I am not suggesting that the following concerns about social intranets in the workplace are right or wrong, only that they represent the kinds of things people say. I am also not suggesting that having concerns is inherently a bad thing. In every single organization I have worked for, some variation on these themes has come up.
1. "If they (employees) have an open forum and complain about something, we will be liable if we don't fix it."
2. "They will complain nonstop. Especially the troublemakers."
3. "They will spend all day talking about nothing, instead of doing their work."
4. "The union will be all over us."
5. "Do you know how many (legal, IT security, HR . . . ) issues this brings up?"
6. "And who is going to staff this thing?"
7. "What is the authoritative version? What if someone puts out misinformation?"
8. "If the employees can just communicate with one another, what do they need communicators for?"
9. "Work is not social. Work is work."
10. "I don't understand why they can't just use email."
My own personal view is that the more evolved your leadership and management culture is, the less likely you are to hear these kinds of things—because the workplace of the future is essentially about a geographically distributed small team collaborating within a larger network to get things done. Open communication promotes trust, and trust promotes collaboration.
Of course, the elephant in the room is: What happens when we are so productive with so few resources and such high technology that we simply don't need as many staffers? And we don't need the traditional hierarchical management style (read: SES jobs and excessive layers of middle management)? What happens when people simply join the civil service, self-organize, pick a project and check in with compliance experts to make sure they are following the law?
I can't answer that, but economic realities will force us to ask the question.
Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D., is a communications specialist in government, as well as a blogger and speaker on branding and social media. The views expressed are her own and do not represent a federal agency or the government as a whole. Follow her on Twitter at @oursocialfuture.