Gradually - and I mean gradually - your managers are waking up to the fact that text messages don't deserve the informality that they're granted.
What do I mean? We've learned that conversations can be taped or confirmed through witnesses. We've learned that email is discoverable and generally toxic. With that learning in mind, managers and employees watch what they say and the world is generally a better place, with less bullying in the workplace and a general awareness of what you say being held against you.
But when it comes to texting, our world still grants sending a text with informality that it's more like a one-on-one conversation rather than a email exchange. That might work for someone's private life, but it's poison for the workplace. Or any merging of workplace and private life.
Ask Tiger Woods what ill-advised texting can do to a career.
I could tell you to add the Tiger Woods texting stream to your next Harassment Training for managers. But Tiger Woods is too much of a mega-star to really help them relate.
So I found one your managers can relate to. A Toledo track and field coach who was having relationships with the student-athletes he "managed". Check it out from Deadspin:
"It was a matter of rules and consequences, he said. On Jan. 24, Kevin Hadsell, the director of the University of Toledo's men's and women's cross country and women's track program, announced his resignation, a move that was as mysterious as it was abrupt. Hadsell had been at Toledo since 1998, and in the intervening years he had built the Rockets into a regional power, becoming an institution unto himself along the way. The 42-year-old was a five-time Mid-American Conference coach of the year. He did color commentary on Toledo women's basketball games, and he hosted a weekly podcast and radio show. He cut a lively figure on campus, and when Toledo's football coach, Tim Beckman, decamped for Illinois, Hadsell evidently felt he had enough clout around town that he could scoff at the decision from his Twitter account. "You couldn't pay me enough $ to take certain jobs in big conferences," he wrote. "Some schools are dead-end jobs in some sports. Think two moves ahead."
What Hadsell and the university did not say is that the coach was forced to resign after a female runner had accused him of sexual harassment. The runner, whom we'll call Andrea to protect her identity, had also revealed to the school that Hadsell had been in a long-term physical relationship with her teammate and friend.
Deadspin has obtained text messages sent to Andrea over the past five months from Hadsell's phone. They range in tone from the flirty to the frankly sexual, growing obsessive and paranoid as he learns of the university's investigation; until the very end, it seems, he was unaware that it was Andrea who had turned him in.
"I'm too ***ing selfish," Hadsell joked to Andrea on Oct. 22, denying a relationship with the other runner, whom we will refer to as Caitlin. "I'm down for drinks, laughs, sex. Other than that I value my free time." Earlier, he had told Andrea: "Not gonna lie. I would hook up with [Caitlin] (I havmt) but if she wasn't psycho I would." He added, "It may be a good ride. Just sayin."
The guy is obviously troubled and there's good reason he's not employed anymore at Toledo.
But there's a lesson for your managers in here. Stop being informal with texting to the people you manage. It's going to be leveraged against you. Check out the informality in these text exchanges from the manager in question as reported by Deadspin:
Hadsell: "I want to talk."
Hadsell: "And Be real"
Andrea: "Okay we can"
Hadsell: "Dude. Straighgt up...can I trust you? And. Are u really interested in me?"
Andrea: "Yes you can trust me"
No further texts for an hour. Then:
Hadsell: "Are u awake?"
No further texts until 12:57 a.m.
Hadsell: "I guess not. ***k."
Four days later, while in Wisconsin for a cross-country meet, Andrea told Hadsell she knew he'd been sleeping with Caitlin, who had graduated the previous spring. Hadsell denied everything.
Andrea: "you really don't lead her on at all?"
Hadsell: "Dude. I don't. I don't completely discourage. I'm a guy. Duhh. That's honest."
Andrea: "I knew it"
Hadsell: "Like you know what I mean. You're not ENCOURAGING. But you're not"
Informality via text. This example is extreme, but your managers are in the margins with the people who report to them way too much.
Add informal texting to your next harassment training/managerial skills training platform.