By: Monica Belgum
In today’s business world, the widespread use of social media has blurred the line for employees between company time and personal time. In an effort to increase productivity and protect their brands, organizations have begun to implement social media policies on their employees. Many of these policies not only address the use of personal social media accounts in the workplace, but at all times.
It is understandable that organizations want to protect their brands, and employees do represent these companies whether they like it or not. However, how involved in its employees’ personal lives can an organization be while maintaining ethical practices? There seems to be a thin line between appropriate and inappropriate restrictions on employee social media use, and organizations must learn to walk this line if they hope to remain successful, ethical and transparent.
An organization should be careful about how far it restricts its employees’ social media use, especially outside the office. Some say it is ethically questionable for a company to have any say in what its employees do on their own time, but it is necessary when it comes to social media to implement loose guidelines. Most organizations know that prohibiting use of social media altogether is not only an invasion of an employees personal life, but an opaque business practice. Instead, organizations must learn to trust their employees to represent their brand, and get rid of those they don’t.
Rather than simply limiting the types of things employees are allowed to say, an organization should encourage its employees to use social media in a constructive way. Companies like Intel have thrived by giving their employees the simple guideline to not post anything offensive on their social media sites. Intel’s social media policy states that it encourages employees to post “the Good, the Bad, but not the Ugly. If the content is positive or negative and in context to the conversation, then we approve the content, regardless of whether it’s favorable or unfavorable to Intel. However if the content is ugly, offensive, denigrating and completely out of context, then we reject the content.” This type of policy allows employees to feel as though their personal lives have not been invaded, and maintains a transparent image for the organization.
If employees feel that their personal lives are still personal, they won’t resent their employers for lack of privacy. This will cause the employees to think of their employers in a positive light. If employees share this positive outlook with their social media networks, it will only improve the organization’s image.
Social media is still a relatively new concept in the business world, and so it may be a while before the majority of organizations perfect their social media policies. In the meantime, these organizations can learn from one another through successes and failures. No matter how an organization decides to write its social media policy, it must consider the personal lives of its employees if it wishes to have a successful policy.