Blurred Lines

Some of us are still rolling our eyes and shaking our heads after watching Miley Cyrus perform at the MTV Video Music Awards last month.

Maybe it was the leave-little-to-theimagination vinyl bikini or the frenetic “twerking” or even the foam finger she used as a prop. No matter what we thought we saw on stage, it captivated our attention for a brief moment and reminded us that the lines between good taste and bad choices are often blurred.

Now, I am not a Miley fan, nor am I a Miley detractor, but I do know a thing or two about making good choices and how to use one’s talent to its fullest. It is what keeps us moving in a positive direction, focused, centered and with clear lines of demarcation when it comes to what is socially acceptable and valued. It defines what is appropriate.

The workplace has become a bit like that stage at the VMAs, with blurred lines leading to mixed messages and unlimited shades of gray. Now, I am not suggesting that we have returned to a time and office culture akin to Mad Men, when people used to drink and smoke and cavort and play doctor in their offices. We have come a long way, baby, I promise you.

But, as a boss, I believe it is my job to set the tone in the office. While none of us wishes to work in a sterile environment that is devoid of laughter or any other human emotion, it is important that we toe the line, blurry or otherwise, and bring it into sharper focus, especially in today’s world.

We need to be professional, appropriate and respectful of others, even if their opinions, work ethic and personalities rub us completely the wrong way. This is the modern workplace challenge that baffles us all.

And now, with technology at our fingertips and the workplace available in the cloud, office etiquette extends far beyond the four walls of our office or cubicle. It extends deeply into our personal lives, our Facebook pages, our Twitter accounts and Instagram pics. It has invaded our lives and crossed every imaginable boundary, by invitation. And so, the idea that what happens outside the office doesn’t really matter anymore or will not affect our jobs…well, please think again.

Imagine the VMAs were an office party and that Miley was the company’s CFO or member of the advisory board or its receptionist. What message do her actions send to co-workers, subordinates or even clients? The lines are blurry, at best; crystal clear at worst. This type of behavior could detract from her ability to do her job, to be respected by peers and may impact opportunities for advancement.

As a company, we research our potential employees via their Facebook and other social networks. Often times, it is what is not on the resume or reference sheet that ultimately leads us to hire or not hire them. There is an entire new body of work to judge them on, sometimes without the benefit of even a conversation or formal interview.

Blurred lines are part of the new workplace and we had better get used to them, even if Miley never takes the stage or dons a foam finger ever again.

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