Companies struggle to deal with workers' Twitter addiction


Users of Twitter in Japan are said to be up to 10 million and rising. Unfortunately, its convenience and accessibility have spilled over into the workplace, causing headaches for some employers.

J-Cast (Aug 20) online news takes up one such example. It seems the sales department manager at a wholesaling firm requested the personnel manager to sit down and try to talk sense into a staff member in his 30s -- referred to herein as Mr A -- whose addiction to Twitter is causing headaches.

A had joined the sales department after having previously worked in the IT sector. His familiarity with IT initially made him an asset to the company, where he was applying his knowhow to develop tools for marketing toward the small retail outlets that make up the company's client base.

Unfortunately, A came down with a serious case of tweet-itis. While there was no smoking gun per se, the decline in his sales performance appeared inversely proportional to the time he was devoting to tweeting.

When a curious colleague took a peek at A's monitor, A boasted to him, "Look -- I've already got more than 3,000 people following me. Whenever I tweet, I get a reply right away. It's really neat. Are you into it yet?"

The colleague noted A's infatuation in a report to the head of the sales department, who promptly blew his stack. "His sales aren't going anywhere! Make him stop that Twitter nonsense right now! Tell him if he's caught doing it again, we'll take away his PC!"

But even after refraining from tweets at the office, the man kept at it on his cell phone. Co-workers noted that since getting chewed out by the boss, A had also begun issuing negative chirps about his employers.

Incensed by these developments, the division head issued an ultimatum: "Either stop your tweets, or you're outta here." But the man's cell phone is his private property, and if he uses it outside the workplace, there seems to be no legal means to put a halt to his Twitter addiction.

Don't employers have any recourse in situations like this?

"Tweeting on company time is in violation of the so-called 'duty of devotion to service,' which leaves him open to disciplinary measures," opines Daisuke Nozaki, a licensed social insurance consultant. "If he continues after being warned, the possibility that he'll make derogatory remarks about the company or management can be anticipated, which could be used to justify his dismissal on disciplinary or other grounds.

"There appear to have been other cases of staff being dismissed over Twitter use," Nozaki remarks, adding that in worst cases leakage of confidential company data and damage to the company's reputation have resulted.

Nozaki notes that companies in Japan have different rules regarding their employees' use of blogs and other so-called "social media." IBM Japan, or instance, is said to encourage employees to use their actual names and entrusts them to manage the contents on their own.

J-cast then invites clinical psychologist Kenichi Ozaki to give his view of the situation.

"Worker A may have developed a 'Twitter addiction,' which is a lot like gambling dependency," Ozaki theorizes. "The tension while awaiting for a 'random reward' (response) -- which you don't know when or from where it will come -- is much more addictive than anticipation for a predictable reward."

"From each reply and re-tweet, he obtains instant gratification, which stimulates his sense of self-esteem," writes Ozaki. "Mr A would benefit from guidance along the same lines as being told that he's not allowed to play pachinko on company time."

When their addition becomes full-blown, some addicts tend to issue increasingly extreme posts in anticipation of obtaining more responses, creating a vicious circle. That's why Ozaki agrees with the aforementioned Nozaki's opinion that a worker who tweets himself into a frenzy can indeed become an annoyance to customers and suppliers, and is therefore capable of wreaking considerable damage to his employer.

© Japan Today

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There's only one way. Ban the use during work. Its a dilemma of our time. People substitute whatever methods of communication with face to face or phone to phone methods of past days. If your going to pay someone, lay down the law. In these days, taking a taxi is prohibited due to rising costs. Put a 9 to 5 ban on twitter and others.......and see how the life of the employee changes.

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You can't ban twitter use during their private times, which could be interspersed throughout their work day. Bathroom break? Private time. Lunch? Private time.

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as if anyone is really working anyway

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just block twitter in the hosts file, it's free. Noted here with simple instructions for every operating system.

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Hey, you can't ban twitter and the other social networks at work! How else am I going to look busy during working hours? Or follow the comments on JapanToday?

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Twit Twit Twit... Is this what Japan has turned into??? A nation of twitter happy idiots that lives their lives on twitting. If it is like this now, can you imagine what will happen in 3 years from now. What a very sad nation...

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Actually, with some positive reinforcement couldn't the tweets be used for client development? For example, tweet #1 "We got a good new product X for sale starting from September!" Only a twit reads tweets...

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Having been in IT for a few decades, IT and PC haven't really increased productivity quiet the opposite.

