Workplace Ethics: How Much Social Media is Too Much?

Social_Media_@work1Do you “Facebook” at work? Is your Twitter feed constantly open? For me, the answer is “yes.” I justify it because I monitor my organization’s social media platforms. But the truth is I’m not always on those pages. Okay, I’ve admitted it. Now will you?

Many employers are battling with social media. How much is too much at work? In 2012, the National Business Ethics Survey of Social Networks surveyed 2,089 U.S. workers and found 72% use social networks at work. So, how can employers ensure employees are being productive while also being paid. Is it realistic to monitor these online activities? I don’t think so. At least not on a daily basis.

A question posed this week: Would it be ethical for an employer to check employees online history to see how much time they spend on social media? The argument is that these employees are being paid, so why not? Well, I do think this is unethical. I think as long as an employee is getting their work done, and doing it well and on deadline, the amount of time it takes to get it done is irrelevant.

Facebook-at-workAt most companies, if you’re doing your job your boss stays off your case. If you’re not, well then you’re usually monitored more closely. I think in the latter case it would be appropriate for a boss to ask more frequently about what an employee is doing, but again not go as far as to check their online history. This should only happen when illegal or inappropriate activity is suspected. If an employee is not being productive they should be reprimanded, whether this is for personal social media use, smoking breaks, or personal conversations with colleagues. Any of these things could lead to employees not getting their work done.

Picture-Social-Media-PolicyMany companies’ social media policies state that employees are representing the brand even when they are not working, so posting negative or detrimental information could result in consequences. I personally am okay with this type of guideline. Even if I don’t always agree with the decisions made at my organization, I am grateful I have a job and I also realize it could be a lot worse.

How can you ensure your employees are aware and knowledgable about social media policies? At my company it’s part of our annual inservices or training. Along with learning about sexual harassment polices or safety in the workplace, we learn about how to conduct ourselves online (especially when dealing with patients and HIPAA concerns). This is mandatory for every employee, even those who are not using social media. At the end there’s a test and employees must pass to make sure the information is clearly understood. I think more companies should implement yearly trainings like this, not just as a refresher course, but also to discuss any industry changes and up-to-date information.

If employees aren’t loyal advocates for a brand who will be? Be professional. In person or online. That’s what it comes down to.


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