The dangers of social media in the workplace

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Wednesday December 12, 2012 at 9:00am
The news abounds with examples of celebrities and prominent politicians being named and shamed through social media, with comments often found to be little more than gossip at times. There have already been examples of bloggers, Tweeters and Facebook posters being investigated by the police. So, what precautions should companies and organisations take to avoid being dragged into problems through their employee use of social media in company time?

The biggest danger with social media of course is that the ‘poster’ is now in a position of; journalist, author and publisher in an instant. Sadly, often without any time for reflective practice to take place.

Increasingly companies are now having first-hand experience of staff updating their social media accounts during work time and committing all sorts of narrative to their profiles for followers to read. I have noticed that individuals almost see this as a ‘human right’ and a ‘must do’ to ensure friends and followers have almost hourly updates or musings, with seemingly little regard to their employed duties.

Most organisations these days have ‘e-mail’ policies and internet policies etc., but it is worth reviewing policies on social media and acceptable use of assets? Many individuals use organisational assets (company PCs or Blackberry’s) for social media updates – although by no means is this always the case. Monitoring of systems use - within ISO27001 would identify frequent misuse of organisational assets. But clearly guidance on Social Media and its relevance to the work-place is wise.

Ideally the above should be underpinned with effective training sessions, alerting staff to the dangers of social media; potential libel, time wasting and negative reputational damage to the organisation if such ‘postings’ are negative about employees or the workplace.

Coupled with effective ‘monitoring of systems use’ and reporting of clear offenders who carry on with excessive social media usage, using agreed disciplinary mechanisms should help drive through the message on the dangers of social media within the work-place.

In any event, all users of social media should apply the same thought to message content, as they would to formal company e-mails or letters. If in doubt, don’t post it!

Marcus Allen
Parker Management Consultants

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