My September column for The Kitsap Sun…
What’s your opinion?
Social media has brought a whole new meaning to the op-ed.
Opinion-Editorials long were the mouthpiece for journalists, academics, and experts in the pages of local, regional, and national publications. The closest we “regular” folks got to opining was the Letter to the Editor. If you ever mailed one of those editorial comments to the newspaper editor, you recall that it took a lot of effort, thought, and proof-reading before submission. Then you waited to see if your letter caught the attention of the editor to gain a prized spot for that one day…
Fast forward to today and you’ll find indiscriminate commentary scattered over your social media pages, often accompanied by a clever meme, emoji, or commentary by someone else whom you’ve never heard of and might wonder if they have any credibility.
I don’t mind it. In fact, I’m more than game to have a discussion on my social media platforms. That being said, sometimes the responses that creep into the comment boxes are replete with caustic remarks, extraneous punctuation (especially the abundant use of exclamation points), and occasional expletives to drive home the point. Often, you can observe the demonstrable bully pulpit exclamation, “OH YEAH??!!”
It’s one thing to puff out one’s chest and attempt to assert some form of dominance, but when it’s done behind the curtain of a profile picture, it turns into either an annoyance, agitation, or anger to others. And that’s where the problem becomes conspicuous.
The current social, cultural, and political positions have brought upon a deluge of commentary on everything from wearing masks to racial justice to political chasms. We all have a right to our own opinions and the social media phenomenon has taken the old “Letter to the Editor” to an unprecedented place. I believe that once written, one has opened up their publication to scrutiny, judgement, and response. That’s not the issue; the concern is who responds and how it impacts each of us.
I said the problem becomes conspicuous. That’s because debates about all issues should at the best be cause for thought and reflection. In many cases, we can all learn something new, if we are open to it. At the worst, “friends” may emerge ready to pick a fight or simply be obnoxious. The result is often detrimental because it’s easy to allow the exchanges to erode one’s energy, enthusiasm, and to rent valuable space in our brains.
A good friend reminded me of something. He said, “Focus on the relationships you have with people that have positions which require serious thinking, analysis and are responsible for outcome. Time is so limited that it almost becomes kind of a selfish thing. If the objective of the exercise to make your business, your staff and more importantly yourself better every day you don’t have time for lateral or retrograde movement which is all those people can offer.”
You may be wondering, “what does this have to do with my business or professional career?”
We don’t only communicate with “friends” on Facebook. You likely have employees and co-workers with whom you have dialogue with. It used to be called chatting around the water cooler (which now may be officially outlawed due to the pandemic!). The water cooler has now become more virtual than ever. We are working in the same manner that we publish and respond to our op-eds. The ability for some to range from irritating to infuriating is very much alive – and I don’t just mean politics – I mean the simple daily operations and administration of business. We’ve all been a part of business situations where there is someone prepared to be objectionable and pump out their chest with their own version of “OH YEAH??!!”
As a business owner or professional, your time, energy, enthusiasm, and ultimately performance will be affected by these exchanges unless you’re careful and disciplined. If you allow your brain to be “rented” by this discourse, you will lose capacity to perform at your best. As a business owner, if you aren’t carefully monitoring the behavior of your employees, you will lose organizational productivity, and potentially get sued by employees feeling harassed or discriminated against.
You want to maximize your energy? You want to keep a clear head? You want to improve achievement in business and life? You want to have more fun?
It’s not the blockage of opining (though that might be your direction) because operating in business might require it, along with key decisions. What we all must do is take my friend’s words of wisdom.
Focus your energy on relationships with people where cogent thinking and intelligent dialogue are present. Focus daily on moving forward with people that want to go in the same direction, regardless of position on ideas. We all learn and grow that way.
In your company, don’t shy away from educating your employees on what empathy, teamwork, respect, and proper social media protocol with co-workers looks like. In a world of employees working virtually and connecting on social media platforms, the opportunity for peril is increased.
It was already an issue before the pandemic when workers still congregated in cubicles, office spaces, and facilities. Our opinions – while we have the perfect right to have them – can become a challenge based on how they are stated, how they are received, and who is seeing them. In this age of ubiquitous opinions, emojis, and memes, you must become skilled in educating, modeling, and responding to these human resource issues.
Facebook has a snooze button. In your personal life, feel free to utilize that snooze (or discard) button for those that don’t bring value to your life. As relates to your business and career, be sure to model the behavior and responses you expect from employees, co-workers, and your clients. That disciplined approach will serve you, your company, and your success very well.
And for what it’s worth, that’s my opinion.
© 2020 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved