign of strong emotional intelligence.

  • Empathy

Empathy is critical to successfully building relationships. Individuals with empathy are able to see another persons point of view and put themselves in their shoes without necessarily agreeing. They are able to give constructive feedback and challenge unfairness.

  • Social skills.

Those with social skills are great communicators.  They are good at managing change and resolve conflict effectively and diplomatically. They lead by example.

To communicate effectively, we must all acquire a solid understanding of how our emotions and actions affect the people around them. We also need to identify what triggers our emotions and why we respond in a certain way.

In the meantime it’s important that we all do what we can in our own area of influence to reduce the levels of toxic talk and other communication in our streams. LinkedIn could also offer a wider range of reporting options as UAE connection Dawn Metcalfe found when she received a picture of a penis in her LinkedIn messages.

Who else has experienced toxic talk on LinkedIn? Am I being a wimp and just accept this is part of the LinkedIn experience?

I am running a workshop in Brussels on May 29th on “How to deal with Sexism and Harassment in the Workplace” Please join me. Details HERE 

 

reputation management

Social media a danger zone for HR professionals

Career coaches are constantly exhorting candidates to take care of their cyber foot print, especially at entry-level. All recruiters and headhunters usually check out applicants online before meeting them. Line managers have been warned to pay attention when liking and sharing inappropriate content on LinkedIn. Many are unaware it all goes out to an individual’s whole network and can potentially damage their personal brand. Direct reports say that it looks creepy!  But social media is now becoming an unforseen danger zone for HR Managers. They too have to be mindful of their social media activity.  Social media posting is now part of the daily routine for those working in the function, but it can have a downside.  Any ill-considered content could be not just be damaging to their reputations, but can also be used in legal action.

Social media activity reflects our belief systems 

There is a new discussion around posting and tweeting  on issues which are important to us personally. They reflect our views, values, our belief systems. But to counter that, they are they also an indication of deeply embedded biases and attitudes. The question is whether they are going to follow us into the workplace and impact our decision-making.  Or are they  a form of authentic expression separate from our professional lives? Adding a disclaimer may be enough for any organisation, but what about a legal process?

Clearly I could never get a job in UKIP or any European Fascist Party. Needless to say I don’t lose sleep over that. Or I might, if there is a populist takeover and all dissenters are rounded up. That has happened before.

Shifting culture

We are seeing increasing cultural and political shifts, with strong feelings and rhetoric on all sides.  Is it possible to separate what we see posted in the public domain, from the person’s ability to do an unbiased, neutral and professional job? The lines are actually very blurred.

Here are two stories that have been shared with me only this week. The names have been changed for obvious reasons.

Aliyha is a research chemist with an international company based near Birmingham, U.K. She has received what she experiences as unconstructive and even obstructive communication from her HR Manager, Alison, regarding her career progression. Aliyha is seeing her peers’ careers developing at a different (i.e. more advantageous) pace.  Last week she discovered quite accidentally that Alison has been very energetically re-tweeting Katie Hopkins over a long period.

I checked out the account and the profile is the usual benign HR blurb: “HR Management, CIPD, mother and wife etc.” She also endorses Katie Hopkins and her opinions somewhat enthusiastically  – at least once a day.  Depending on your point of view, Hopkins will be a “controversial columnist” or a provocative hate generating commentator. She has caused outrage and legal action associated with her comments on immigration, overweight people and even children’s names, as well as personal vindictive attacks resulting in libel suits.  Aliyha asked

“I have no reason to believe that my performance is lower than that of my colleagues. My annual appraisals have always been excellent.  I have never had any problems at all until Alison became my HR Manager.  Is it because I am the daughter of immigrants, a bit on the chubby side and have an Arabic name  – could this be what is coming into play now?”

The answer is we will never know for sure, but there is no doubt that if Aliyha’s complaint becomes a case, her lawyer confirmed he intends to reference Alison’s online and social media activity and support of a racist, as an indicator or her inherent bias and prejudice.

Backlash 

At the other end of the scale Michael is a Trump voter. An HR Director in a security company in San Diego,  he believed his social media activity was minimal. However, he  has openly supported Trump on his Facebook page and posted pro-Trump comments on LinkedIn. Since the November election he has been surprised danger zone for HR professionalsto encounter negative undercurrents from colleagues, who now question his commitment to building a diverse and inclusive workforce for the company.