Too much time is spend on fancy(useless) and not needed presentations and documents, not even going into the preceived need to check private e-mails, keep your facebook, etc updated.

Todays worker on average spends about 40% of their time on wasted tasks, IMHO.

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Companies struggle to deal with workers' Twitter addiction

The author provides one example of an illusive person called "mister A". I don't think that is enough evidence that this problem is real or really as bad as claimed.

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Apparently, a little over 15% of the online population in Japan use twitter. I'm not one of them.

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If it is like this now, can you imagine what will happen in 3 years from now.

Yeah, I can. Hardly anyone will be using Twitter.

The place where "A" works should just get it blocked by the firewall or something. Hardly a hard thing to do. If his sales are down, why don't they move him to another department?

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If I ran a company anywhere I would ban all sights like twitter, facebook, hotmail... I am paying people to work, not wank off and whatnot.

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Sorry, pet-peeve is it "Site" not "Sight". From an old IT-hound.

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Oh for cryin' out loud...

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Oh for cryin' out loud...

Wassa matta -- you gotta tweeto-phobia?

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I am paying people to work, not wank off and whatnot.

well, there has to be a line somewhere I suppose.

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blame the AMERICANS for inventing it... LOL

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The japanese latch on to the oddest of trends.

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Zenny, I would say 2 steps forward, 1 step back is more like it. Just like any system, the PC/Internet tool has gathered kludge. I remember what a great timesaver Visicalc was. Then Amipro and the suites really did improve a lot of tasks. Databases. Data mining.

And then PowerPoint and Flash came along. Java games. Social networking. Facebook.

What happened is that really productive people avoided the distractions and everyone else got sucked in. If you got an MBA in the post PowerPoint era, it was probably a worthless waste of time. At the same time, Microsoft has not seriously reformed its suite of programs. It is so pathetic that has caught up to them pretty handily, and it is free. There is no new application that is not geared to bubbleheads, and there hasn't been one in a long time.

As an employer, if I ever caught someone putting the needs of Farmville or Twitter above those of a customer, I would fire them. Just fire them. Things are too serious, with competition from everywhere, not to use the strongest measures against theft and laziness. Customers can and will go somewhere else. Using Twitter and Facebook does not constitute a useful skill. It is playing. People need to play on their own time.

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The idea that employees work 1/2 as much as they could was referred to in "The Battle for Investment Survival" written after the Depression by Gerald Loeb. This is not a new or surprising concept. If not Twitter then something else. In my old JET days, the crossword puzzle helped me through 1/2 the day.

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Fire him over his drop in sales not his twitter addiction, it's easy.

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Sounds like this Tweeting is becoming a global epidemic. I've heard of even many professional athletes (NFL, NBA) who have been fined by their sports leagues for tweeting during games.

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Sounds like this Tweeting

Meant to say "Twittering".

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I've heard of even many professional athletes (NFL, NBA) who have been fined by their sports leagues for tweeting during games.

I follow a few of my favorite athletes and it's interesting to be privvy to stuff that 10 years you would never have known unless you were a janitor in the locker room. Though there is a lot of waffling going on in the tweeting.

People in war zones, riots etc can be amazing to follow, like one guy in Iran last year during the demonstrations.

Tweeting has a place, but not for Joe Six pack class like Mr A who enjoy The tension while awaiting for a ‘random reward’ (response)—which you don’t know when or from where it will come—is much more addictive than anticipation for a predictable reward.” “From each reply and re-tweet, he obtains instant gratification, which stimulates his sense of self-esteem,

Lance Armstrong sometimes tweets some interesting stuff.

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Yay,internet twitter penetration and usage going up. Who cares about,out of date companies and their obsolete views.

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Klein, did you really have to mention Farmville!! ugh

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Agree with you we are going slightly backwards in regards to proper use of IT-Technology.

I remember the old Lotus 123 days when a simple pie-chart was the latest. This days I see many workers when asked for some simple figures/reports create fancy slide-shows that take a long time to do to impress the powers. Simple bar-chart would do most of the time.

Heck meeting preparations often take longer than the meeting now(sez something in Japan). ;)

Feel like it has become a race among employees to outdo each other and that often also includes facebook, etc.

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Not just in the office. I have heard teachers complain that despite the latest tools, writing skills are declining. Even given spreadsheets, quantitative and analytical skill levels are falling. Give people a free encyclopedia that is darn good and you will find that 1% of the population uses it intensely, and the other 99% go play Java games somewhere.

