While munching on that spicy paneer burger yesterday at Delhi airport’s McDonalds, I noticed how busy and engaged the staff were. The manager type lady was under some pressure and was glaring at one of her co-workers, possibly over some mistake. The whole bunch didn’t seem the type who have even a bit of free time to pause and reflect on anything, given the steady stream of customers and back-end work.

And, at that same time, as is my habit, I was also reading something on my phone, while eating. The piece I was reading was titled, ‘Are you silencing your best advocates?‘.

That was precisely the time the thought stuck me – are there certain levels of employees who are better equipped to talk on social media amidst their actual work?

There is a school of thought considers social media engagement as part of actual work, but let us not get into that territory.

For people like busy workers at McDonalds or someone at the factory floor, I’m not entirely sure if they’d have the patience or mindset to even start logging into a social website, leave along engaging there.

If, like the blog post at Hypertext suggests, the organization selects ‘ambassadors’ from across the board and helps them to start talking and engaging, I wonder if that would be seen as a discriminative practice, if the criteria is merely availability of time more than having an authoritative opinion. Not having an authoritative opinion is not a crime, as long as the person is good at his actual work. And not having time is not a function of the amount of work a person has/is given to perform – something the organization controls.

In such a case, I wonder aloud if social media participation is better suited to certain levels or kinds of employees than others?

Let me give you another analogy here.

The film that I watched in the Delhi – Bangalore flight last evening was ‘The Company Men‘…a highly engaging and watchable film starring Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones and Kevin Costner (in a cameo of sorts). The tone and theme was similar to Jason Reitman’s George Clooney starrer, ‘Up in the Air‘ and was based on the recession and how US is dealing with it.

Ben’s character is the MBA type and when he gets fired, he worries about mortgage payments, golf membership and selling his house. Tommy Lee Jones is the board member type who has enough stock options to sail through redundancy and worries more about the ethics of firing good people than his own livelihood. The third character, played by Chris Cooper, has scaled the organization’s ranks through sheer hard labor at the ship building floor and has risen slowly and steadily. He just could not cope up with his redundancy and eventually commits suicide (sorry for the spoiler). The film was a fascinating showcase of how each character deals with the recession and the way it affects them and their immediate lives.

The immediate connection between this film and my post here is the way Ben Affleck adapts himself to the only work he seemed to get – as a construction worker with Kevin Costner, Ben’s brother-in-law. The work is physical and the MBA-educated Ben takes to it very slowly and gradually, but he also finds himself with little time for anything…something he took for granted in a typical office situation, despite the endless round of meetings and conference calls.

In the end, work is work, whether it is physical labor or programming or managing teams. But, despite 3G, despite the proliferation of smart phones with fast internet access, time remains a factor that divides people across levels in any organization. So, when an organization is out to add social as a fundamental layer in its DNA, are certain type of organizations…or certain types/levels of employees at a disadvantage?

Unlike many of my earlier posts, I still haven’t figured out my own thoughts (didn’t get enough time to do so yet *chuckle*), but this was bothering me a lot, so sharing it out in the hope of getting some clarity.

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