So, Your Employee Posted That on Facebook…

When an employee posts on a social media platform his or her dissatisfaction at work without personally expressing this to you as a supervisor or manager, what would you do? I’m sure many companies have established policies on the use of social media, but how would you look at the situation? What is your understanding of “society and rules” in the context of organizational or team culture?

Not long ago I had a discussion with a  grad school colleague regarding Theory X and Theory Y types of workers, and her position in the former. She mentioned about some of the actual conversations she had with people in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina who would rather collect welfare payments from the government than work at fast-food restaurants getting paid as much as $12 an hour. It got me thinking what kinds of values those people have. I had my basic education in the Philippines and the course “Values” has always been incorporated in the elementary, high school and even college curricula. I am not saying that they have better values than in America. What I am trying to get to was the understanding of people’s internal characteristics and how they use that to deal with external factors. For example, if one of the inherent values of a community of people is patriotism or the love of country and there was certainly a need then in Louisiana for workers to serve people their meals, the internal values would kick in regardless of the risks involved (such as losing welfare payments). I remember during the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis how South Koreans, in spirit of patriotism, sold their treasured possessions, gold and their jewelries, in order to help their beleaguered economy.

“Actions are rewarded and punished, and so this determines employees’ actions and effort and performance” (Stringer, Didham & Theivananthampillai, 2011, p. 163). Motivation and satisfaction come here. People can be motivated by rewards, bonuses and other perks (extrinsic) or just by their own feeling of satisfaction of getting the job done (intrinsic). However, based on Stringer et al’s study, people who may not get paid fairly and equitably can also exhibit high levels of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. According to self-determination theory, they also exhibit high level of autonomy.

Because of this, internal factors such as values, personal traits, or beliefs paralleled by situational factors (organizational culture, relationships) may influence how a particular person behave. For example, a person who values generosity may be motivated to work harder in the benefit of others when the organization he or she belongs to has a strong corporate social responsibility. Research has shown that employees are more likely to let themselves get identified with these organizations, tend to be more satisfied in their jobs, and are committed to staying longer in their positions. On the other hand, an employee who finds solace in social media in ranting about dissatisfaction at work might tell you how he or she feels about the level of easiness he or she has with you as the manager or supervisor. Research has also shown that a high quality leader-member exchange positively impacts employee behavior, motivation, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment. This has got to do with the trust, comfort, and quality of a manager’s relationship with the employees.

It appears to me that job satisfaction is related or at least similar to belongingness to a certain group that evokes different personalities bounded by social rules. The study of Organizational Behavior calls these the task significance, organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) and the more familiar counterproductive work behavior (CWB).

Creating a strong sense and importance of task significance is one way of motivating employees and in support of job satisfaction. If employees perceive that their jobs have a positive impact on other people and contribute to society building they have a higher satisfaction in their jobs (Grant, 2008). OCB is the maintenance of certain attitudes and behaviors towards job performance that contributes to a more enhanced environment (Hafidz, Hoesni, & Fatimah, 2012). These attributes are not necessarily required to do the job, but employees develop those behaviors to make their working environment more pleasant. Due to a person’s perception of citizenship or affiliation to an organization, the behaviors exhibited support the culture and personality of the organization. CWBs, on the other hand, are behaviors that are not in line with the expectations of the position and are normally destructive for both the employee and the organization. Gruys and Sacket (as cited in Hafidz et al.) went on to detail twelve specific categories of CWB: “theft and related behavior, destruction of property, misuse of information, misuse of time and resources, unsafe behavior, poor attendance, poor quality of work, alcohol use, drug use, inappropriate verbal actions, and inappropriate physical actions” (p.33).

These are important concepts to study and understand in line with many organization’s evolving policies that affect team culture and morale. Supervisors or managers tend to focus on putting out the fire with a fire extinguisher instead of getting at the bottom of issues. Eventually, supervisors and managers are busy disciplining employees instead of fostering positive and harmonious workplace relationships promoting camaraderie and team work. In line with my opening statement, I would not rush into condemning the employee. Instead, I will use that as an opportunity to meet with the employee on a safe and open environment to discuss the underlying emotions and thoughts behind the Facebook or Twitter post. While I respect people’s privacy and their God-given right to self-expression guaranteed by the Constitution, I also use that as a tool to understand the issues and challenges that my team members face. This is really a gift to me as a team leader. Instead of regulating their social media posts, I would find ways to affect their behaviors to be in congruence with the team culture and organizational core values.

Many people do not necessarily relate work citizenship with anything except for country affiliation. But organizational behavior research has undergone various studies on organizational citizenship and different behaviors exhibited by employees in line with this. So, are your employees “citizens” of your organizations or they are merely nonresident employees? Inculcate a sense of belongingness by providing opportunities to find meaning or significance in their work, understand the values of your team and foster a team culture that celebrates these, and implement effective and affective interventions on employee performance that respects individuality.

——

References:

Grant, A.M. (2008). The significance of task significance: Job performance effects, relational mechanisms, and boundary conditions. Journal of Applied Psychology, 93(1), 108-124. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.93.1.108

Hafidz, S.W., Hoesni, S.M., & Fatimah, O. (2012). The relationship between organizational citizenship behavior and counterproductive work behavior. Asian Social Science, 8(9), 32-33. doi:10.5539/ass.v8n9p32

Stringer, C., Didham, J., & Theivananthampillai, P. (2011). Motivation, pay satisfaction, and job satisfaction of front-line employees. Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, 8(2), 161-179. doi:10.1108/11766091111137564

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