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Being Human at Work

As social media has become integrated into all aspects of society today, businesses who have truly embraced social media for all it is worth have become known as social businesses. A business becomes a social business when it successfully integrates social media into all aspects of their organization as a business tool like any other business tool. A social business uses social media programs to allow employees to communicate internally with one another in a way that does not limit and silo interactions the way traditional e-mail and other forms of communication have. A social business also uses social media tools to engage in a dialogue with their customers online in efforts to humanize the brand and serve customers’ needs. As a social business, the organization must recognize the value in embracing expanded networks of people that social media programs give us access to. These networks should be considered a valuable tool that can be used to create new value in current business ventures and new business opportunities. In order to do this, the business must focus on the people that are core to the organization and embrace the cultures of the people they are interacting with both internally and externally.

The benefits of successfully melding social media into the toolbox of an organization start internally and percolate to the outside.  It has been said that “an organization cannot have effective external conversations with the social customer unless they can have effective internal conversations with each other first” (“What’s Your Social Business Plan?” Edelman, 2011). By using social media as a platform on which to encourage open internal conversation, many benefits are realized. Among these benefits is the ability to allow emotional discussion to happen within the organization.

Within organizational communication studies, the role of emotion in the workplace has emerged as an interesting area of study. As Miller (2002) points out, employees are often asked to portray a specific emotion while working because management perceives that particular emotion as the appropriate one. However, research has suggested that by suppressing true emotions to express artificial emotions, negative consequences are often inevitable, including stress, burnout, and an estrangement from self (Miller, 2002; Wharton, 1999). Oftentimes, this is realized in the face of a tragedy, like the fatal Texas AMU bonfire collapse studied by Katharine Miller.

Miller (2002) explains that, following the accident, the employees and students of the university struggled to balance their professionalism in their role and the true emotions they harbored. She attributed this difficulty to a lack of socialization in dealing with emotions, especially those that are unexpected, at work. Some professors sought to conceal the emotions and continue with business as usual while others chose to abandon the previous class agenda for one that allowed for emotions to be shared.

Research would suggest that the latter of these two approaches is the healthier one for an organization. Miller (2002) suggests that “emotion is critical for forging a sense of community in the workplace” (p. 560). However, the typical structure of organizations often does not lend itself to a free expression of emotion. Through becoming a social business, however, an organization can become more prepared to allow emotions to be shared in the workplace, resulting in greater employee satisfaction, organizational identification, and an upholding of the ideology of the organization.

As a part of a social business, employees are socialized into an open communication system with co-workers, both at equal and unequal positions of the organizational chart. By encouraging employees to communicate and share ideas and giving them the means by which to do so, the employees become familiar with one another. As ideas are shared and opinions expressed, the workplace becomes less of a stranger to emotion. Furthermore, as situations emerge that draw out emotions that deviate from the norm, employees are comfortable sharing their emotions surrounding these situations as well. Social businesses give employees the freedom to communicate with less partitioned sectors of the organization, possibly giving the employees an ability to find others dealing with similar emotional struggles to identify with. They also give employees the necessary tools to express emotion in forms of media that go beyond words, possibly expressing the feelings better or giving the employees more confidence to share. Finally, by engaging routinely in continuous dialogue with colleagues, employees may come to identify more closely with the organization. Therefore, when a situation arises, the emotional reactions may fall on a smaller spectrum, making them easier to adjust to as an organization.

Humans are still humans while at work. That fact will never change, despite often attempts to leave one’s life at the door. Therefore, we must come to appreciate the value employees can bring to an organization as the emotional creatures that we are. Through becoming a social business, an organization can take the first step in encouraging emotion within the workplace through open dialogue. The benefits of this open dialogue are innumerable.


Brito, M. (July 1, 2011). What’s Your Social Business Plan? Edelman Digital. Retrieved from

Miller, K. (2002). The experience of emotion in the workplace: Professing in the midst of tragedy. Management Communication Quarterly, 15, 571-600.

Wharton, A. S. (1999). The psychosocial consequences of emotional labor. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 27, 346-373.


2 responses »

  1. Great post, Angela! I appreciate the thought you put into each post and the in depth insights you share about the topics we discuss in class. I agree with you in that a business that does not encourage open and free flowing internal communication is definately missing out. People who might be afraid to speak up in traditional settings like in a meeting, or even in the hallway, might be more apt to speak their mind on a more social, creative platform. Employees share great information in their personal lives all the time whether it be through blogs, Twitter, Google+, etc. and companies need to try to mirror that same type of engagement in the workplace. Companies need to recognize that knowledge is power and employees are their best assets.

  2. Angela, interesting post. I never thought of a social business as a means to encourage emotion in the work place or for that matter a way for employees to communicate amongst one another. Originally, when I heard the term ‘social business’ I was thinking of a business that takes feedback/ ideas from consumers via social media and integrates those products/ ideas into the business. And then the social aspect just stopped there, clearly I misunderstood all the benefits of social business.
    I think it is essential to make employees comfortable in the work place, create a culture based on open communication and one that encourages employees to be themselves. Companies who encourage this and/or have become a social business tend to be the most successful in the marketplace because their employees enjoy where they work and what they are doing. I agree that employees should be able to openly express their emotions; however, I wonder if employees take advantage of this privilege? I can imagine someones personal problems being exposed to the whole office and it becoming a distraction to others.


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