A Phenomenological study of venting about work on Facebook
Thesis DisciplineBusiness Administration
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Commerce
Purpose- To better understand what motivates employees to vent on the social media platform Facebook about work and why Facebook is selected by employees as a platform to vent.
Methodology- This study used phenomenological interviews to investigate instances where employees had vented about work on Facebook. 10 Generation-Y participants were interviewed using semi-structured, convergent and open-ended interviewing techniques, and asked to recall the circumstances surrounding their respective Facebook posts. Generation-Y participants were selected as they make up one of the largest Facebook user groups. The data was analysed using thematic analysis and a conceptual framework derived from the findings was presented and discussed.
Findings- The findings of this research indicate that the phenomenon of work-related venting on Facebook is far more complex than simply an impulsive manifestation of an individual’s stress or frustration. Venting was used as an emotion-focused coping strategy and a response to feelings of marginalisation and voice minimisation within the organisation. Participants’ primary motivation for venting on Facebook was not to disparage their employer, but instead to utilize Facebook as a platform for communicating with peers and accessing social support. The participants felt their concerns were treated as insignificant and the lack of in-organisations processes to express voice or access support structures encouraged them to exert voice and seek support from outside of the workplace. Facebook was used to obtain additional social support from a community of known individuals. Facebook’s high membership rate also allowed participants to communicate with a large number and wide range of peers simultaneously, giving access to a larger network of social support as well as overcoming space and time challenges associated with face-to-face venting. This thesis argues that venting about work on Facebook facilitates access to social support outside of the work setting, which serves as an extension of traditional workplace coping strategies. The findings do not help determine if work-related venting on Facebook is an effective method of coping, due to the differential outcomes observed by participants. However, it has provided key insights to the complex mechanisms that comprise the phenomenon.
Implications- This research highlights that venting on Facebook has been used as a way to cope with work-related stressors such as feelings of marginalisation and voice minimisation. Social media policies that aim to restrict employee voice online are unlikely to remove the impetus to vent on social media platforms such as Facebook. This research highlights the need to revisit these policies. For example, acknowledging the importance of social media as a way to access social support whilst also encouraging and allowing constructive venting to take place within the organisation. Organisations may wish to consider allowing employees to vent on Facebook provided that the organisation is not identifiable. Furthermore, organisations may wish to consider creating in-organisation processes that aim to prevent employee feelings of marginalisation and voice minimisation, which in theory should subsequently reduce the impetus to vent outside of work. Venting on Facebook was demonstrated as beneficial in some circumstances but not in others. In instances where venting allowed participants to access necessary social support and allowed negative emotions to be extinguished, it was considered a beneficial outcome. Venting was also demonstrated as detrimental when it encouraged the participant to continue to ruminate about their circumstances and contributed to ongoing stress and frustration. Limitations and suggestions for future research are provided.