Social media has become an integral part of the modern society. It has successfully penetrated almost all settings of the society including the workplace. In this setting, it has provided a myriad of benefits including allowing employees to coordinate activities with their colleagues and share information about the same. Employers are also using it to make hiring decisions since social media posts say a lot about a candidate. However, it also presents a serious problem particularly when there are no rules concerning what the employees can say as it relates to their workplace. The employees can use social media to communicate impending grievances they may have with the employer instead of taking the issue to the employer, which can potentially scar the reputation of the organization. As such, companies should create rules on social media use especially indicating that any problem should be communicated with the employer before it is posted on social media.
A key reason to support the establishment of these laws is the culture of individual organizations. When a person becomes affiliated with an organization, anything they say becomes associated with their workplace even though an individual should be treated as an individual. They are expected to behave according to the established organizational culture, which implies that poor behavior could impact their employer. This is why creating a policy that requires the employees to raise their problems with the parties that can address them, being the management of their organization, is essential. Such a policy would include a directive requiring employees to include clauses like what they said does not necessarily reflect their organization’s stand. This would encourage an appropriate use of social media by the employees when outside the organization. It would also be beneficial to the organization in that it gets the opportunity to know and address even the most minor issues that could potentially lead to much bigger concerns or negative consequences if they were to be exposed on social media. This has another unintended outcome of improving relationships among the employees. When several employees get into workplace conflicts, they first discuss the same with the management before expressing their frustration on social media or even try harassing their fellow employees on these sites. The management then gets the opportunity to address and issue before it escalates. Furthermore, the employees get a channel through which they can express their concerns, which is an essential implementation in any workplace. Through the guidelines, the organization must ensure that there is a department or an individual that addresses the concerns as they emerge so as to contain them before they reach social media.
Moreover, employers should impose strict rules that require employees to remain royal to the organization with regards to disclosure or misuse of proprietary and confidential information through social media or any other outlet. Without such a guideline, an employee can disclose information that could lead to an organization losing its competitive advantage in the market. This can only be addressed by rules that prohibit and that warn of the possible punitive measures that the organization can take against such an employee. If an organization has such rules and constantly monitors its employees’ activities on the Internet allows it to protect itself from any form of damage that can come from irresponsible disclosure of information.
Such policies could be considered intrusive on the side of the employees as other employers claim that what the employees post is harmless and completely personal. However, this is not entirely the case. While the information could be said to be private, it should be noted that it is posted on a public domain. Most of the information posted on social media is accessible by any person with a corresponding account. This implies that the information is not private and can be screened at any time by the employer. Moreover, it cannot be said to be completely harmless. This is because a person thinks and acts according to their environment. In the same way, since the employees spend most of their time at work, what they post in these sites corresponds to their place of work. An employee may overlook the seriousness of posting certain information and this is where the employer comes in not only to control any damage that may be impending but also ensure the employees know what they should and should not be saying on such platforms. The guidelines ensure that the employees are well trained to easily know what is considered confidential. It should be spelt out clearly what types of information cannot be posted on social media failure to which an individual would be punished according to the probable damage.
Besides outlining the consequences for defamatory behavior on the Internet, the guidelines also ensure educate the employees. Having a social media policy is the first step towards a well-behaving workforce although it does not cover the important part, which is ensuring the knowledge is provided. The employer should provide as much resources and time into training the employees on all issues concerning the working of the policy. The training should cover all the issues involved including the possibility of termination and even lawsuits but not be merely limited to how one should behave. This encourages people to always think before they act which is a good ting for the company because the employees become sensitive of what they post on the Internet.
There is also the issue of rights. While the employees have privacy rights, they do not have a right to communicate defamatory information that may hamper the employer’s interests from fruition. The employer also has a right to protect themselves according to circumstances and social media presents a serious difficulty in limiting what can be said on such sites (Alessi and Mandelbaum). It is for the rights reasons that the employer can create and enforce codes of ethics and other business conduct rules that protect the company. In line with such codes and conduct rules, the social media policy would play a similar role of protecting the interests not only of the employer but also of all the stakeholders that defend on the organization.
In conclusion, social media has presented new benefits for employers as well as challenges. Since the employer’s reach in controlling what the employees can do is limited, policies that encourage or discourage employees from behaving in a specific way are necessary. All behavior exhibited by the employees is automatically connected with the workplace and can damage the reputation of the employer. The policies can prevent disaster by protecting confidential information related to an organization in addition to educating the employees on the most appropriate ways of behaving on the Internet because they would understand the consequences.
- Alessi, Dennis J. and Mandelbaum Salsburg. “Social media: Why every employer needs to be concerned and proactive”. hr.blr.com, 18 Feb. 2013. Web. 20 Feb. 2018. https://hr.blr.com/whitepapers/HR-Administration/Electronic-Monitoring/zn-Social-media-Why-employers-concerned-proactive