Social culture and structure don’t have to be mutually exclusive
The Networked Nonprofit (Kanter and Fine, 2011) outlines ways that organizations with social cultures benefit. Some of these advantages include, using social media as a two-way conversation, embracing mistakes and risks, reward learning and reflection, emphasizing failing fast, talking to others outside of organization to facilitate growth and learning outside of silos. These are wonderful advantages and especially cater to an increasingly larger segment of the working population; the young and eager Millennials.
We see this especially in quintessential “start-ups” where offices are abolished for open concept work spaces. Even established Fortune 500 companies have taken on this approach in building a more collaborative working environment as opposed to putting up more walls, literally and figuratively. Not just for business, nonprofits would also benefit from this growing practice. In a world of connecting, engaging and acting, ideas and movements need to grow in an inclusive and creative space.
However, not all is gained from this new mode of work life. As start-up culture has become more established, so has their complaints. Workers are becoming distressed from being overworked, and having unduly demanding schedules. Having too open of a social culture, including a company phone and laptop often requires staff to be available around the clock. No more goes the excuse, “I don’t have a phone” or “I can’t work from home.” Because now, yes, you can, and yes, you will.
As much as social media and technology has made organizational walls more permeable, it has also made things a lot more personal. Texting your boss may sound convenient when you need to call in sick from work but the double-edged sword hurts when you’re getting texted about a late assignment on Friday night.
What needs to happen are clear cut boundaries. Take the advantages of the traditional organizations: safe and sound policies, fairly outlined working conditions and integrate with the transparency and openness that social culture affords.
Nothing is perfect about our working life. It never has and it probably has a long way to go in the future, especially with the advent of freelance and remote work. Nevertheless, it’s positive to see a trend towards collaboration and creativity and I, for one hope it’s here to stay.