Because we love social media, ‘Facebook at Work’ is the future of colleague interaction. Bosses will love it too because it means getting more out of introverted staff.
Facebook wants you to get off Facebook while you’re at work … and then get on their new thing called ‘Facebook at Work’. The idea is that companies can set up their own little social network, where employees can talk to each other for the purposes of doing their job. For companies that block staff from using social media at work this may seem terrifying, but it’s actually pretty brilliant: people are really good at communicating with each other on social media, so companies might as well use that to their advantage.
Of course, Facebook is not the first to come up with a social network for the workplace. Microsoft signalled the future in 2012 when it paid US$1.2bn for ‘Yammer’, which does pretty much the same as ‘Facebook at Work’. The same holds true for ‘Slack’, which has proved popular since its 2013 launch. These companies are succeeding because they have found a way to translate to technology something people do naturally at work anyway: socialising with their colleagues.
As people increasingly work remotely, or on flexible schedules, businesses should pay careful attention to how social networks are making it possible to nurture team spirit over distance. Even if everyone is sitting in the same room, direct messaging can sometimes be better than talking in person because it’s less confrontational. Similarly, a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” function may be more likely to get an honest opinion on a new project, as it’s less cringeworthy than having to tell someone to their face that you don’t like it.
A boost for introverts
In fact, talking to colleagues via technology interface may actually play a part of bringing voices to the surface which would otherwise be drowned out. Brainstorming sessions and open-plan offices are ideal for confident and outgoing people, but there’s a problem: the correlation between being the boldest and being the best is tenuous at best. Just because the loud one is quick to express an idea it doesn’t mean the quiet one isn’t mulling over something that may be even better.
Creating a work environment that doesn’t just reward the loudmouths will be valuable for companies who want to hear from their introverted staff. While introverts, who make up one-third of the population, are less likely to be promoted to leaders because they keep their heads down more, research from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania found that introverted leaders often deliver better results. One reason for this could be because they leave more room for talented employees to run with their ideas instead of inadvertently pushing in on projects.
Most highly productive and creative people come with a big dose of introversion, concludes Susan Cain in her book: “Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking”. This is because solitude is often a crucial ingredient for deep thought and creation. A common mistake is to confuse introversion with shyness and try to pull introverts out of their shells, but this is futile because introversion and extroversion is a description to how a person responds to stimuli. Essentially, extroverts feel envigorated when they are around lots of people, drawing energy from chatting and being social. Introverts charge their batteries during moments of solitude and often prefer to speak to just one or two people rather than a whole group.
Businesses benefit from creating an environment that lets both extroverts and introverts shine, as their different approaches to problem-solving often lead to interesting and valuable results. Tools like ‘Facebook at Work’ may well be a step in the right direction in a world that primarily caters to the needs of extroverts. Cain argues that too many open-plan offices, “groupthink” culture and classrooms where children are constantly pushed to work together, results in a waste of talent, energy and happiness.