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"Friend" Me: Social Media Privacy In A Supervisory Relationship

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A Survey Study

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"Friend" Me: Social Media Privacy In A Supervisory Relationship

  1. 1. Veering into the personal at work comes with inherent risks. The employee often wishes to keep certain details of his/her life private (Stutzman, 2012), in case these details should negatively affect the relationship or the employees’ reputation. Supervisors should be sensitive to this, especially given the power imbalance in the relationship. The organization also wishes to shield itself from legal liability (Gelms, 2003). With these risks, however, also come great opportunities. This new environment can be used as an effective tool for the development of high quality manager-subordinate relationships, and in effect, increasing productivity. Crossing this boundary is also becoming increasingly inevitable in the context of the rapid popularity of social networking sites (SNS’s) (Skeels & Grudin, 2009). The theoretical cornerstone of this research is in leader- member exchange (LMX) theory, where the relationship is our main unit of research and analysis. Research on trust, privacy, and Social Exchange Theory also inform this study. The existence of a Facebook friendship and privacy settings is how we operationalized self-disclosure. In prior research, increased self-disclosure has been linked to increased trust (Deutsch, 1958) – the goal of the current study is to see if this holds true in the context of social media. As Wat and Shaffer (2005) stated, trust is an important factor in the formation of supervisory in-groups. Trust can be enacted through self-disclosure (Wheeless & Grotz, 1977). Therefore, among employees of equal competence levels, those who self-disclose more to the manager should be more likely to gain entrance into this "inner circle.” Katz & Kahn (1978) found that trust and relationships grow based on incremental influence, mostly in the context of interactions that reinforce a perceived equity. Social exchange theory (Shore & Wayne, 1993) is therefore key in determining an environment in which trust can develop and grow. A relationship needs to have an equal exchange to be perceived as fair. Reciprocity is therefore important for both and will influence the level of satisfaction in the exchange. If both parties sense this, then trust can develop. The purpose of this study was to use a leader-member exchange framework to analyze supervisory-subordinate relationships based on self-disclosure, trust and relationship quality. A random sample of United States Facebook users (n=407) participated in an online survey. Correlational analyses informed our discussion. We operationalized self-disclosure as the presence or absence of a Facebook "friendship". The incidences of employees using privacy and limited settings on Facebook with their supervisor provided us with further depth in operationalizing self-disclosure. The amount of access to personal details given by the employee to the supervisor was correlated with feelings of trust in the supervisor, as well as a more positive supervisory relationship. The participants came from a 100% market research only panel. The population of the database is over 12.3 million members, generalizable to the larger general population of US residents. Participants were invited by the survey research company to participate in exchange for various incentives, such as cash rewards or gift cards. They were not allowed to complete another survey from the research company for 10 days, leading to higher quality responses. The panel attrition is 8% yearly, which includes people who unsubscribed and a portion that is scrubbed (members removed for quality issues or those who are inactive). USPS was used to verify postal addresses, flash cookies were placed and IP addresses were tracked, for identity verification. In addition, a quality tracking program was used. Employees who were “friends” with their supervisor but had the supervisor on limited privacy settings reported significantly lower relationship quality than those who were full/uncensored or “unprivate” friends. Interestingly, employees‘ perceptions (or knowledge) of their supervisor’s privacy settings in relation to the Facebook friendship also were related to diminished relationship quality, as well as concerns about privacy. This illustrates the common relationship dynamic of mutual self-disclosure: the more open the supervisor, the more open the subordinate. This supports Graen & Uhl-Bien’s (1995) theories about “mature relationships,” characterized by reciprocity and mutual obligations. . We obtained over 1,000 responses with a response rate of around 15-20% and a drop-out rate of around 10-15%. These 1000 responses were then filtered down to the sample of 407, due to attention filters that were scattered throughout the survey. ‘PRQ (Positive Relationship Quality)’ and ‘Privacy – Positive’. For ‘PRQ’, the ‘Yes’ group (M = 5.98, SD = 1.13) had significantly higher scores than the ‘No’ group (M = 5.24, SD = 1.31) with t(326) = 5.28, p < .001. This is also the same for ‘Privacy – Positive’ with the ‘Yes’ group (M = 4.63, SD = 1.15) having significantly higher scores than the ‘No’ group (M = 3.93, SD = 1.36) with t(318) = 4.78, p < .001. No significance found when comparing scores of ‘PRQ’, ‘Privacy – Positive’, and ‘Privacy – Negative’ between the employee initiated Facebook friendship and the supervisor initiated Facebook friendship groups (see Tables 1 and 2). Deutsch, M. (1958). Trust and suspicion. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 2, 265-279. Graen, G.B. & Uhl-Bien, M. (1995), “Relationship-based approach to leadership: development of leader-member exchange (LMX) theory of leadership over 25 years: applying a multi-level multi-domain perspective”, Leadership Quarterly, Vol. 6, pp. 219-47. Shore, L.M. & Wayne, S.L. (1993), “Commitment and employee behavior: comparison of affective commitment and continuance commitment with perceived organizational support”, Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 78, pp. 774-80. Wat, D., & Shaffer, M. (2005), “Equity and relationship quality influences on organizational citizenship behaviors”, Personnel Review, Vol. 34(4), pp. 406-422. Wheeless, L.R., & Grotz, J. (1977). The measurement of trust and its relationship to self-disclosure. Human Communication Research, 1977, 3, 250-257. Abstract Introduction Method Results Discussion Selected References A random sample of United States Facebook users (n=407) participated in an online survey. Correlational analyses informed our discussion. We operationalized self-disclosure as the presence or absence of a Facebook friendship. The incidences of employees using privacy and limited settings on Facebook with their supervisor provided us with further depth in operationalizing self- disclosure. The amount of access to personal details given by the employee to the supervisor was positively correlated with feelings of trust in the supervisor, as well as a more positive supervisory relationship. The survey assesses several related items, such as trust, positive relationship quality, and privacy. 7-point likert scales were used. Positive relationship quality (PRQ) was operationalized by a composite score of responses to several statements, such as “I like my supervisor,” “I respect my supervisor,” and “I trust my supervisor.” Privacy was operationalized by a composite score of responses to statements such as “I am comfortable sharing my personal information on Facebook, in general,” and “I would be more likely to interact with my supervisor’s Facebook if I were to leave my job.” Demographic data such as age, race, gender, sector of work, income status and geographic location were also gathered in the survey. In addition, we assessed whether a supervisor or subordinate used privacy settings in the context of the Facebook friendships (if they were Facebook “friends”). Within the group of responders who were Facebook friends with their employees, we looked at the difference between responders who had privacy/custom settings versus those who did not. Interestingly, we found significant differences between the two groups for ‘PRQ’ and ‘Privacy – Negative’. Responders who had privacy/custom settings indicated lower ‘PRQ’ scores (M = 5.48, SD = 1.52) compared to those who did not (M = 6.19, SD = 0.84). This difference was significant with t(129) = -3.43, p < .05. This difference was inverse for ‘Privacy – Negative’ with t(133) = 6.84, p < .001, where responders who had privacy/custom settings indicating higher scores (M = 4.64, SD = 1.35) compared to those who did not (M = 2.78, SD = 1.46) (see Table 3). There is much research on the level of quality of the LMX being correlated with outcomes, as well as how effective leadership relationships could be developed, maintained and integrated into a larger organization. However, with technological advances and the culture of social media becoming more prevalent, LMX in this context is worth exploring further, to capture the nuances of social media and gain further insight. Skeels and Grudin’s 2009 study was one of the first to address this new media, which has altered the fabric of our society. With the increasing prominence of social media and privacy concerns from a new generation of workers who grew up with social media, managers’ handling of Facebook relationships with their subordinates has become unavoidable. Wat & Shaffer (2005) found that OCB’s are a result of a social exchange process, where perceived equity, high-quality LMX relationships, as well as trust and empowerment had direct and mediating effects on OCB’s. Leaders and managers should focus on creating fair circumstances as often as they can, to build trust. This will most likely increase OCB’s and in turn, organizational productivity. “Friendships” on Facebook and other social networks are important vehicles for leadership making and a key component of the modern day LMX. We hypothesized that more permeable social media boundaries with a supervisor are related to higher relationship quality with the supervisor. This means, higher trust, specifically. In addition, those employees and supervisors who are more open and do not utilize private settings in their supervisory Facebook friendships should have increased trust and relationship quality. As predicted, those employees who were “friends” with their supervisors also rated their trust higher, and expressed fewer concerns about privacy. Among those who were Facebook friends, there was no significant difference in the relationship quality between employees whose supervisors initiated the Facebook friendship versus those who initiated the Facebook friendship themselves. Looking beyond employees’ privacy/custom settings, we also decided to see if there were any effects of supervisors’ privacy/custom settings on employees’ trust and perceptions of privacy. For this, responders were divided into three groups: 1) Yes - responders who think their supervisors had privacy/custom settings against them; 2) No - responders who did not think their supervisors had privacy/custom settings against them; and 3) Not sure – responders who were not sure if their supervisors had any settings or not. Interestingly, we found significant effects only for ‘Privacy – Negative’, F(2, 132) = 13.34, p = .000. Tukey’s post-hoc test for multiple comparisons revealed that the ‘Yes’ group (M = 5.09, SD = 1.05) had significantly higher scores when compared to the ‘No’ group (M = 2.96, SD = 1.47) and the ‘Not sure’ group (M = 3.15, SD = 1.66) (see Tables 4 and 5). Results Cont’d

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