Powerpoint gives people the opportunity to say less, but in bigger more colorful letters, and people have jumped on that bandwagon and stayed.

Twitter and Facebook are monuments to the trend. Say little but say it faster and more often. It should be called Chatter. Facebook is all about pictures of events rather than events. People wail about privacy when Facebook was never about privacy. All of the popular apps are absurd, not just in their applications, but in their concepts.

Yasukuni, yeah Farmville. There are imitators now and the company that makes Farmville openly mocks people for playing it. They make tons of money on boredom and banality and people's willingness to part with spare time and spare change.

It is a disease. JT is plain vanilla in a lot of ways. The product and format are robust. All of this other gaming and tweeting will be ditched by people for something else one of these days. But what are people going to do with all of that spare time? Maybe find a job and do it! That will be the day.

This kind of stuff is why people get to about age 60 and then start wondering why the rest of the world has gone crazy.

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"Fire him over his drop in sales not his twitter addiction, it's easy."

Easier is being the boss and telling him he can either quit or tell everybody else why they should work and he should not have to. Why wait? Glengarry Glen Ross. Winners don't use Twitter, and Winners don't have to explain anything to anyone. Losers are lucky to have a job, and if they don't like it, they should not do it. I will help them along in that.

I am pretty old school about that. Anyway, I understand that people need excuses for what they do. I don't. Their Twitter time comes out of my pocket, and I don't pay for other people's addictions.

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I have read this article and all the posts.

I am wondering if any of you hav the slightest idea about what Twitter is or how it can be used. @rolandk touches on the power of it when he suggests employees could be using Twitter and/or Facebook to promote their company`s brand and products.This is in fact how the vast majority of savvy companies and savvy employees are using Social Media

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I know quiet a few online shops/companies that use Twitter/Facebook for new product announcements, letting people know about site updates(similar to RSS Feeds), etc

One company has a facebook blog where they post "behind the scenes" info about the company, etc. They also got a youtube style section to their webpage where they do product review, event report, etc videos.

Those tools can be used and be used well, said that never seen a company that would let your average salary-man promote it, always organised, etc like all other published company material.

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michaelqtodd: All that may seem good to you but remember Twitter and facebook have been know for causing just as much trouble as good.

If you take facebook for example some people just don't know when to stop and certain so-called friends can end up being a liability, so it's not so much what you post but also what others post and the perception of you, your employees being associated with those who may be posting inappropriate or even offensive things to some.

I used to have a facebook page and at first used it to socialize and promote my business, but as more people got added it became more and more difficult to keep an eye on everything they were posting, when the i-phone came out it became impossible with people posting picture of their lunch, dinner, the girl they just met you name it they posted it.

I have several people who would post their religious or anti-religious beliefs, it got to the point I was removing people everyday until it made no sense in keeping it and guess what? My life is much simpler and happier without it and if a friend or client wishes to contact me they can call or email, I will be happy to answer them.

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@zenny11 Sounds like old school stuff by companies without a single clue how to market

@limboinjapan Sounds like you attracted the wrong people. I have had 5000 facebook friends for about a year now and it is only once a month or so that I would ever remove anything from my wall. And my wall is open for anybody in the world to read or post stuff on it.Not just "friends"

The only way to promote your business these days is via social media.Many many Japanese companies are waking up to this and encouraging their employees to learn social media skills and to increase their networks

A small group of us (about 10 people) have been making the odd conversation about our Internet radio station for a few months via Facebook and a little Twitter.At Christmas we had 8,000 listeners, June 60,000 and now we have 1.5 million a day. Growing at 50,000 a day consistently over the last 2 weeks.Not a single cent spent on marketing,not a single add or an email and around 20 minutes spent a day each

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Maybe old school stuff but those companies are minting it. So somehow they are doing things right, having a clue or not.

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This is in fact how the vast majority of savvy companies and savvy employees are using Social Media

If I see anything in my inbox that looks even remotely like a commercial message, I delete it without opening. Social Media is just a euphemism for spam.

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@Beelzebub What has social media got to do with sending anything to inboxes? I think it is wonderful that Japan is embracing Twitter and that ideas and information are being spread in an open and unrestrained way

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Like everything in Life, using any type of social media is about MODERATION. Twitter, Facebook, etc. can be useful tools, a means to an end, but only if used within limits/boundaries. I don't tweet but I enjoy using Facebook as a tool to connect with friends.

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if Japanese don't do anything anyway, what on earth have they anything to tweet about? Just complain probably

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