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Milking the Clock: Social Media in the Workplace

Posted on the 24 May 2011 by Technocowgirl @TechnoCowgirl

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Milking the Clock: Social Media in
the Workplace

   Despite what delusions employees’ have, employers’ are
not ignorant to their ‘milking the clock’ via the company computer. Social
Media sites pose major concerns for employers’ on a number of levels, security,
and employee conduct, sexual harassment, even bullying. “Social Media are any
type of Internet-based media created through social interaction, where
people primarily produce (and not consume) the content” (Jackson,
2011). Corporations and employers are realizing the necessity of a ‘code of conduct’
policy concerning these types of Websites and the issues they pose.

Websites that are of particular concern are: “Social
networking sites (Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn), Blogs (Web blogs)…Twitter is
considered a “micro-blog”…Online multi-user virtual worlds (World of Warcraft, Second
Life), and Video-sharing Websites (YouTube)” (Jackson, 2011). Employers’ have
an array of legitimate concerns; just a few negative posts by disgruntled
employees or consumers can totally ruin a company’s reputation. “In a 2009
study by Deloitte LLP on social media and the workplace, 74 percent of the
2,008 employed adults surveyed responded that they believe it is easy to damage
a brand’s reputation via social media” (Jackson, 2011). With over 500 million
subscribers, Facebook alone has the power to make or break a company’s
reputation and profits.

Moreover, “61 percent” do not care if the boss sees their
profiles (they would not change anything); while “53 percent” believe that it
is actually none of the bosses business what is done on their own time
(Jackson, 2011). What is more disturbing to employers is: “A 2009 study by
Nucleus Research of 237 office workers showed that 77 percent of them had a
Facebook account, and two-thirds of them use it while at work…[moreover], one
in 33 workers built their entire Facebook profile during work hours” (Morris,
2011). Setting up a profile on any site takes at least fifteen minutes or more,
many other tasks could be accomplished in that small amount of time.

How can employers combat this plight of productivity?
“The etiquette of blogging, tweeting, [and] social networking, hasn’t matured
at the same rate the media itself has, and so there’s no real ‘Miss Manners’
version of how to behave online that’s pervaded the culture” (Morris, 2011).
Freedom of speech and privacy rights makes tackling the issue of social media
almost impossible for employers due to possible litigation from disgruntled
employees. Additionally, employers believe that they have a “right to know”
exactly how their workers conduct themselves and portray the company. “Another
2009 study confirms that employees are acting on this perceived “right to know”…36
percent of the 438 management, marketing and human resources executives
surveyed use social media to see what current employees may be sharing online,
and 25 percent use social media to check the background of perspective
employees” (Jackson, 2011). This new employer interest in employees’ social
sites has workers on the rampage, demanding that their right to privacy be
observed.

Finding a balance between employee and employer rights on
the issue of social media will not be an easy task. However, there are can be done
logical options for employers to reach a compromise that fits the workplace
environment. Renee M. Jackson suggests a few great ideas in her article,
“Social media and the workplace: A comprehensive guide for employers” (Jackson,
2011):

  • “Screen
    applicants in a uniform manner. Create a list of the social media sites that
    will be searched for each applicant” (Jackson, 2011).
  • “Have
    a neutral party (e.g., an employee in a non-decision making role) conduct the
    social media search, filtering out any protected class information about the
    applicant and reporting only on information which may lawfully be considered in
    making the hiring decision” (Jackson, 2011).
  • “[Do
    not] Friend applicants in order to gain access to their non-public networking
    profiles” (Jackson, 2011).
  • “As
    always, employers must be able to point to a legitimate, non-discriminating
    reason for the hiring decision, with documentation to support the decision” (Jackson,
    2011).  (always speak with an attorney
    before making a decision about hiring and firing due to information found on
    the social media site)

Although
this policy alone will not fix the problem as a whole, there is still the issue
of what to do about employees ‘milking the clock’ via the computer. While there
are no absolute ways to eliminate the employer’s plight of slacking employees,
there are some suggestions for deterrents. With so many company risks, it is
best to have a no tolerance policy in place. Some of those risks are obvious,
whereas, others are not; again, Jackson gives great advice in this area:

Jackson
explains some of those risks as:

  • “[Employees
    abusing] their access to their employer’s confidential or inside information by
    making unauthorized disclosures of company information (confidential,
    proprietary, and/or trade secret)” (Jackson, 2011).
  • “[Employees]
    misuse social media in a way that leads to corporate embarrassment and public
    relations issues” (Jackson, 2011).
  • “Comment
    or post photos on social media sites that disparage the employer or its
    customers, thus negatively impacting the employer’s brand or image” (Jackson,
    2011).
  • “[Employees
    may also] blog or comment via social media regarding confidential information
    about mass layoffs, confidential settlement or severance agreements, and the
    like” (Jackson, 2011).

While
these are not the totality of damages, an employee can cause via the social
media, it gives the general idea. An employer may think they are in a catch
twenty-two because of the up-and-coming generation of workers that are glued to
their high-tech distractions; however, this is not the case. Jackson states,
that while an out-right ban would not be in an employer’s best interest due to
the newer generation, there are some great tools that can be used to set the
standard. Jackson (an employment attorney) gives these suggestions:

  • “A
    clear statement that misuse of social media can be grounds for discipline, up to
    and including termination” (Jackson, 2011).
  • “A
    prohibition on disclosure of the employer’s confidential, trade secret or
    proprietary information” (Jackson, 2011).
  • “A
    request that employees keep company logos or trademarks off their blogs and
    personal Web pages or profiles (including photos of employees in uniform) and
    not to mention the company in posts, unless for business purposes” (Jackson,
    2011).
  • “An
    instruction that employees not post or blog during business hours, unless for
    business purposes” (Jackson, 2011).
  • “A
    prohibition on using e-mail addresses to register for social media sites”
    (Jackson, 2011).
  • “A
    prohibition on posting false information about the company or its employees,
    customers or affiliates” (Jackson, 2011).
  • “A
    general instruction that employees use good judgment and take personal and
    professional responsibility for what they publish” (Jackson, 2011).
  • “A
    statement that all employees with personal blogs that identify their must
    include a disclaimer that the views expressed are those of the individual and
    not the employer” (Jackson, 2011).
  • “An
    instruction on proper topics for discussion that add value, if encouraging
    employee use of social media for marking or business development purposes”
    (Jackson, 2011).

As
stated before, these policies will not stop all the slacking and issues
about this long-reaching social tool. However, they will give way to a
completely new concept on dealing with this inevitable clash between employee
and employer. The important thing for all to remember is that we are in this
world together; therefore, we must respect the boundaries, time, and money of
others, not to mention one’s self. Finally, the one certain way to protect the
integrity of everyone involved is, for all to put in an honest day’s work, for
an honest day’s pay.

References

Jackson, Renee M.
(2011, May 19). Social media and the workplace: a comprehensive guide for

employers. http://www.massbar.org/publications/section-review/2010/v12-n2/social-media

-and-and-the-workplace

Morris, Joe. (2011,
April 29). Social media in the Workplace: Information, image at risk without

established policies. The Nashville
Ledger. http://www.nashvilleledger.com/editorial/Article

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