Community guidelines for the workplace

I’ve been thinking a lot about online community guidelines for the workplace.  Or more specifically, for the modern Housing Association.  I’ve grown up online around bulletin boards and online communities in my life outside work, but now lots of organisations (including the one I’m part of) are using “social business platforms” internally.

Given that its a workplace, and there’s no option for anonymous trolling, its pretty straightforward.  But from time to time, some interesting conundrums occur, so its good to step back and think about what we’re trying to achieve with our internal social platforms.  For us, its all about diversity of viewpoint, the wisdom of the crowd, the idea that between us we almost certainly wiser than any one individual.  And that growing the skills of collaboration and co-creation is a good, but sometimes hard, thing.  My Norwegian chum @TheArly told me once how early years education in Norway focuses very much on collaboration, community and play; so that kids grow up with a sense of the collective good being important to harmonious living.  Education in the UK (or mine at least) felt very different to that.  Yet another reason to love the Nordic-Nations in my book.

So here’s my first stab at drafting community guidelines for the workplace.  What could make it better?

  •  Share views and opinions openly.  Explain why you hold them.  Be OK with people disagreeing with you.
  • Its OK to disagree on things.  Explain why you disagree.
  • Play the ball and not the (wo)man*: disagree with the view or idea, don’t knock the person holding that view or coming up with the idea.
  • Sometimes, we as individuals won’t agree with the company line on something.  That’s OK too.  But lets be clear that its a personal view, and recognise that (sadly) the world doesn’t always get to be the way we want it to be.
  • Ideas are precious, fledgling things.  Put as much effort into seeing if they’ll fly as killing them off.
  • Present a full, balanced picture of the story we’re telling.
  • Customer case histories can help everyone understand what an organisation does.  But don’t breach confidentiality and take care not to have a case conference on the internal community platform.
  • Asking for help is good.  Offering it is too.
  • Be OK with making mistakes or being wrong from time to time.  We’re all fleshy humans and none immune from imperfection.
  • No hate speech.  Obviously.

*this has been shameless nicked from another chum @mickfealty – the chap behind the brilliant Slugger O’Toole website.  It hosts plenty of debate about Irish politics, in a robust, but courteous fashion.  Great examples of how to disagree and argue constructively can be found there.  And their community guidelines are pretty great too. 

If you’re using social platforms internally at your organisation, it would be good to hear from you.  Do you have community guidelines – could you share them with us in the comments?  And what platforms are folks using?

We decided to go with using Jive, as it enabled us to have the social network functionality of yammer AND replace the old intranet with one single platform.  We worked at the tech so that we have single sign on (no, I can’t remember passwords either, and I hate seeing those post-it notes wacked on screens with folks’ passwords….), and we’re evolving how we use it all the time.



{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Rosalind Grozier January 17, 2014, 8:18 pm

    Off the top of my head. (I’ll come back with more from better places) the one about ideas is a bit of a left fielder or rather the wording is. The others are about what you should do and don’t do and pretty specific. . This one is more ideological/conceptual and doesn’t refer to specific behaviour. Re-word in do/don’t/ behaviour vein.To wit: ‘It’s OK to post ideas and its OK to endorse them and act on them. Go for it and ask for opinion, support, skills etc’. Hope that makes sense. Talk Monday if u need me to clarify. Roz x

  • Anne McCrossan January 19, 2014, 9:21 am

    There’s a good amount of wisdom in that list Jayne. I particularly like the focus it’s put on fostering emotional intelligence because this is what builds trust and is ultimately at the root of a sustainable online digital culture.

    Online communities are first and foremost learning spaces, I think, not instructional ones. After all if it’s instructional why don’t we just automate it! The acid test of whether an online community is working is whether it can foster sufficient debate to come up with ideas and improvements in the moment – what I call generative value. This is what really matters – as well as saving time and costs by being the preferred place to go to. Both of these depend on the quality of the culture and the quality of the resources – people with free ideas who feel comfortable and know how to express them… willing, enabled and empowered to make a difference.

    I agree with you it’s important to very support the fledgling nature of ideas too, and collective development i.e. recognizing and acknowledging the strengths people bring, in their own way, to the party is part of that. Communities online are where we support difference, because the diversity of insights is what creates a better outcome.

    I would also add that behind most criticism is an idea that hasn’t been fully articulated yet. Encouraging people that have criticisms to think of how they can re-frame them as ideas and solutions goes a long way towards developing a strong collaborative co-creating community.

    • Tracey January 24, 2014, 11:00 pm

      The guidelines are really useful and welcome. The online community stuff has definitely been a learning experience but more interestingly an observation on human behaviour from my perspective. Mostly I stop and think before I put what is permanent ink to paper, but occasionally I jump straight in – I guess it’s what drives our emotions most fiercely. I’ve been caught out at least once and sure it won’t be my last. These lessons always make for good experiences, even if a little painful at the time.

  • Dave Briggs March 26, 2014, 7:52 pm

    Great list… and a great idea! Might pinch this (with attribution!) as a topic for the WorkSmart blog if that’s ok 🙂

    Interestingly it wasn’t until I reached the last couple of paragraphs that I realised we were talking specifically online community rules! If we think of the workplace as a community in every sense, these would probably work for offline interactions as well?

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