Attention Employees: Telephones Banned at Work


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To: All employees
From: The HR, PR, and Legal departments
Subject: Newfangled communications

All these fancy new communications tools-the telephone in particular-are disruptive and unsettling. Why would anyone want to use the telephone to communicate with clients or customers? That is what letters are for.
We do business with our customers like it's been done successfully since our founding. Just tell them to come to our establishment and meet with us directly. Plenty of free sarsaparilla, so come on down!

Beginning today, our new companywide policy banning telephones at work will be introduced.

Note: Effective immediately, the several telephones that have been appearing mysteriously in the marketing department (installed without the support of the correspondence department) will no longer be tolerated and will be removed.

And don't even get us started on those newfangled horseless carriages. Why would anyone want to drive around in a loud conveyance that doesn't even afford a view of the rear end of a horse? Golly.

Every method of communication has already been perfected. That's obvious. Heck, we already have locomotives to get the mail to the Peoria office in just a few days! Think of it! You can put a 2-cent stamp on an envelope, put it into the slot, and in less than a week, Elias in accounting will receive it. As you know, Elias is very, very good with the tools of the accounting trade: fountain pen, eyeshade, and ledger.

The telephone is just a frivolous toy and will not be allowed in a respectable place of business. If you have one at home, however, you may still use your telephone. We're an enlightened company and don't want to meddle in your private affairs.

We know that some of you use telephones for personal things such as calling the doctor to come over right away when you need an emergency supply of Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup. Hey, we've been there too! When you need a snort and the apothecary is closed, you gotta do what's necessary! But what does that have to do with business?

The telephone is just too scary. What if somebody placed a telephone call to The Gazette and told a reporter how we really make our products? Then what would we do? Gee whiz.

Furthermore, all sorts of things can go wrong. Imagine if one of our salespeople-after too many nips of rye at the corner tavern-voiced insults to a customer over the telephone. He might not even identify himself and do it anonymously! Jeepers.

Besides, we need people to work. That's what you're paid for. You're not employed to talk on the telephone.

In the 1890s, it was the telephone.
In the 1980s, it was the PC and email.
In the 1990s, it was the internet and its (gasp) unverified information.
In the 2000s, it is social media.

If you got a chuckle out of my memo to employees, substitute "Twitter" for "telephone" and read it again. Sadly, many companies still have policies like this. If history has taught us anything, it is that fear of change is no excuse for not embracing new technology. I'm amazed that many organizations (something like 25% by my nonscientific analysis) still ban social networking tools such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube at work.
If you're the boss, it's time to order the HR, PR, and legal people to get real and embrace new technologies. If they don't comply, fire their asses.

If you're an employee, try to affect change. Show how social media communications can benefit your organization. If you run up against continual resistance, you have a choice to make.

You can continue to draw a paycheck from your backward organization and be a corporate drone. Or you can find a new job.

If you are a new graduate, soon to enter the work force-or you're looking for a new position-ask about social media in the workplace when you're interviewing. If the company you might work for bans social media, I'd suggest ending the interview and withdrawing your application. Yes, in a down economy that might seem excessive. But if potential employers cannot see the future of communications, how can they see the future of their industries? It's likely you'll be looking for a new job in a year or two anyway, so hold out for a progressive employer.

We're in the middle of a communications revolution. It may be scary, but it's time to face your fear, because there's no going back.