Author(s), Title and Publication
van Zoonen, W., & Banghart, S. (2018). Talking engagement into being: A three-wave panel study linking boundary management preferences, work communication on social media, and employee engagement. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 23, 278-293.doi.org/10.1093/jcmc/zmy014
The rise of publicly-available social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, and their penetration across private, professional, and public domains, has complicated employees’ ability to maintain discrete personal and professional lives. Accordingly, the permeating and ever-present nature of these platforms increasingly calls for the evaluation of social media practices, policies and preferences in organizations. With advances in information technology, such as the use of company-owned cell phones further contributing to constant connectedness and diluted boundaries between work and non-work, employee engagement has come to the forefront of interdisciplinary research and discussion. The role of social media in facilitating or impeding engagement however remains unsettled. While on one hand, studies have shown social media use in organizations can positively enhance job performance, employee morale and feelings of cultural belonging, others suggest such use may be counterproductive, causing tensions for employees faced with issues such as whether to accept friend requests from bosses and coworkers, and how to manage personal conversations that spill over into the workplace.
A three-phase survey of 361 employees examined 1) how employees’ preferences for boundary management or integrating versus segmenting work and non-work elements online influence the extent to which they communicate online about work, and 2) how these factors impact their engagement. The study findings indicate work communication on social media increases employee engagement. Specifically, employees’ preference for integrating work and non-work domains is related to increased online work communication and in turn, increased employee engagement. Perhaps most significantly, regardless of boundary preferences, results demonstrate online work communication plays a critical role in constructing employee engagement. Employee engagement however did not reciprocally influence online work communication, demonstrating support for online work communication as preceding and serving to establish and shape employee engagement.
Implications for Practice
Organizations should (1) seek and incorporate employee input on preferences for boundary management to enhance the effectiveness of communication efforts; (2) ensure social media policies are permissive, and specific enough to allow employees who prefer integrating their work and non-work communication the freedom to do so; and (3) consider enterprise platforms where visibility is limited to work audiences (i.e., Yammer or Slack) to provide employees who prefer segmenting their work and non-work communication with channels to communicatively construct engagement without blurring boundaries.
Location of Article
This article is available online at: https://academic.oup.com/jcmc/article/23/5/278/5055446 (abstract free, purchase full article)