Monthly Archives: November 2012
To me, it seems a huge coincidence that one of this week’s topics is “trust.” As I wrote last week, my wife, Jody, found her grandpa’s missing Purple Heart, which he earned during World War I, on an internet site honoring soldiers who were wounded or killed in action. Jody wanted that medal back in the family, so she asked Mr. Maier, the man who runs the site To Honor Our Fallen, if she could buy it back.
According to Carina Paine Schofield and Adam N. Joinson’s paper “Privacy, Trust, and Disclosure Online,” “Trust is the willingness to be vulnerable, based on positive expectations about the actions of others.” My wife and I felt pretty vulnerable this week, but on Saturday, when I was in Michigan, I received a tearful call from my wife that she was holding her grandpa’s medal in her hand. It was back in the family.
Last Sunday, when Mr. Maier told us he would send the Purple Heart back to us if we covered his investment in the medal and research surrounding it, we were put in a tough position. Mr. Maier did not operate a store, he had no reputation as a seller, and we knew of no recourse if a transaction went badly. Should we trust him? If we did, were we being foolish?
Schofield and Joinson’s article identifies three dimensions of trust including “ability,” “integrity,” and “benevolence.” We weren’t really worried about his ability; shipping a package with delivery confirmation is easy enough.
Mr. Maier’s “benevolence” was a concern that needed some thought, though a week ago I wouldn’t have considered calling it that. According to Schofield and Joinson, benevolent companies and organizations look out for their customers’ best interests and do not exploit them. Jody researched average prices paid for Purple Hearts and found out Mr. Maier was actually asking less than what a lot of other people make in selling these medals. Considering the emotional attachment we had expressed for this family artifact, he could have asked for more money. But he didn’t, and we were starting to trust him because of his benevolence (and the research Jody did–trust doesn’t need to be blind).
Still, we wondered about Mr. Maier’s integrity–whether he would actually follow through and send us the medal after we paid him. In retrospect, it was his “benevolence” that helped us believe in his integrity. Since he wasn’t asking for as much money as other people were asking for these medals, maybe that indicated he would be fair with us and keep his end of the deal. Also, the nature of the website he ran showed benevolence; he was not collecting Purple Hearts as a for-profit venture. He was using them and the information he researched about the recipients to share online as a memorial to veterans. Didn’t we have to trust him?
Yes, actually, we did. If we didn’t trust Mr. Maier, there was no way the medal would be back in the family.
And the reality is that he trusted us, too. He trusted that my wife’s account of how her grandfather was wounded, her memories of the man, and the significance of the medal were sincere. He trusted that we wanted the Purple Heart, not so we could turn a profit with a different buyer, but because it had meaning to us.
So we all trusted. And even though we never met Mr. Maier or talked to him or saw a picture of him, I don’t think we are complete strangers. Through Jody’s emails to him, he was given a glimpse of some of what we value–history, connections to family, and remembering the sacrifices made by our elders. And through the work of his web site and traveling Purple Heart memorial, he shows us that we have a lot in common.
Both privacy and ethics are important considerations for anyone using technology as a communication tool. Indeed, these concepts apply to the general public, as well as to specific groups such as technical communicators. Perhaps the demographic of people who are especially impacted by privacy and ethics are those who are relatively new to technology. That is, people who are new to the internet (i.e., an inmate realesed after 20 years) may not always realize how much information they are giving out when using the internet, and how easily that information may be used negatively against them. For example, while all the credit card companies, banks etc., claim their online security is fail safe, hackers consistently prove otherwise. Those same individuals who are not aware of online risks involving identity theft and other scams may also not realize that the record of their email messages exist in cyberspace forever. Thus, they may not realize that what they write needs to be ethical—especially when the email generates from a workplace account.
Chapter 9 in Digital Ligeracy For Technical Communicators by Steven Katz and Vicki Rhodes and the article, Privacy, Trust, and Disclosure Online by Paine and Joinson shed light on these topics. While Chapter 9 was fairly dense with academic, philosophical, and ethical jargon, the notion that technology creates new ethical considerations for communicators is an important concern that should be taught to new employees that are expected to participate in technological communication mediums. One of my first real-world experiences with ethics and technology took place a few years ago when I was involved with a professional class in an industrial setting.
This class was designed to teach employees about email etiquette and was the result of inappropriate email use on company time. Several employees were essentially carrying on personal conversations about weekend activities and so on that was inappropriate for this work setting. In addition, these employees did not understand the blind copy function of their email system, and were thus, at times, accidentally emailing information to clients that also were inappropriate.
