Article: Intangible Opinion: Abhijit Bhaduri

Strategic HR

Intangible Opinion: Abhijit Bhaduri

Would the workplace gain if we had a 'like' button at work?
Intangible Opinion: Abhijit Bhaduri

Maybe you could have a bell that people can ring when they get a chance to do something interesting


Facebook seeks to raise $5 billion in an IPO that looks likely to be the largest by a web company since Google in 2004 and could place the social network's value as high as $75 billion to $100 billion. All this is even more incredible, when you look at the user base of 845 million members, more than half of whom, or 483 million, return to the site daily.These millions of users have shared more than 100 petabytes (100 quadrillion bytes) of photos and videos with Facebook, and produced an average of 2.7 billion ‘likes’ and comments a day in the final 3 months of 2011.What makes Facebook so popular? It has to be the ‘like’ button.

When someone posts a photo or a video or just a status update, all the friends get to know of it and express their opinion about it. If you viewed what I had posted and were neutral about it, that would not merit any action. If you felt like voicing your opinion strongly, you would take time to leave a comment. Here is where the ‘like’ button comes into play. My post as well as any comment about the post can generate further ‘likes’. This ability to simply endorse what one says or does is probably the most powerful idea that makes Facebook an opinion maker.

Imagine if you had a ‘like’ button at work, where you could just endorse the new policy your manager had announced. If the policy had just a handful of ‘likes’, that might be a quick way for the manager to tweak the policy, abandon it and craft it afresh or maybe just communicate it differently, so that it generated more approval this time. Imagine if performance appraisal could be simplified to use the same approach. You write down your objectives on your Facebook Wall and your co-workers can put a ‘like’ against those. Wouldn’t that just be a simple way of knowing who is making a difference that people care about?

There is a downside to the ‘like’ button culture. Some people even post the day-to-day updates of their relationships. Even their break-ups are mentioned in their status updates. It leads me to wonder if that is carrying an idea too far. Imagine if people stated that they really disliked a particular leader or a policy – would that lead to greater transparency and engagement? Would that lead to damaging the veneer of politeness that sustains relationships at work?

“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” In today’s world, I would rather say, “If I change my profile picture on Facebook and no one is around to ‘like’ it, is it worth posting that?

Sometime back, on Facebook, I had posted about the demise of a very well known musician. To my horror, I found 38 ‘likes’ by some of my young friends on that post. They explained to me that when they ‘like’ what I had to say, they are simply resonating with me. It is not that they were delighted to learn about the musician’s death. For a fast moving world, eternally strapped for time, the “like” button is just shorthand for “I read what you had to say and I am not ignoring it”. Maybe it is worth having a ‘like’ button in your office that glows when an employee likes something about the organization. Maybe you could have a bell that people can ring when they get a chance to do something interesting. The ‘like’ button has its uses after all.

Abhijit Bhaduri ( is a bestselling author. He works as the Chief Learning Officer atWipro Ltd. The views expressed are personal. You can follow him on Twitter @abhijitbhaduri

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Topics: Strategic HR

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