"What do I do?" The petrified tone in my client's voice was testimony to why my training had been interrupted to take an urgent call. They had posted on social media a status on staff vaccines. It was honest, kind, and encouraging. That was until it was discovered by a cyclops.
Within hours the post had garnished hundreds of thousands of views and tens of thousands of comments. The comments resembled a battlefield. The army of trolls had spread from New Zealand, across the ditch and then swarms had joined the opposing sides from around the globe. The more I read the less it looked like a battlefield and the more it resembled a stinking cesspool attracting every vile trait of humanity.
A cyclops is a one-eyed monster. Social media's algorithm is designed to breed cyclopes by feeding them one viewpoint. The more you read on a topic, the more similar topics it puts your way. This feeding of sameness blinds people. You gradually lose the ability to see things from someone else's perspective.
When was the last time you read a social media post that was totally opposite to your worldview? Did you read it seeking to understand or to justify your position? Have you ever felt incensed by a comment and hammered out a reply without really thinking it through, looking at the actual article or post and responding to that rather than an opinion from someone that was different from your own?
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In business it is important to have an opinion. It is essential to engage with customers and potential customers. Businesses must do some form of marketing. As owners and managers, allocating resources, energy and attention is a skill that increases efficiency and reduces fire fighting. In all of this your team looks to you for cultural guidance. Do you create a culture of respect, loyalty, hard work, trust?
In our efforts to do the right thing and be the best we can be, there is an increasingly high chance someone will have a difference of opinion and choose to take offence. How you respond is your choice.
The Manawatū Chamber of Commerce put on a business update session on the new traffic light system on Friday and from the questions asked it is apparent there is a rise in tension on many fronts. Equip your team - have a policy, communicate often, train your staff how to manage conflict and, if you get caught in the cross fire in an online war of words, take down your post because they are not commenting on your post.
This is the advice I gave my client. Your post is just a holding post for the venting of opinions. Remove the battlefield and the cyclops and army of trolls will find fresh fighting grounds.
Stay safe out there and be kind - we are all in this together and have a much higher chance of coming through when we stay united.
• Mike Clark is director and lead trainer and facilitator at Think Right business training company.