This problem was two-fold: 1) the employees failed to consider their workplace ethics of being professional at all times, and 2) these employees did not understand the implications of email as a communication medium. Whereas these employees could have probably talked amongst themselves face-to-face about these topics during lunch or breaks, it was not appropriate to use the organization’s email for such conversation, which they did not understand. This problem may have been avoided, had this company made clear their expectations of workplace email use. Moreover, companies may benefit from addressing their ethical expectations—if these expectations are not promoted and taught to employees, than the ethics will be nothing but a basis for discipline after a rule is broken, rather than a means to prevent issues from arising in the first place.
Over the past 10 years or so, I’ve gone from not generally making purchases or otherwise disclosing personal information online to regularly doing so. I’m sure this is the case for many people—online purchasing and using the Internet for social networking has required us to become more comfortable with it, or retreat. In this week’s reading “Privacy, Trust, and Disclosure Online,” Carina Paine Schofield and Adam Joinson examine the complex relationship between privacy and trust and our resulting willingness to disclose information in an online environment. A lot of what they covered seemed like common sense to me. Perceived privacy contributes to trust; both are necessary for us to be willing to disclose information online.
Schofield and Joinson’s explanation of the different aspects of trust stood out to me as being particularly relevant to my own evaluation of a company’s online presence. I think I regularly (if subconsciously) make judgments about companies based on the following.
- Ability, or the knowledge or competence of the company and its ability to handle my information appropriately.
- Integrity, or the belief that the company is honest, reliable, and credible.
- Benevolence, or the extent to which the company is doing right by me.
It’s almost common sense; I wouldn’t do business with someone face-to-face if I didn’t think they were competent and capable, honest and credible, and were taking my interests into account. Why should it be any different online? Admittedly, the stakes are higher in many ways online. After all, we’re leaving behind information about ourselves that doesn’t go away—ever.
I think that’s why providing users with a sense of control is especially important. Schofield and Joinson explain, “…where possible, users should be provided with control over whether to disclose personal information and the use of that personal information once disclosed” (p. 26). When we can decide whether we “prefer not to disclose” answers to certain questions, or whether we only populate the required fields, we maintain some degree of control. (For me, being able to indicate that I don’t want to receive email offers is one control option I greatly appreciate!)
Do you remember this band from the 80’s? There’s no real relation between this and the article, “Privacy, Trust and Disclosure Online” by Schofield and Johnson. but they included the following quote, so I couldn’t resist:
At no time have privacy issues taken on greater significance than in recent years, as technological developments have led to the emvergence of an “information society” capable of gathering, storing and disseminating increasing amounts of data about individuals. (p.16)
The focus of the article is on personal privacy and all the various aspects of that, such as psychological, physical, and interactional (p. 14), but one area that really impacts us is organizational privacy. By that I mean, the ability of the employees of our customers to retrie ve and share information without exposing it to our other customers (their competitors). We would love to implement the kind of communication that social media provides, but our customers are very concerned about keeping their proprietary information away from their competitors. Even just letting other customers see the kinds of questions they are asking could give away some key competitive details.
It is hard enough to really understand the difference between your actual privacy and perceived privacy as an individual, but I think it is probably even harder for people to make decisions in this area when they are making them on behalf of their employer. This might be the single biggest obstacle to implementing social media in business to business (B2B) communication.
In chapter nine of Digital Literacy, Rachel Spilka discusses the changes email has had on the workplace and the interactions between the people employed by them. Spilka explains (p. 241),
So pervasive and necessary are the uses of digital technology, that organizations and the people within them can be understood to exist almost literally in the digital realm… where our social and business interactions are carried out via email, video, podcasts, smartphones, Web sites and webinars, social media, listservs, wikis, and blogs.
With this phenomena the new standard, it is surprising that newly-hired professional’s aren’t given a guide of sorts on the intricacies of interoffice communications: most specifically the office email. I am not speaking of the entry-level basics of writing respectful, on-topic, spell-checked emails though. I am referring to the more nuanced happenings that we experience within email communication. And, more specifically, especially when we are emailing in an attempt to elicit a response from someone – most especially when that someone happens to be your superior.
I first noticed my dependence on the simplified, professional email approximately seven years ago. I was a newly-hired creative director working for a rapidly-growing company. The general manager, my direct supervisor, was the man with the answers… for everyone. He enjoyed this function, but as such was constantly bombarded with emails and unwelcome office drop-ins. To avoid being lost in his email inbox or shooed from his door, I utilized a very simplified email writing technique. The following rules will be of no surprise to tenured professionals, but let’s just consider this a quick overview of Interoffice Email 101.
