By Christopher D. Kaufman-Oracle on Jan 14, 2015
How not to lose your job or reputation in the New Year from your new sense of unlimited mobility…
So sadly, it has come to my personal attention recently that as we move into a world of smarter smartphones, snappier IM messaging networks, very virtual conferences, and rich email threaded conversations, people feel the need to create parallel digital back channels especially during real in-person events.
Chatting while meeting, working, and learning with other people is rarely acceptable in most occasions. As somebody who has been tasked over the years to create or manage chats, conversation threads, and live online events for major brands, here are some words of wisdom I have garnered beyond all the brand events and social media campaigns I have deployed.
9 Rules to Professional Mobile-Social Communications
Sharing ideas about a topic around a business objective is almost always acceptable, and I will cover that in another post; “How to build great Enterprise Mobile-Social Collaboration Systems.”
But, this post is about chatting behind someone’s back, which is never acceptable. I see it all the time in business. If the person you are chatting about is not present in the thread, then don’t. This should be obvious but just in case… Why?
For the 9 reasons above which cover the ethical, the legal, and the emotional reasons for not creating back channels, I generally believe it shows a true lack of professionalism, a low level of emotional maturity, and a narrow business focus.
The pure entertainment factor of real-time or threaded chat is just that, entertainment, and in fact even entertainment properties pay people like me to oversee and manage conversations for precisely the reasons I have listed above. We have administrative controls, extended technical capabilities, and built in authority to stop or control emerging problems most ad hoc business back channels do not.
But is there any occasion where back channels are appropriate in a business setting?
When all parties are online or on a narrow band communication channel, in which two sides are competing or discussing two opposing needs or objectives. Let’s share an example.
Business Team A is trying to sell Business Team B a year’s supply of Digi-Widgets. As long as there are no team members of both teams in the same physical or virtual room, then adding channels to connect same team members by adding additional bandwidth to the intra-team communication is perfectly acceptable.
In fact I recommend business back channels in the right scenarios. Adding bandwidth to team communication is what Enterprise Mobile-Social Collaboration is all about.
This is especially useful during conference calls where all parties are in their own office or conference room. Again, as along as the team engaging in a back channel makes all members of the same team aware of the channel and does not have a member in the same room with the opposing or other side, creating increased communication is a decisive advantage.
Also remember even in these scenarios, please do not forget the following rules listed above. The same rules apply to the emotional, ethical, and legal consequences.
Just in case you are unsure how and when to use digital channels to communicate, here are my list of 7 rules that have always helped me.
2) 95% of the problems you have with people are with people from your past, not from the person you are having a problem with in an office setting. Therefore do not express “Problems with People” digitally.
4) Document your work, your production, and your research that supports concerns about business metrics at work and make a secure back-up of your work only. Business metrics are only the ones that have money attached in terms of profits or losses. Dresses, food, comments about style are not…
6) Email is an official document. Chat is an official document. IM is an official document. A social post is an official document. Any digital comment can be traced and used in a court of law. If you would not want it stated or shown in a legal transcript so as to be interpreted by a jury of strangers of what they think your thoughts intents were, then don’t put it into any business communication.
Your mobile phones, your tablets, or your Internet connected laptops are very powerful devices. Today’s mobile phones can multi-task and run several applications simultaneously. This does not mean you should try to keep your social life as active as a multi-core arm processor even when you are in business settings.