Professionalism in the Web 2.0 Era
It all started with a t-shirt. When I posted the results of my 30 Days of Tweeting Experiment last month, I sent an email to my colleagues announcing the blog. The email contained a photo of me wearing a navy t-shirt (courtesy of the Ellen Shop) that boasted “My Tweets are Real” in white lettering.
The reaction to the t-shirt was far stronger (and varied) than the reaction to my blog post. Male colleagues sent playful replies about my “tweets”. No female colleagues replied, but I did wonder if they were raising their eyebrows. The one female who did comment? My mother. She laughed out loud when she heard about the t-shirt saying, but still managed to sound both reproving and scandalized when she found out I sent a photo of me wearing it to business colleagues. I confess to second-guessing my choice. And yet, it just felt “right”— this completely unglamorous amateur photo of me wearing a t-shirt with a witty saying. It felt….well, authentic.
So, the question on my mind is, “How far should one go to show authenticity in the business world?” When I published the photo, I was certainly aware that it was a bit “out there” in terms of what is accepted business practice in my sphere of influence. But to me it was simply a playful and clever way to introduce my Twitter experiences.
And I pushed the boundaries a bit because of this observation: things are more casual these days than they used to be. Frankly, that’s not comforting to me, but it’s the truth. Professionals are podcasting via self-produced YouTube videos, Twitter photos are amateur head shots at weird angles and many blogs posts have misspellings. I came of age in an era where a “professional” had a professionally produced head shot, complete with the requisite suit. Some of these things are not, in my opinion, acceptable—misspellings, for example. But I’m ambivalent about the others—does it really matter anymore that things look “professional”? Is that even somehow a liability? I notice that many of the most popular YouTube instructional videos are decidedly low-tech: hand drawings on a white board that get tossed away by a human hand in the foreground.
Please share with me your observations…how does your authenticity show up when at work? And does the “new business casual” work for you, or do you share my hesitations?