He has been called a racist and misogynist. His peers and team have told him that even if these are not his personal views, it is clear that he tacitly approves the stance of  President Trump. Michael feels that he has unfairly lost the trust of colleagues and employees and he is the victim of bias and prejudice.

I asked Annabel Kaye, Managing Director Irenicon a UK-based employment law specialist if there is a case.  She agrees social media is a danger zone for HR.

HR Managers should be and always are careful of their online posts. It is entirely possible that Twitter support of Katie Hopkins for example could indicate unconscious racial bias if not active racial prejudice. Whilst it is not definitive proof either way, certainly in the UK it would allow the ‘inference’ to be drawn that any decisions made by the HR person who made those tweets might be influenced by bias and thus put their employer at increased risk of losing a discrimination case.

For this reason most HR people who tweet use things like  “my opinions only – nothing to do with my employer”   on their bio as disclaimers.

But as discrimination cases are often about what people think (consciously or unconsciously) this would still be evidence as to their state of mind. Of course in the UK individuals who make discriminatory decisions are potentially liable as well as the organisation. So all in all, not a good plan to publicly support racists, sexists, or other discriminatory tweeters or characters if you don’t want this coming to an employment tribunal near you.

Of course, this is not definitive proof of discrimination or bias, but it is another item that is going to be used in tribunal.

Separate personal and professional

So what does this mean for HR and our social media activity and how it relates to personal branding and reputation management?  Should HR or even all professionals go back to the old school way of keeping our views on sex, religion and politics separate to our professional personas?  At what point do they decide that social media can be a danger zone for HR managers? And  then what happens if what we tweet is out of alignment with the values of our organization even with a disclaimer?

So where do you stand in the danger zone for HR professionals?

 

 

 

Employee social media usage restricted by contract

If one summer poolside conversation is anything to go by, there seems to be growing evidence of companies trying to ring-fence their organisations against the social media activity of their employees. It’s no longer simply just the odd high-profile, headline cases or instances of individuals being disciplined for posting sensitive content about their bosses, jobs or inferior cafeteria food. Nor is it about the use of company time for social networking. This is a wider spread, behind the scenes movement to restrict or clarify  employee social media activity (depending on your view-point)  via changes to employment contracts and the issuing of new conditions of service.

Mainstream

Sophie, an associate in a London-based consulting firm told me that she had recently been asked not to tweet on issues in the organisation’s geographic reach. As an international market leader, the activities of this company span many countries, so this was a significant restriction on what she considered to be her freedom of speech. An Account Manager who has been using LinkedIn for identifying prospects for business development purposes, has received a request from his manager to disconnect from these members. He was informed that the only information on the prospect should be on the company data base. An employee has also been asked to uncheck the options contact for career opportunities and job inquiries on his LinkedIn profile and to post a restricted career history.

Do you need help creating a strong online professional presence?

Catch up

The corporate world has always lagged behind the wider culture with regard to social media usage and as I predicted some time ago,  some sort of ” catch-up”  attempt was therefore inevitable. Employees can realistically expect to have the following conditions imposed on them in the forseeable future:

  • Prohibition of the use of employer-related information in any kind of employee postings
  • Restrictions on usage of social media sites during office hours using company hardware and systems
  • Prohibition on the disclosure/use of any sensitive, proprietary, confidential or financial information about the business or its clients
  • Prohibition of employee endorsement, direct or implicitly of the  organisation’s business in any statement or posting
  • Prevention of engagement in conduct that would violate the employer’s other workplace policies, such as anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies
  • Information relating to any disciplinary policies up to and including termination of employment for infractions or violations of company policy

Employees should:

  • Never release the passwords of their social media accounts to third parties
  • Always use a private email address rather than a business one for all social media contact if in any doubt about  how their social media activities will be perceived by their organisations
  • Never block a connection on LinkedIn on the instructions of a superior. This action is irreversible and the connection may be needed later
  • Discuss openly with any manager who requests a restriction on contact possibilities on a LinkedIn profile. Career opportunities, job inquiries, new ventures and business deals can also afford opportunities for the organisation, not just the individual.  It is also a personal profile so individuals should be able to present their career history in any way that doesn’t damage the business interests of their employer.

The rub of course lies in this final point and where the overlap of personal and corporate interests become hazy. Overall, the social media revolution represents a fundamental shift in the way we communicate and the value of the opportunities  is significant to all. What should be in place are measures that protect organisations and employees alike.

Have you been formally asked to restrict your social media activities via new conditions of service and employment? Please share your experience.