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Give it all – Boundary blurring on Twitter and running marathons -  Boundariless Twitter use in the context of a Swedish governmental agency
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Stockholm Business School.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Stockholm Business School.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7889-2331
2017 (English)In: Work 2017- Work and Labour in the Digital Future: 16-18 August 2017 Turku, Finland, 2017, p. 200-202Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

All kinds of new technologies have challenged people’s boundaries between work and private life throughout the last 35 years. Social media is no exception. Its ubiquitous nature is ratherexacerbating the struggle. Two factors contribute to a renegotiation of people’s boundaries in particular. Firstly, the boundaries between the organisation and the outside become increasingly more permeable. Changing economic circumstances have fundamentally altered how people are supposed to feel about their paid employment. Increasing economic pressure and the not so subtle expectations that one should be committed to and even love one’s work, encourages people to give more of themselves to their employer. The expectations placed on the individual are increasing which is partly expressed in demands for greater availability and more commitment. This includes and is partly expressed in bringing more of one’s identity to work, which helps to transcend the boundaries between the individual and the organisation. Secondly, social media is particularly conducive to renegotiation of boundaries because they are by nature a tool to create, shape, maintain and express one or multiple identities. With their specific affordances of visibility, persistence, association and editability, they do not just give room for a sophisticated expression of an individual’s identity(ies) but they also allow organisations to profit from that expression through association. This potential tight coupling between the individual and the organisation can of course backfire as the case of Justine Sacco’s Tweet gone wrong illustrates. In this particular example, Justine Sacco, former PR consultant, tweeted a racist Tweet (even though inadvertently) before getting on a plane to Africa and by the time she landed, she had lost her job over the Tweet. Overall though, organisations could gain significantly by encouraging/ letting their employees use their personal channels for different aspects of work. As with leaders that try to influence their employees in terms of healthy eating and exercise, a leader’s influence goes beyond the occasional pep talk and employee of the month medal. The practices of leaders can influence their followers’ behaviour and social media might just be another outlet for this influence. For the present study we followed the Twitter behaviour of a director general of a Swedish governmental agency for a period of 10 months (March 2016 to January 2017) and complemented our observation with multiple interviews as well as documents and guiding principles on social media presence for public sector employees. Studying a governmental agency is particularly interesting because the public sector is supposed to exhibit a certain set of values. Secondly, the public sector is guided in all matters pertaining to the digitalisation of services by the work of a state commission. In this work it is clearly outlined that public organisations have to be very careful in showing who is communicating – the organisation or the private person. In the present study, particular interest is paid to how a director general uses different identity facets to foster the agenda of the organisation and how far the affordances of social media enable or constrain such pursuits. The results show that the association between the director general’s tweets and the agency has multiple consequences. Firstly, the organisation gains a “personal side” through the director general’s sharing of personal aspects of life alongside promoting the organisation’s activities. Especially for organisations with image problems, a potential increase in trust and likability may be a beneficial side effect of the close association with their employees on social media. The organisation is no longer just associated with rules regarding its public function but also with a leader who e.g. watches popular programs on television. Watching and commenting on popular matters humanizes the organisation and thus enriches the public image of a bureaucratic institution with rules and regulations by associating humour, weaknesses and opinions about trivial interests among other things. Secondly, the general director sets a standard of what might be expected from other employees or other leaders. This moves us away from the idea of a good leader being someone who is good at their job to someone who gives everything for their job and their organisation. We can see parallels to passionate, healthy leaders trying to influence their employees in terms of eating and exercise. Finally, leaders as role models are not restricted to eating, exercising and exhibiting (im)moral behaviour anymore but also to people’s practices on social media. Social media has moreover the potential to increase the reach of the neo-liberal panopticon beyond the local to the global, insofar as it affords visibility, and in extension intensifies of control and scrutiny. It is not anymore executed just by one’s employer but now the whole world can judge and criticise. Through social media, the public eye becomes thus simultaneously a wider marketing target but also an intensified and controlling panopticon. In the case of governmental agencies this involves not only employees but also the media, citizens and corporations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017. p. 200-202
National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Business Administration
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-177032OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-177032DiVA, id: diva2:1377753
Conference
Work 2017 “Work and labour in the digital future”, Turku, Finland, 16-18 August, 2017
Available from: 2019-12-12 Created: 2019-12-12 Last updated: 2020-01-27Bibliographically approved

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