The precursor to this email technique begins with a few simple rules:
- Always send an email if you can.
- Only call if the matter is urgent and incorporates multiple employees, and if you must call…
- Never leave a voicemail.
- Only drop-in the office if it is an emergency set to adversely effect the company budget.
When a question has lesser importance it moves down this hierarchy of communication techniques, with the least intrusive being the email. Email holds this place of honor due to this ability to be handled at the recipient’s convenience, rather than the requestor’s demand, as is true with a phone call or office visit. Once email has been determined as the communication medium of choice, other rules come into play:
- Only send one to two emails to your supervisor per day.
- Fully analyze the situation prior to sending the email and even then…
- Only ask the most important questions.
- Questions of highest importance are listed first
- Ask no more than a total of three questions.
- For each question provide the least amount of back-story possible.
More than likely this technique was not thoughtfully contrived for any professional, but rather achieved bit by bit through small successes and failures in communicating with overwhelmed supervisors. In my experience, following these self-imposed rules meant that my emails received a quick response, while other managers were not as fortunate. The higher-stake here, of course, is that without answers other managers could not move their departments efficiently toward the next task… and we all know what happens to managers of inefficient departments.
We are the Borg. Resistance as you know it is over. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own.
– The Borg
At work my employee computer ID is QA4268. If someone logs into our CMS and wants to search for something that I have created, they can’t use my name, they have to know that QA4268 is me–or that I’m QA4268. Hmmm . . . now that I think about it, that is a teeny bit disturbing, which brings me to the article, Beyond Ethical Frames of Technical Relations, by Steven Katz and Vicki Rhodes. In it they state, “Have you ever noticed how some systems or procedures at work–say, a time tracking system, registration process, or evaluation procedure–are more adapted to themselves, more focused on their own efficiency and operation, than on the human being who is the ostensible object or user?” (p. 235)
They even follow this quote up with a specific mention to most CMSs and how they are often guilty of this–the one where I work is no exception. The software has all the technical capability that we require and is capable of fully delivering on everything we ask of it, but in many ways it ignores the requirements and limitations of the people that need to use it. For example, almost all the information about how information is related to each other is presented in lists or tabular reports. While this does provide all the detail, people are visual beings that work best when they can visualize relationships. The CMS asks us to bend people to the machine rather than bending the machine to the people.
The problem, as Katz and Rhodes, describe it is that you can’t separate people and technology when defining processes, procedures and tools. More and more we are merging with our technology (both literally and figuratively) to become some sort of hybrid. Katz and Rhodes point to examples like automatic spell-checkers and Bluetooth headsets as examples (p. 240). The point, as I see it, is that we need to view the relationship between people and technology more holistically. When we say that we want to implement a CMS, we can’t just select a tool and then throw people at it. Instead of a CMS we should be implementing a CME (Content Management Ecosystem). To get the most out of these technical relations, we need to make sure that the technology complements our people and that our human skills fully exploit the capabilities of our technology.
Once you have fully investigated your audience and considered their various cultural needs and preferences, you can fully comprehend how screwed you are and how utterly futile your attempts to please them will be. Given that most if not all technical information is delivered via the internet now, you just can’t presume to know where your audience is coming from–literally or figuratively (Blakeslee, p. 2o1). And, even if you could narrow down the geographic location, your quest could be further hampered by differences in gender or the device used to retrieve your content, as Kenichi Ishii describes in his article, Implications of Mobility: The uses of Personal Communication Media in Everyday Life.
All the authors that we read this week–Blakeslee, Ishii, and Thatcher–talk about how important it is it understand the differences between your audience segments, but unless you have a lot of time or a lot of writers, you have to make compromises. In fact, unless you know for sure that your audience is from a Particularist or a Universalist culture (Thatcher, p. 177) you are going to make some people unhappy.
According to Thatcher, a universalist approach, “. . . the default approach is to establish rule that define what is good and right regardless of the social standing of the individual” (p. 176). While in a particularist approach, “. . . the default approach is to apply rule and decisions depending on relations and context” (p. 177). So, as a technical communicator I can either choose an approach that treats everyone with respect regardless of their standing in society or a company, or I can try to write 12 versions of the content to reflect where each individual sits in the pecking order. Thank you very much, but I’m writing it once.
