Academic Round-up

How to use social media to build legitimacy

Health Corporation’s initial foray into the Twittersphere in early 2011 did not go well. The rationale behind the move by the pharmaceutical company into digital engagement was sound. It wanted to build legitimacy among its core audiences, it felt it had a strong sustainability story to tell, and it recognised social media as an important platform for communicating with diverse audiences. The only problem was it had zero experience in non-hierarchical communications. So it did what most other companies did: it spoke at its audiences (rather than with them) in a business-like tone, about themes it was comfortable with. After several months, its “relational distance” (social media talk for its ability to connect with others) was dismal.

Then the company changed tack. First, the two managers in charge of the Twitter account decided to sidestep the company’s external communications protocols. Rather than wait for approval for every Tweet, they adopted a chattier, more spontaneous, more responsive style. Second, they invested time in their online engagements. Online conversations, like their real-life equivalents, require space for ideas to develop and relationships to form. Third, the two managers encouraged other employees to sign up to Twitter and join the conversation. Not only did this serve to increase the volume of engagements (both in terms of scope and loudness), it reduced the risk of employees going rogue and speaking out of turn. Multiple voices also helped provide a sense of direction and coordination to the company’s conversations. That’s important, because the fourth step was to persuade the company to ditch its habit of setting the agenda for all its communications. It had to learn to let go.

Twitter is about ceding control

The beauty of social media is that it is flat: for conversations to happen, the interlocutors have to be open, symmetrically empowered and receptive to one another. Social media users won’t stand for being manipulated. One of the managers in the study states: “We have to recognise that sometimes we set the agenda, sometimes it will be [the stakeholders] who will set the agenda.” This ceding of control requires a cultural shift for large corporations. Those that can do this – as this exemplary longitudinal case study reveals – are set to become not only more in touch with their key stakeholders, but also more in tune with them. And therein lies the essence of social legitimacy.

Castello I, Etter M and Nielsen F (May 2016), Strategies of Legitimacy Through Social Media: The Networked Strategy, Journal of Management Studies 53 (3): 402-432

Rising above it all the best way to deal with workplace bullies

Incivility: a rude or impolite attitude or behaviour; lack of civility. The definition seems clear enough, but what do you do when you meet it in the workplace? Because meet it you will. According to rather harrowing research cited in the Harvard Business Review, 98% of us will have experienced rude behaviour at work at least once. Uncivility takes various forms, from the relatively mild (ignoring colleagues’ opinions or checking e-mail during meetings) through to the downright nasty (if you’ve seen it, you’ll not need it spelled out). Such behaviour doesn’t just harm personal feelings. Data shows it affects performance as well. Those who experience rudeness find it harder to absorb information and encounter problems with short-term, working memory. Family relationships and self-esteem can suffer, too.

So how best to deal with incivility when it crosses your path at work? Confrontation is one option. But the author urges caution; if you don’t feel safe, if you’re not certain that the impolite behaviour was intentional or if it’s not the first time it’s happened, then don’t square up. Avoidance is another option, although it’s not without its shortcomings, either. In fact, research suggests that most people who avoid or confront those who are rude emerge unsatisfied with the results.

A better answer, organisational behaviour theorists suggest, is to make yourself impervious. The perpetrator is unlikely to change, so better to respond by changing your own attitude to him or her.
So how can you do this? Concentrate on something other than the hurt or outrage felt. “Cognitive growth” the author calls it. Before growing, however, you need to bring closure. Journaling is shown to be effective: take out your angst on the pages of a diary. That done, identify areas for development and actively pursue learning opportunities in them, the paper advises. Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer have shown that progress is a more powerful motivator in the workplace than even recognition or pay. It’s a great bounce-back against incivility, too. Working closely with a mentor can help prevent negative feelings festering as well.

Think of rude behaviour in the workplace as a virus. Much of what helps you bat off sickness can help combat the noxious effects of incivility, research indicates. Sleeping well and taking exercise are two key essentials here. If it gets too bad, however, relocating or changing jobs might be your only option.

Porath, C (April 2016), An Antidote to Incivility, Harvard Business Review, 108–111.

Academic news  sustainability  stakeholders  strategy 

comments powered by Disqus