HDSHC Professor presents her research in South Korea

Hugh Downs School of Human Communication professor Dr. Heewon Kim was recently invited to Seoul, South Korea to give a public research talk. 

Dr. Kim was invited by the Communication Research Institute and the College of Communication at Yonsei University in Seoul, where she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, to give a public talk on the organizational implications of digital technology use.  Her talk, "Technology as Paradox: Mutual Constitution, Agency, and Unintended Consequences," was based on one of her recent research projects. 

Specifically, the talk focused on enterprise social networking, an extremely popular new subject among communication scholars. 

“Enterprise social media are communication platforms in the workplace, which can help employees collaborate or connect with others who share similar business interests or activities,” said Dr. Kim.  “Popular services include Yammer, Slack, and Chatter.  Facebook has also launched its own version for organizations.” 

Dr. Kim presenting her research at Yonsei University in Seoul

Studying different American organizations, Dr. Kim found that this new social media platform allows employees working in global, or multinational organizations to share status updates, see posts from employees in different offices, and keep abreast of new innovations at their organization.  

“Using enterprise social media can enable employees to have an enhanced awareness of their colleagues’ tasks, activities, and specialties, even across teams or geographical boundaries,” said Dr. Kim.  “Many organizations are able to facilitate knowledge sharing and employee engagement. “ 

However, Dr. Kim’s research found that the use of enterprise social media was often contrary to management’s expectations, and created unintended consequences. 

“There are two sides of the same coin,” said Dr. Kim.  “One the one side, there is engagement and sharing among employees, but on the other side, there are concerns among employees about pervasive monitoring and surveillance.”

Unintended consequences of enterprise social media use included decreased engagement among employees.   “Often lower-status workers realized their posts could be seen by everybody, including coworkers, peers, and management,” said Dr. Kim.  “Many of them started filtering themselves, worried about what kind of impressions they would make.” Dr. Kim stressed that, after implementing a new tool in the workplace, it is important to look into different perceptions and uses among employees to evaluate the possible outcomes of the implementation.   

Despite these contradictory outcomes, Dr. Kim sees this emerging trend expanding among organizations. “Communication scholars will continue to research social media use within and beyond organizations. I look forward to continuing my work and contributing to this expanding body of research.”