I like the idea of respecting cultural differences, but the internet is dominated by the universalist, western cultures that created it. The world understand the voice of the internet and has come to accept it. I would even venture to guess that that universalist voice has started to change the cultures of the people that use it. Perhaps that is why some governments (China, Iran, (formerly) Egypt) fear it so much and seek to control it. Maybe people that are addressed with respect regardless of their standing start to demand that from others within their society.
Here’s another problem I have with the idea of bending our writing style to suit the expected audience:
- We don’t often know the audience for certain.
- The audience often exists in many countries.
- What if we add another customer later that comes from another culture?
- If we use different styles for what we write, how do we reuse content to single-source new deliverables?
It surprises me that some of the articles mention that more and more content is delivered on the internet which means that we have no idea how or where it will be used, but they still advocate spending a lot of time investigating the audience. How are we supposed to do this exactly? The internet may not be a culture in and of itself, but it does have a voice and set expectations. How about we just go with that and spend more time creating better content.
I liked how Blakeslee described looking at the roles the audience members play to ensure that content meets the needs of that ROLE. I am 100% behind performing task analysis to create role-based content. I think that makes way more sense than trying to figure out how you should write a procedure differently for someone in Mexico as opposed to someone in Germany. If we can’t understand the user, we should focus on the use.
It became apparent when I started my current job as a technical communicator that pinning down audience is no simple task. Working for a national student loan servicing company, the team of writers I work on creates deliverables for various audiences such as schools, lenders, borrowers, the U.S. Department of Education, and internal employees. Distinguishing between these audiences is relatively straightforward, but distinguishing sub-audiences within them—actually knowing whom I’m writing for and what they need to know—is something I have struggled with from day one.
Prior to taking this course, and even prior to this week’s readings, I hadn’t fully recognized that a great deal of the complexity I experience in my job today is because of society’s evolution into the digital age. Furthermore, the challenges I encounter at my company are not unique to my company or its industry at all; they are largely universal challenges that technical communicators are encountering throughout the world. Ann Blakeslee’s chapter (“Addressing Audiences in a Digital Age”) in Digital Literacy for Technical Communication illustrated many parallels to the challenges I encounter every day.
The Internet allows for the dissemination of information on a scale that has never been seen before. Our writing is often available to anyone who is online and looking for it. While this broad audience is an overwhelming thought, it doesn’t necessitate that we write for everyone at once. Blakeslee explains,
“While technical communicators may not know their exact audiences, the complexity of the product and typical environments in which the product is used provide them with guidance in understanding their prospective readers” (p. 204).
Basically, we can use information we know about the product and where/how it is used to make judgments about the audience. This is something many of do without even thinking about it. For example, I can assume that users of one of my company’s online applications are employees in a school’s financial aid office. Along with that, they are extremely likely to have a moderate level of knowledge about student loan disbursements. This makes it much easier than writing assuming a global audience with next to no knowledge about student loan disbursements—not to mention it makes for more useful documentation.
But learning about the audience beyond this, is where I think the biggest challenges lie. For me, this has largely been knowing precisely (or even generally!) what the audience needs to know and even better, a ranking of the tasks they must perform in the tool. The best way to get this information (obviously) is straight from the audience through interaction and/or feedback, which is not an easy (or even possible) task for many of us. Blakeslee’s case studies sounded so familiar I could have been one of them! Unfortunately, in my position I am not able to get direct feedback from the audience on the content my team writes. The main reasons for this are:
- The privacy of the customer. Any time there is financial information involved, privacy becomes a concern.
- My time and the customer’s time, or lack thereof. My company’s customers are widespread making travel not feasible. Also, many schools, for example, are under-staffed and under-funded; asking for their time would quickly become an inconvenience for them.
- Existing roles and processes are hard to change. Moving beyond the customer service and sales staff having all outwardly facing contact with customers is difficult and requires the buy-in of management (which is not super likely given the first two bullet points).
Virtually all of these were mentioned by the participants in Blakeslee’s case studies. In my case, we have made efforts to obtain information about audiences from sales and customer service staff. Often, they are able to tell us what confuses users and when/how they use a tool. While it’s not as good as interacting one-on-one with members of the audience, it’s better than nothing!
With communication technologies evolving at incredibly fast pace, it is certain our interaction with the audiences we write for will continue to evolve and improve. I am incredibly interested to see how this aspect of technical communication changes in the coming years.
