x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

A robust defence of Facebook in the office

The Life: Facebook etiquette: The Workplace Doctor, Deb Nicol, defends the use of Facebook in the office.

Dear Workplace Doctor, As a manager in my 50s, I am appalled by the amount of time that my staff members are spending on Facebook. A few years ago, they at least had the decency to be sheepish about it. But now they behave like it is a right, and when I suggest they spend less time on it while at work, they look at me like I want to hack off one of their limbs. Is there any way I can restrain their use of social media without alienating them? Or is this just a generational thing that I should ignore? AM, Dubai


Thanks for sharing your inner agonies - the strength of speech indicates to me that this issue is rather disturbing to you. Allow me to provide a different set of "verbal spectacles" through which to view this situation.

The internet informs me that the word "concentration" comes from two Latin words, namely "con" meaning "to" and "centrum" meaning fixed central point, thereby translating the act of concentration to be a state of bringing to a fixed point or focus. Your concern with Facebook suggests it is a barrier to concentration and a disturbance to focus.

Let's focus on you for a moment.

How long can you remain focused on a difficult or demanding task?

When focus wanes, how do you refocus?

How long can you be unknowingly distracted before you pull yourself back to deliverables?

Are your people a mirror image of you? After long periods of concentration, could a distraction such as Facebook bring the mind back to another world, allow the energy to flow in a new direction - and, if the person is disciplined, only take the time it needs?

In the heyday of your career what were the popular distractions that you engaged in sheepishly?

Those likely to have been on your list were long and whispered telephone conversations (which not only took time but increased the bills), photo-copying over in the photo-copy room (which by the way meant many opportunities to stop and chat with friends along the way) and perhaps even distributing faxes or memos on to the desks of others (a great way to stay in touch with office happenings and hence more to gossip about on the way back to your desk).

Perhaps our new verbal spectacles can move beyond the person and now consider the environment within which this dastardly activity is taking place.

Today's office arena is fast-paced, one that requires much multitasking and hot spot decision-making. Therefore long, uninterrupted concentration spans seem to be a disappearing luxury. I myself have answered two messages on Facebook just while writing this column and never once lost my train of thought - whether because of being female, an advanced multitasker or self-disciplined is unknown, yet it is serving me, the column's vitality and my Facebook friend. Win-win, wouldn't you say?

Today's workplace is technologically wired - everything turns on and off, opens and closes with a touch of a button. Ease, convenience and speed is at the base of all that we use. This brings maximum productivity to the workplace and maximum breadth of human scope. Win-win, wouldn't you say?

Today's business world is full of exciting opportunities - if the one in front of your own people has too many obstacles, there's plenty more for them to choose from, with trust and empowerment as added extras. Win - win or our first win - lose?

AM, thanks for airing your grievances. Might it be possible to approach this from an alternative angle?

1. Openly discuss concerns with your team.

2. Ask questions to understand the people's needs more, to identify if your thoughts are really well-founded concerns.

3. Publicly declare your priorities - deliverables or micromanagement?

4. Reflect on your past and connect with the future.

5. Look up the word "alienation".


Doctor's Prescription

Network with fellow business people and be privy to the world around you.


Deb Nicol, the managing director of Dubai-based Business En Motion, is a consultant on leadership and organisational development, strategic change and corporate culture. Email her at debbie.nicol@businessenmotion.com for the Workplace Doctor's advice on your challenges, whether as an employee, a manager or a colleague