Do You Know What’s Lurking in Your Company’s Private Messages?

Open, efficient communication drives innovation in the modern workplace, where it can facilitate knowledge transfer and problem-solving, reduce uncertainty, and break down geographic and managerial hierarchies.

And communication is no longer limited to email and the telephone. With the advent of a variety of collaboration tools such as Workplace by Facebook, Yammer, or Microsoft Teams, communication is taking place in countless ways across a variety of platforms.

Risky Employee Behavior in Private Messages

Out-of-the-box, many of these platforms don’t provide administrators easily-accessible visibility into private employee messaging. That leaves leaders to ask unanswered questions about what employees are discussing. Is it always work-related? Is confidential information being shared with the wrong people? Are there any inappropriate work communications occurring?

These are valid concerns, given that 43% of all employee messages are private.

This is why our data science team took on the challenge of analyzing over 1,000,000 employee communications—both public and private—to understand what type of employee communications are being shared on these platforms.

What We Found

While toxic behavior such as workplace harassment, discrimination and inappropriate behavior is relatively rare in the workplace (as it should be!), our team found that risky human behavior is unpredictable and still exists in the workplace communication environment. And if it does, unfortunately, it is 250% more likely to exist in a private 1-to-1 chat than in a public environment.  

We also found that private messages can provide incredible insights to HR leaders into the overall sentiment and mood of an organization. Employees who only communicate via private messages—and that’s 1 out of every 7 workers—are 245% more likely to send negative scoring messages. One bad apple can poison an entire bunch and when dealing with employee negativity and mood, it’s important to identify the issue early in order to respond appropriately. Without visibility into private communications, this would be nearly impossible to identify on any of the leading collaboration platforms.

The Need to Identify Behavior and Sentiment Before Issues Proliferate Out of Control

Organizations need to track the sentiment and tone of both public and private conversations in order to get a true pulse on the health of their community and assess any areas of potential risk—and they need to do this efficiently without disrupting an already overworked team.

With all of the benefits that come with new collaboration programs, comes the risk of unpredictable human behavior. As HR professionals, the job is to protect and support your company’s most important assets: its people. As a data scientist, I believe that any decision should be backed by some sort of evidence. In this work, you must start with an awareness of what is being said on any company-sponsored communication platform. And that includes private employee communications.

You can learn more about our Human Risk Behavior Analysis and Research by clicking here.

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Jason Morgan

What could you learn by tapping into all social interaction in every large company in the world? As Vice President of Behavioral Intelligence at Wiretap, Jason champions the endeavor to answer this question by leveraging artificial intelligence and data science to develop predictive natural language and network models for enterprise collaboration platforms.


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