In an era of increased written communication mediums, (i.e., email, text, instant message) oral communication seems to be dwindling. Indeed, this notion has been reinforced by both Erik Qualman in his book Socialnomics, and by Sherry Turkle, in her book Alone Together. Barry Thatcher, in his essay Understanding Digital Literacy Across Cultures in the book, Digital Literacy for Technical Communicaiton sheds light on the fact that this argument is less true in what he defines as collective cultures (i.e., Mexico) as opposed with individualistic cultures (i.e., USA). In essence, people of certain geographical locations may have different expectations regarding the need to develop personal relationships through face-to-face meetings and conversation prior to utilizing mediums such as email as a communication tool.
Thatcher notes, “Orality, though, seems to have a much weaker role in individualist cultures, perhaps relegated to expressing personal opinions and beliefs, but certainly not the backbone of society, as orality can be in many collective cultures” (180). By retaining the expectation of oral communication, collective cultures seem to have a more personal, and less objective tone compared with the very objective tone of individualist cultures. In many cases, I have never met the people I email in a face to face setting, nor do I know these people on a personal level. Thus, the communicaitons we share are, by default, solely professional in nature.
In every technical writing class or journalism class that I have ever taken, I have been taught separate out personal information and include only objective information crucial for the reader to understand the message. As a result, the communication pattern is typically serious and impersonal. This practice of objective writing is also true for the workplace writing tasks I am involved with. Other than indicating how I am involved with the project being discussed, I share no other information about myself, and I do not expect my readers to share any of their personal information.
Thatcher stated, “Instead of a dumbed-down readership level, collective communicators tend to complicate their interpersonal dependence as a way of stating the purpose of the communication and their involvement; this creates writer – friendly document design patterns” (176).
An additional difference between the individual and collecitve cultures is that the colelctive culture has an expectation of stating authoritative relationships as part of the personal style whereas the inndividual culture does not. Thatcher notes, “As exemplified in the two EPA emails, the U.S. email demonstrates strong individualism focusing on one reader and that person’s reading needs and processes, while the Mexican email is much more collective, focusing on interpersonal relationships, and especially on authority” (176). As a technical writing student, I make efforts to consider my audience. However, it seems that despite the best use of audience analysis techniques, there will always be cultural differences that cannot be accounted for. And, in certain cases, technical writers, perhaps even in the future, may need to participate in real-time conversations to maintain cross cultural client relationships and successfully transfer information.
Obviously, any topic concerning cross-cultural aspects hits home for me. It is always interesting to learn new dimensions – especially when it is related to our professional field. That being said, Spilka’s chapter “Understanding Digital Literacy Across Cultures” was a great read. Then I tried to find information how German technical communicators would see this development. Unfortunately, the only article really relevant came from a UK author – and from 4 years ago. At least it is published in the tc-world, which is an online magazine published by the tekom (the German equivalent to the STC).
To bring another aspect into this discussion, I have to disagree with many authors who categorize Western cultures on one site of the cross-border work and cultures from Asian, African or South American countries on the other side. Even within the entire Western cultures (U.S. and many West-European countries) the cultural differences are larger than first thought of. Look at you and me: we experience differences in our cultural upbringings.
- Small ones – like different expressions for the same feeling. For example, Americans sit on cloud 9, when they are happy. Germans sit two-doors down on cloud 7. Thank God for Cloud computing.
- Bigger ones – like the use of social network sites. Concerning the relations of communication media and communicative situations, to many Americans being on Facebook is a daily or even hourly way of connecting with others. Germans just started out using it. The majority of my friends in Germany are not Facebookers.
The three values, Barry Thatcher describes are a great way of analyzing the differences between two cultures. The question is how often do we actually take that extra step and do this kind of research about other cultures. I believe the biggest obstacle we (all earthlings) have to overcome is our mindset. The old question and attitude about being superior to others has to be eliminated out of our way of thinking. Being proud of your country is one thing, feeling superior to other countries is a different story. If both parties can settle for tolerance, we will conquer any upcoming challenges. I guess what I want to say is that even though this topic concerning digital literacy is very interesting to know and to explore, I believe that is one of the last steps we have to undertake. First steps first. Pankaj Ghemawat states in his TED talk: “Actually the world isn’t flat”.
So, we might have to rethink our approach when it comes to cross-cultural communication, no matter if the means are digital or not. Let’s start at the beginning.
