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Social Media In The Workplace.

social media-1I love social media. While others foolishly pooh-poohed its effectiveness and business relevance early on, almost all companies now appreciate its ubiquity and effectiveness on many levels.

However a corollary issue is… did the introduction of social media in the workplace open an employee Pandora’s Box? That question is not so easy to answer.

With change come “new rules” (as Bill Maher would say). There was a fascinating worldwide survey I recently read about social media called Social Media in the Workplace Around the World 3.0 by New York law firm Proskauer. The key results made me think more deeply about the need for a better understanding of the use of social media in the workplace.

Let’s start with some key facts:

1. 90% of businesses are now using social media.

The size of this universe is astounding. Obviously we are way past the “social media has no relevance for our business” stage. But given the relative youth of social media, the majority of these companies have been using social media for less than 3 years, so in many cases appropriate guidelines for use by employees have not been established or thought through.

2. Companies differ on their policies of their employees using social media on the job.

Some companies block social media sites at the workplace, Facebook is the most likely to be blocked as the #1 social platform. While it is a company’s right to do so (and roughly 1/3 do) in today’s smartphone enabled world, blocking access at their desktops does not mean lack of access.

3. Abuse is rampant (so think the companies)

—Misuse of confidential information (80%)

—Misrepresenting the views of the business (71%)

—Inappropriate non-business use (67%)

—Disparaging remarks about the business or employees (64%)

—Harassment (64%)

This makes any business leader stop and think “is social media worth it” and “Should I allow my employees to check their Facebook pages and post stuff during the day?” and for them to ask, “If I  perceived an abuse, how do I handle it?”

The most important thing a company can do is to have ground rules. More than 20% of the companies have no guidelines at all, and many of those that do many cover use just at work. Obviously having no guidelines opens up any company to issues and potential abuses. Ad hoc decisions are often not the right ones, and are done after the fact when you are dealing with a problem.

So what should a company do to prevent abuse in the first place?

1. Lift employees bans on social media (that’s my POV and not universally embraced)

The reality is that the employees can access social media anyhow, so a ban is not a real ban anyhow. But then having lifted a ban, make it clear that overuse in the workplace is not acceptable. Think about time on social sites as comparable to time at the water cooler chit chatting about life. A small dose is great—hours at the water cooler not so much.

2. More importantly, have a handbook and specific guidelines about social media regarding posting info about the company, its people and its practices.

Have the guidelines cover not just posting at work, but also outside of work.

3. Train employees on appropriate social media use and misuse.

Provide examples of misuse.  Blatant abuses are most often obvious, but sometimes unintended abuses come from lack of forethought on an individuals part about what was being disclosed.

4. Be clear to employees that divulging confidential information on social media does not end when one’s employment ends.

In fact many abuses occur after an employee leaves the workplace and uses social media as a platform for slamming their past employer, and beyond expressing their unhappiness, divulging company information never intended for public consumption.

From an employee perspective I’d suggest the following simple guideline:

The internet never forgets—It is forever, so think twice (and more) before posting any company info and therefore….

When in doubt—stop.

A little caution and wisdom goes a long way on both the employee part as well as from the business.




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