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Digital Neighbors and Discretion: A Lesson on the Train

Digital Neighbors and Discretion: A Lesson on the Train

Originally posted on the Elliott Masie’s Learning Trends website, excerpts below:

Last week, I spent 3 hours on an Amtrak train listening to a series of senior level job interviews in which corporate and personal information was shared by the passenger in the seat ahead of me, who was talking on his cell phone – oblivious to the setting. He was a great interviewer, asking good questions and probing the backgrounds of each candidate for this $140K job while detailing not-yet-released corporate information concerning a takeover. He shared his name, his corporate identity and identified the other various high level candidates.

In between each interview, he called his manager, highlighting core problems and opportunities with these candidates and sharing details about the previous role holder. He also was using the new online wireless on the train to access the resume of each candidate while checking LinkedIn and conducting a broad web search on each applicant. And, if I shifted my seat a little, I could have seen the details on the screen.

I almost tapped him on the shoulder and told him he was being indiscreet. But, as an analyst of the intersection of technology and corporate behavior, it became a fascinating teachable moment for me. It turned out that I know one of the “C” level officers in his Fortune 100 Company. She would have been shocked to hear that an employee was so indiscreetly behaving on a public train. It might have even led to disciplinary action or even dismissal.

But, I didn’t “turn him in” since this was about more than his behavior: it is a lack of understanding about discretion and privacy as we operate in a global, wirelessly connected environment. Instead, I am writing this note to our Learning TRENDS readers with a few of my own learnings from this and other similar incidents. Consider adding a few elements of “Digital Discretion” to your employee orientation and corporate culture.

As Learning & Training professionals, this is a perfect moment for us to raise awareness around this important behavioral and corporate challenge. Clearly, we will be using mobile devices for work more and more! Clearly, we will see video conferencing, social collaboration and other forms of social connections migrate to our phones and tablets. And, clearly, many of our colleagues will be collaborating in public settings, including 3 hour rides on Amtrak trains. So, how do we work openly with our colleagues but discreetly in public? It’s not hard, but it will not happen without an intervention from the learning and IT worlds.

Did I tell the interviewer (who really did a great job of interviewing, just in the wrong setting) of my observations at the end of the trip? No. I have “erased” his name, company and applicants’ identities from my memory. But I have not erased the lesson I learned:

“Working Digitally in Public Requires Discretion! – Look Left, Look Right, Look Ahead & Look Behind!”

Click HERE to read the article from Elliott Masie’s Learning Trends website.