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How Micromanagement Undermines Online Culture

Letting go of control is hard—let’s acknowledge that. Especially if you understand the repercussions of what can happen when someone unintentionally (or intentionally) does something that will negatively affect the bottom line.

For the purpose of this discussion, let’s set bad actors aside. If someone in your company wants to do harm, they will find a way. There should be mechanisms in place to deter this type of behavior, but to develop a strong online culture, this cannot be the lens that you choose to see everything through.

Instead, take the perspective that most people are well intentioned. They don’t want security breached, trade secrets leaked, work lost, or worse. They want to protect their jobs, help the organization succeed, and they are cautious even before you add constraints.

You need to take a leap of faith and trust your employees, if you want them to trust you.

Employees need to feel that they are:

  • Supported and safe to share ideas in online spaces, try new processes, fail sometimes, and try again. Threats of punitive action for expressing their opinions in open forums or trying something new to improve a process will cause people to shut down.
  • Connected to the people around them. If collaborative-tool governance is too restrictive, it will stifle creativity, accelerate employee disengagement, and increase isolation.
  • Empowered to advocate for the tools that they need to easily get their job done. Access to no-cost, cloud-hosted, browser-based tools, coupled with expectations by most organizations that personal phones will be used for business, means that if you close the door on this conversation, employees will meet their needs without involving you.

I’m not suggesting that organizations give up and let people run wild. On the contrary, I’m advocating an intentional approach to build trust among employees and leadership, while aligning how people use tools.

  • Leaders should reinforce respectful cooperation among employees and teams, so that everyone in the organization feels recognized as valued change agents.
  • Managers should encourage everyone to reinforce norms and cultural behaviors that nurture openness and sharing while minimizing organizational risk.

What if instead of creating policies, posting them once, and insisting that people attest annually to how they’ll behave with online systems, you started having open conversations with your community about:

  • What employees need to feel empowered and engaged online (a sense of security and inclusion, the ability to share concerns without judgement, etc.).
  • How to balance those needs with organizational requirements (minimizing risk, staying on budget, etc.).

As the Internet continues to shape expectations that we can customize the experience of every aspect of our lives to meet our preferences, employees are going to be less and less inclined to just go along with organizational mandates.

You can ignore this trend, or you can lead the conversation with employees to help shape an online experience that meets everyone’s needs—one where trust grows because we transform how people work with and relate to each other online.

Trust Changers' Story

  • 79% believe Americans have "far too little" or "too little" confidence in each other
  • 70% believe Americans’ low trust in each other makes it harder to solve the country’s problems
  • 64% believe Americans' level of trust in each other has been shrinking
  • 58% believe it is "very important" the level of confidence Americans have in each other be improved
  • 25% believe Americans' level of confidence in each other is a very big problem

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