I found Ishii’s research to be informative, but somewhat… I don’t know… predictable? For example, on page 358, he offers figures demonstrating that tweens and teens are less socially skilled than adults. It seems that that is a basic attribute of people in these age groups – it’s largely physiology and brain development that humans generally develop more social skills as a result of maturity and life experience. Also, the discussion of adolescents using text messaging and mobile phones to keep their social interactions away from their family seemed fairly obvious. Perhaps it was worth investigating because Ishii is from Japan, where family seems to be more sanctified than it is here.
Anyway, the topic of differences in the use of technology based on culture is an interesting one. While I haven’t seen differences in “niceties” as demonstrated in Spilka’s examples on pages 172 and 173, I have definitely noticed differences in how people from different cultures view the urgency of e-mail messages. At work, we have a small percentage of foreign military sales (FMS) contracts, and under my title of contract administrator, I am the main point of contact for our customers. In one case, I have been trying to obtain some necessary information from a Brazilian customer whose product requires an export license. Our time zones are only an hour or two off and we could logistically speak on the phone, but I don’t speak Portuguese, and the contact person at that company writes much better English than he speaks, so he corresponds via e-mail only. I remember learning in an earlier college course that people in Central and South American countries rarely see things as urgent, and are not pushy because pushiness is considered rude. Obviously, any statement about the people of an entire continent is a generalization, but our Brazilian customer certainly makes a case for this generalized statement. Every time I need to send an e-mail requesting information, it takes at least a week or two to receive a response. This is very unusual in our industry, as customers generally want their products as soon as possible. In drastic contrast to the Brazilian customer is our customer in Japan. Regardless of the subject at hand or the urgency of the issue, it is unusual to wait more than 20 minutes for an e-mail response. Likewise, if they do not receive a response to an e-mail they have sent within an hour, they begin sending “second requests” or forwarding it to other contacts they have at our company.
In looking for evidence in the internet of how widely intercultural business communication is addressed, I found there is a website that offers guides specifically geared toward business communication unique to several individual countries, as well as guides for just about anything else in a country that is influenced by the surrounding culture. I can see how this could be of high value to industries involving a lot of interpersonal communication or where customer service in the traditional sense is of a high priority. In general though, it seems the nature of my particular industry trumps our respective cultural traditions, at least in part. There is a basic, professional, courteous-yet-firm “voice” used that is fairly universal, at least in my limited experience. When it comes down to it, we all just want to get our work done without having others walk all over us and the company we represent.
I’ve worked for the same company for seven years. Before that, I worked at my previous employer for eight years. It should be fairly clear that I’m a stable, loyal employee.
Our company had to lay off 50% of our workforce in June of 2011. It was a terrible day, because we are a very small company and our employees are a pretty tight bunch. I joined LinkedIn around that time to keep in touch with those who were let go and to see what kind of new jobs they subsequently found. Somehow, the senior company management caught wind that I had a new profile on what they considered to be a job-search website, and they questioned me about it within a few weeks of my joining. Why was I looking for a new job? Did I need to talk? Was there a particular individual layed off that I disagreed with?
Considering that was over a year ago, they are likely over it by now and realize I was honest in my reasoning behind creating an account on LinkedIn – that I simply cared about the people who were let go and wanted to see when they found new employment.
Apparently, a lot of people are annoyed by LinkedIn, judging by the 44% statistic at http://amplicate.com/hate/linkedin . Of course, this link should probably be taken with a grain of salt, since it seems to be a message board for complaints. Their complaints are relevant, though, especially those involving incessant e-mails from the company. Since joining LinkedIn, I get e-mails several times a week asking if I know certain people or telling me I should update my profile. To be quite honest, I’m hesitant to add contacts or add details to my profile because then the newly-added contacts receive e-mails telling them I’m expanding my network or that I’ve updated my information. My employer’s paranoia has made me paranoid, and I’m worried that another red flag will be raised and I will be considered “on my way out the door” at work. Maybe this would have a positive impact, and I’d get a raise or added benefits if they don’t want to lose me, but it’s probably more likely that I’d be considered disloyal.
The benefits of LinkedIn are fairly obvious to those actively looking for work or who work on a consultant basis. Those individuals need to create a large network and get the word out about their skills and what they can offer as an employee or consultant. Those of us with steady jobs, though, need to understand that from some employers’ perspectives, LinkedIn looks like a great website for headhunters and people “exploring their options.” Industries involving aspects of security requirements, employees in whom companies have invested time and money to train, intellectual property concerns and the like foster employees with incredible value, and they obviously don’t want them to go anywhere. I suppose LinkedIn could be seen as a threat to companies wanting to retain their workforce.