Do You Trust Employees to Tweet About the Company?

The real question for leaders isn't about tweets

Posted Jun 22, 2015

The headline was intriguing: "Should Employees Be Encouraged to Tweet?" The Sloan Management Review article featured a Canadian company, Mitel, which enlisted over 1600 employees to tweet about the company as "brand advocates in social media."

The only rule provided employees was to "use their best judgment," along with a few guidelines about being respectful of competitors, serving customers better, and "not saying something you would not say to someone in person."

If anything speaks trust to the employees and customers of that company, that action does. Controlling the message is a goal many organizations have, so trusting those who work there to operate as "stewards of the brand," in a complicated social media arena, is a powerful message.

Yet it's not the decision to engage employees in tweeting itself, but rather the managing philosophies and culture behind it, that enables positive results. As research from the University of Zurich reminds, "If you trust people, you make them more trustworthy and, conversely, sanctions designed to deter people from cheating actually make them cheat."

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Source: BingImage-free to use and share

What about you? Would you trust your staff to tweet about your organization?  If you answer true to three or more of the questions below, the answer is likely no. That's because these actions and managing philosophies are less than trust building and will negatively influence the culture you create – the one with your staff.

Take the quiz:

  1. Much of my time is spent on "controlling" or monitoring staff communications, productivity, or behavior.
  2. More often than not, I settle for mediocre talent to fill positions or can't find internal people to promote.
  3. Disengagement or lack of accountability, exacerbated with generational differences, is a problem I frequently encounter.
  4. Since I want great results, I need to control and micromanage people.
  5. I think policies, and procedures should be designed to ensure employees don't break the rules or take advantage of the company.
  6. It's hard to go on vacation so most years I have time off remaining.
  7. I think a needs-to-know communications approach works best with staff.
  8. It's hard to be comfortable when people work from home or remotely since you don't really know what they're doing or where they are.
  9. Monitoring staff interactions is critical to make sure customers, clients, and providers are treated well with high service.
  10. People have to earn my trust.

By contrast, leaders who build trust-cultures nurture and grow it in a variety of ways, but one thing is certain: They're magnets for the best talent, ideas, and contributions. They understand that the way to help people bring their talents to work, or operate as tweeting brand ambassadors, is to create an emotionally safe, consistently caring, and dependably open trust-pocket, a winning culture, founded on trust.

The essential question for leaders isn't, "Should you enlist employees to tweet or not tweet?" Rather, the question is: "Are you creating a local workgroup culture of trust that enables engagement where people show up and do great work?" If so, good tweeting judgment and being a brand ambassador is a simple extension. So are high productivity, resourceful innovation, and exceptional results.

More tips for increasing trust in any work group:

•    Leaders, Followers, and Trust

•    10 Ways to Build Trust Remotely

•    The Real Reason Most Leaders Aren't Thinking About Trust

You'll find five trust essentials in my latest book: Trust, Inc.: How to Create a Business Culture That Will Ignite Passion, Engagement, and Innovation (Career Press, 2014).