Thursday, February 19

Setting Policies: 20 Rules For Social Juice

Whether or not your employees choose to congregate at Starbucks, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, or Dunkin' Donuts is their own decision. However, meeting with prospects, clients, and the public at places with coffee is fundamentally changing the way we work and engage people.

For this reason, it is imperative that employers explore how talking to people and drinking coffee can empower us all as global professionals, innovators, and citizens. These individual interactions represent a new model: not mass communication, but mass consumption on an individual scale.

Innovative companies believe in the importance of open exchanges and learning — between employees and clients, employees and vendors, employees and employees, employees and their family members, and employees and tasty beans — at various societal ecosystems where you can find them brewing coffee and dunking tea bags.

In fact, many consider it a rapidly growing phenomenon with people who drink coffee, and people who don't drink coffee but hang out with people who drink coffee, emerging as an important arena for engagement and learning. After all, as businesses, innovators, and corporate citizens, all companies make important contributions to the world.

So, as business activities increasingly focus on the provision of transformational insight and high-value innovation, it becomes more important for employees to congregate at coffee houses and donut shops whenever possible. In doing so, they can share all of the exciting things that their companies are doing and learn from one another too. However, there are some guidelines they should all abide by at coffee houses and donut shops. Maybe they need a coffee shop policy. Here's one example:

Employee Coffee Shop Engagement and Donut Dialogue Policy

1. Make it about you, not us. Make it clear that your choice of coffee, whether Caffè Verona or Decaf Sumatra, is yours and not those of your peers or employer.

2. Loose lips, sink ships. Never share company's proprietary information, including what coffees other employees or your employer might enjoy to inspire ideas. Above all, it is not your business whether a double latte has too much caffeine for someone's body size and certainly not the business of others.

3. Follow etiquette guidelines. Ask your manager if you have questions about what might be appropriate to wear at different coffee houses. Different shops and houses have different rules about what is or what is not appropriate. When in doubt or if your manager does not know, drive around the coffee shop the day before and take notes. Wear what other people wear, assuming that you have a similar body type and are of the same gender.

4. Flatter people, don't fault them. When talking about others, be respectful of the company, employees, customers, partners, and competitors (except that one competitor; they really are jerks). When in doubt, ask people if they think they are jerks. If they agree that they are jerks, only then is it permissible to call them such (except that one competitor, as noted, or if you are the CEO and using a fake name).

5. Always consider what is appropriate. Understand that specific topics, such as the economic conditions of coffee growing countries, are taboo. Never ask the employees at the coffee shop how much money they make or why they want tips. Never attempt to bribe coffee shop employees to put salt in someone's coffee for you. It's not funny.

6. Consult attorneys. Some topics are so serious they may breach confidential or legal compliance, especially those that are confidential or require legal compliance. When it doubt, call your supervisor and ask permission. If they are already at the coffee shop, shout the information out to them. They will let you know if it is appropriate.

7. Don't let it interfere with work. Ensure your coffee consumption does not interfere with your work commitments. Too much coffee may make you hyper and could cause a general distraction to others. Some people also experience coffee or sugar crashes in the afternoon, which reduces productivity. Don't overdo it.

8. Take responsibility and be careful. Know that you are personally responsible for the coffee you order, consume, and any other beverage or snack you choose. Always be mindful that coffee can stain! If you drool or are otherwise a sloppy coffee drinker, tuck a napkin in the collar of your shirt or place one on your lap.

9. Identify yourself everywhere. Every time you walk into a coffee shop, shout out your name and what you do for your employer. Even though we require you to identify yourself as an employee, make it clear that you are speaking for yourself and not your employer. Specifically, attribute anything smart to us, and anything stupid to you.

10. Be a real person. Never refer to yourself in the third person. Someone might mistake what you are saying as speaking for the company. Besides, it's weird.

11. Don't speak for the company. If you have any other conversations about any other subject or affirm that you enjoy a particular type of coffee, state a disclaimer, such as: "That conversation was my own and doesn't necessarily represent my employer's positions, strategies or opinions."

12. Ask permission to cite allies. Never talk about, cite, or reference clients, partners or suppliers without their approval. When you do reference them, make sure to provide their cell phone number for attribution and/or affirmation and clarification.

13. Respect unknown boundaries. Don't use ethnic slurs, personal insults, obscenity, or engage in any conduct that would not generally be acceptable. You should also show proper consideration for others' privacy and for topics that may be considered objectionable or inflammatory, such as politics, religion, and the origin of specific beans.

14. Listen in before speaking out. Find out what other people are talking about at the coffee shop. Walk up to a few tables and ask them or listen in to their conversation. Then, announce to the people you are with what the other people are talking about. Point them out so there is no confusion. If they give you an odd look, tell your friends to make fun of them, but you are not allowed to do so.

15. Be aware that you are an employee. When you identify yourself as such, ensure your behaviors are consistent with how you wish to present yourself with colleagues and clients. Never order a cafe mocha when you want to be an espresso.

16. Don't call people names or arbitrarily punch them in the head. Always be the first to admit your mistakes, such as adding two packets of sugar when one would have been enough. Don't ask for a new coffee, however. Once you make a mistake, you have to drink it.

17. Try to add value at the coffee shop. While receiving your coffee, engage the employees with how they could wear their hair better or make a more personable impression with other customers. Tell other people how to drink coffee a little better or reduce the number of crumbs that fall from their scone. They really want to know and it demonstrates we're leaders.

18. It's our brand, respect it. As your employer, we take the position that our brand is best represented by its people and what you do in a coffee shop may reflect on that brand, which is why you are not allowed to represent our brand.

19. Use your best judgment. Sure, all of these rules might suggest that we think you are incapable of using your best judgement, but we care about you. The general rule of thumb should be, if you feel even the slightest bit uncomfortable standing on your head in public or sticking a fork in your eye, pause and analyze your feelings. Maybe it is best that you don't do whatever it is you are thinking to do.

20. Admit your weaknesses. If you don't feel you have good enough judgement to make any of these decisions on your own or are still unsure of what to talk about at coffee shops, feel free to discuss it with your manager. While it might reaffirm that you are a dimwit, he will be able to give you the best advice of all. When in doubt, don't say anything at all . Of course, it is perfectly okay to say anything at all anywhere else, except as it pertains to sandwich shops. Those rules are posted elsewhere.

The Bottom Line On Social Media.

Did you ever wonder if companies are taking social media too seriously? After all, most companies spend tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions, and even billions of dollars trying to find and engage an audience. And while there is ample research that shows that these publics are on the Internet, it remains the only environment where companies are so afraid to engage them that they write social media policies that would be considered laughable if applied to any other setting. Maybe.

What's your policy?


Rich on 2/19/09, 11:53 AM said...

Yes, it was inspired by IBM and a few others.

For real samples, including IBM, visit Web Strategy by Jeremiah, but seriously consider the social juice model so you don't adopt something ridiculous.



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