First. there were those cringe-worthy Reply All emails and then the ill-conceived Facebook status updates that plagued the office. Now, 140 characters can make or break your image in the workplace.
Twitter is currently the hottest social networking site picking up steam, this time with a slight catch. The concept is designed around people uploading a steady stream of updates, called Tweets, that can be anywhere from 1 to 140 characters in length. Unlike Facebook, there is no poking, no scandalous photo tags, no mention of your relationship status or your birthday. And yet this seemingly tiny amount of information can get you into some hot water.
Twitter has proven to bite back and threaten everything from employee attention spans to competitive practices. Last week I read a story about a recent grad who was offered a job at a big tech company to only throw it all away when she twittered something about “loving the money and hating the work.” Lesson learned: never interview, drink a bottle of red wine and tweet.
Stories like this make me wonder if Twitter’s chirps are worse than its occasional peck. The benefits seem to far outweigh the drawbacks and, for those of us in the media industry, Twitter is becoming an acceptable way of communicating with potential audiences as well as co-workers.
The blurring of the line between public and private via Twitter, if nothing more, highlights how younger and older generations value privacy, and coincidentally was an aspect of this new site that I never thought about until I read the scariest sentence thus far, in my professional career: “[Your boss] is now following your updates on Twitter.”
After regaining consciousness and climbing out from under my desk, I wasn’t sure how to handle this situation. Sure, I had older followers on Twitter, but never anyone who could see me typing my status updates or who would be able to pin point that I was still at my desk when I tweeted about my “boring, lazy Monday, sure to be filled with the Jon & Kate marathon on TLC.”
Thinking about this problem for weeks I made a list of Twitter restrictions (or Twitter-strictions as I call them). I resolved to:
I attached this list to a Post It note with a photo of my boss’s head saying, “I’m watching you” in a cartoon word bubble that sits beside my computer, right in my line of sight on my desk.
It’s been a couple of months now and my plan seems to be working. Instead of fearing what image my Tweets dig up for my boss, we actually seem to be bonding over shared followers and followees, as well as the never ending cultural references involved with this new site.
If nothing more, Twitter has opened up a casual middle ground between my boss and I, providing a space for me to display interests and traits he wouldn’t see on a week-to-week basis.
Status update: tweet that.