Social Media in the Workplace Essay

Submitted By spoolie
Words: 2291
Pages: 10

Social Networking and the Workplace The popularity of Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and LinkedIn has forced many companies to create new policies regarding social media. While companies cannot simply look the other way when it comes to social media postings, they cannot restrict the rights of employees either. Mainstream media has covered numerous stories of employees being fired due to postings on social networking sites. Human relations departments are currently facing a very gray line when it comes to social networking in the workplace. Companies need to implement social media policies with specific language and then educate the employees on the policies. The New York Times recently published an article that looked at both sides of social media in the workplace. According to the article, “the National Labor Relations Board has accused a company of illegally firing an employee after she criticized her supervisor on her Facebook page” (Greenhouse). This is one of the first cases in which a labor relations board has stepped in to argue the workers’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act. The labor relations board is stating that the employee has the right to talk about working conditions whether on Facebook or in a face to face conversation. Workers have a right to discuss wages, working conditions, and unionization. However, the American Medical Response of Connecticut has a policy in place that bars employees from depicting the company “in any way” on social media sites. Regardless, the company is stating that the employee was discharged for various reasons, not just the posting (Greenhouse). Looking at this from the company’s point of view, a risk is taken when employees post to social networks and policies need to be created to manage the risk. According to a 2009 survey done by Deloitte LLP, “74% of employed Americans surveyed believe it is easy to damage a brand’s reputation via sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube” (Deloitte 4). While American employees know it can be hurtful, 53% of employee respondents said their social networking pages are none of their employers business (Deloitte 6). It is not realistic to expect a company to know a risk is out there, but do nothing to minimize it.
One problem is that some companies have done just that, nothing to reduce the risk. Companies are reacting with disciplinary action without procedures in place to protect themselves. This is why we keep hearing about lawsuits in the news and main stream media. According to a Proofpoint survey in 2010, 24% of US companies (up from 17%) disciplined an employee for violating social networking policies and 7% reported terminating an employee for such violation (Proofpoint i). This is a high number when you look at the 2009 Deloitte survey of executives that shows only 22% of companies have formal policies that dictate how employees can use social networking tools (Deloitte 14). Many problems come from the fact that without a policy in place, companies cannot enforce disciplinary action. Having a policy in place protects a company from the risk of social media and from employee lawsuits.
Another problem is that companies have an unrealistic policy in place that bans the use of all social networks in the workplace. The company cannot regulate personal time and home computer use though. The current policy at the American Medical Response of Connecticut is that the employees cannot depict the company “in any way” on social media sites (Greenhouse). While this policy attempts to protect the company it is too broad and can be interpreted as illegal. It can potentially violate employee rights, hence why the labor board has become involved.
The National Labor Relations Act protects the rights of the employees to form unions, and it prohibits employers from punishing workers for discussing working conditions or unionization. When a policy as broad as “depicting the company in any way” is in place the