2 Avatars: My work self and my personal self
Posted by Amy Wilson on April 7, 2010
The line between work and personal worlds is blurry. This is particularly the case for knowledge workers – we tend to think our work is interesting enough to talk about at a cocktail party (though our spouses and partners might disagree) and I’ll be the first to admit that, despite my occasional surge to re-connect with high school and college pals, most of my Facebook friends are work colleagues. I like people in my industry and I’m interested in their personal lives.
Is there a difference between work and personal?
There is a difference, but it’s not about who I connect with, rather the context in which I engage in conversation. My work colleagues expect me to share pictures of my kid and rave about my husband’s latest cooking venture on Facebook. They expect me to ask for help on my (top secret) research project or share a quote from a ravingly positive customer internally – typically email at this stage.
Could I share work information on a network rather than email? Absolutely. I used to send pictures and updates to friends via email. Now I put it on Facebook. It took some time to get used to it and a critical tipping point of friends on the network, but the shift happened. This same shift is due to happen with work networks. Rather than send an email to a group, invariably leaving off someone who would have benefited from the information or could have provided the feedback I need, I could leverage my work network in much the same way I leverage Facebook.
Why not put work updates on Facebook and direct it to work colleagues?
Security is the obvious answer (oops! I didn’t mean to send that to everyone! … makes the “reply to all” to the whole company look benign doesn’t it?), but I think it’s also about context and purpose. Even though the mechanics and the overarching concept is the same (connect, share, learn), the purpose is to get work done and the context is that it is valuable to my work.
Is Facebook a waste of time?
I just said that the purpose of an internal network is to get work done and the conversations that occur are valuable to my work. Does this mean that external networks are not valuable to my work? First of all, I believe that personal conversations are valuable to one’s work. They set a foundation for trust, respect, and shared enthusiasm. That said, the purpose of Facebook is not to facilitate work collaboration. I do occasionally share a work triumph – a well received presentation, a blog I’m particularly proud of – for the purposes of building my external reputation and brand. So that brings me to my next question …
Is my external brand different than my internal brand?
This gets into even blurrier territory, especially since so many social media players are actually external workers. Independent analysts, marketers, consultants, for the most part, do not have internal, private work lives. Their work brand and reputation is completely external.
This is not the case for most knowledge workers. Many are starting to dabble in the world of an external presence or brand, but for the most part, their career is based on their reputation and identity within their company. Finance, IT, R&D, even Sales do the majority of their work inside the company. Why can’t they enjoy the benefits of network collaboration – innovation, productivity, engagement – inside the work environment?
Where does LinkedIn fit into this? And Twitter? I don’t know. What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this …