There are some factors to consider when implementing a social media policy in the workplace.
Spending time on social media is a widespread activity. Millions of people spend hours each day on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. While social media is a great place to share content, connect with friends, and network with business professionals, it can cause problems in the workplace.
Business owners are sometimes at a loss at where to draw the line in terms of the use of social media. They do not want their workers spending too much time on social media during working hours or posting anything that might damage a business’ reputation. How can employers manage social media activity in the workplace without alienating their employees or damaging their business’ reputation?
Similar to an article we published last year concerning cell phones, one way is to create and implement a policy.
A policy for social media in the workplace will help to provide structure and guidelines for employees and for the workplace by outlining which behaviours are permissible and which are not. When drafting a policy for social media, there are 4 key factors to take into consideration.
1) Cover Social Media Use Outside Of Working Hours
When drafting your policy, it is important that it covers social media activity both inside and outside of working hours. Employees who take the time to post and catch up on social media after work or on the weekends need to adhere to the same rules and consequences that they do when working. By covering both inside and outside working hours in your policy, an employer ensures that the amount of questionable or inappropriate material posted by employees, especially during off hours, is reduced.
2) Abusive Behaviour Or Comments Will Not Be Tolerated
Abusive behaviour or comments both on and off social media are not tolerated in the workplace. Employees who feel the need to rant negatively about their bosses or co-workers on social media can be bad for business. While employed, a person becomes an ambassador of the business. They are responsible for maintaining the brand and promoting the standards of their workplace. Negative comments made on social media undermine this and can cause problems for a business and the employee down the line. Your policy should clearly and definitively state that abusive and negative comments made on social media will not be acceptable and could result in serious consequences – even dismissal.
3) Clearly State And Outline The Consequences
As mentioned above, in order to curb an employees’ negative behaviour on social media, your policy needs to clearly outline and enforce the consequences that will occur if such behaviour is discovered. And those decisions must be supported by upper management, no matter who violates the policy. If the policy does not have teeth, then it is not worth having.
Simply firing an employee is not enough. Recent case law has shown that this can be detrimental to a business, especially if the employee sues for wrongful termination or for a violation of their freedom of speech.
By clearly outlining the consequences of posting bad content on social media (ex. termination, probation, a potential law suit filed by the business, etc.) the employee becomes fully aware of what will happen to them. It will act as a deterrent to all employees thinking about posting negative content and allow a business to protect themselves from any potential legal action.
4) The Policy Needs To Be Updated Frequently
While creating a policy for social media is important, it is not enough to simply create a document and then file it away. Employers need to emphasize that their social media policy is a living document that is constantly going to be updated and changed.
Social media platforms and sites are always changing and delivering new features and functionality. How people currently use and experience social media might change in the next 2 years. Employers need to make sure their policy is updated regularly to reflect these changes and that the employees know and understand the substantive nature of those changes.
A policy for social media is not something that all employers have within their business. While most employers are aware that their employees use social media, many have not taken measures to protect their business against it. A business’ reputation and profits can be damaged if employers do not take the necessary steps to manage the company’s expectations for their employees’ social media presence. While each business is different, taking these 4 factors into account will help you to develop a framework for a policy.
Courtney Rosebush is a Marketing and Sales Coordinator at Triella, a technology consulting firm specializing in providing technology audits, planning advice, project management and other CIO-related services to small and medium sized firms. Courtney can be reached at 647.426.1004 x 227. For additional articles, go to www.triella.com/publications. Triella is a VMware Professional Partner, Microsoft Certified Partner, Citrix Solution Advisor – Silver, Dell Preferred Partner, Authorized Worldox Reseller and a Kaspersky Reseller.
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