Social media exposes the gap between the real company culture and the management fantasy

There’s a great description in Charlie Warzel’s newsletter about the (fascinating) Basecamp fiasco but this description of the ‘culture gap’ stood out to me, as something I’d been trying to articulate for a while:

Often, there are two company cultures. There’s the glossy, official, Comms Department-approved culture — and then there’s the real, lived experience of showing up every day and working at a place. If the difference between those two versions is large enough, the result is generally serious, sustained, employee-management resentment. Let’s call that “culture gap.”

The ambient visibility which social platforms create within and between organisations will tend to amplify the experience of the gap, as reflections on it (complaints, jokes, rants etc) will circulate more broadly than would otherwise be the case. These would usually be found within closed networks of friends and colleagues but instead enjoy a newfound visibility, even if their circulation might not be visible to those articulating the grievance. In turn it becomes more likely that the gap will be recognised (and acted upon) by external organisations which have a particular stake in the intra-organisational politics under scrutiny. For example consider how frequently tweets by academics and students now feature in media coverage of universities.

There was an interesting reflection in today’s Protocol newsletter which makes a similar point to explain the controversy currently engulfing Basecamp, after management tried to ban ‘political’ discussions within the organisations:

This kind of conversation has always happened at work. But when it happens on Slack or in Workplace, in view of the whole company, free of context and stored forever, the conversation has a different effect on the team. And so maybe the rules need to change.

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