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Social Media at Work

(posted: August 26th, 2014)

Social Media at Work

How much do you share on Facebook or Twitter?

People increasingly share their private thoughts, intimate moments and personal information on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+. It's become common for users to share their medical conditions and mental health issues, along with their vacation plans and pet photos, without considering who might be watching.

Because of this, state lawmakers are leading the charge to safeguard individual online privacy rights, particularly in regards to employer access.

California was one of the earliest states to enact legislation barring employers from requesting access to employees' and applicants' social media accounts, and more states are joining them - nearly 20 states now have banned social media snooping, with New Hampshire the most recent on August 1st.

HR Use of Social Media

According to research by the Society for Human Research Management (SHRM), HR professionals are actually pretty cautious about using social media to screen applicants. From the study,

  • 74% were concerned with legal risks
  • 63% feel the information on social media sites might not be a good predictor of performance or potential
  • 61% didn't think that it was relevant information

Information gathered from social media platforms tends to show only one side of any given situation. Without knowing the context, you aren't getting a complete picture, so it isn't an accurate way to assess an employee or a candidate.

Share With Care

The Pew Research Center says that 73% of people use social media, and there are predictions that by 2018 there will be something like 2.5 billion people on social media across the globe.

Social media use is here to stay, so how do we use it responsibly, so that employees and employers can maintain their privacy and their reputations?

Here are a few workplace-specific social media best practices.

For Employers:

  • Social Media Policy - Create, update and maintain a social media policy that clearly defines what is acceptable and what is not.
  • Educate & Inform - Help employees understand how to set the privacy settings on their accounts, and remind them that posts can sometimes still get onto the greater web. In that vein, encourage them to think before they post. Even with tight privacy settings, if an employee doesn't want their boss to see something, they probably shouldn't post it.

For Employees:

  • Don't Post Angry - Seriously, don't post negative comments about your employer. You just never know when your snide comment might come back to bite you.
  • Avoid Gossip - The dark side of social media is that it makes people more comfortable being mean or lashing out. But you are not totally anonymous, and your words, especially related to the workplace and coworkers, could be seen as cyber bullying.

Employers can't demand social media account passwords from their employees, but they can ask their people to be respectful and responsible in how they post. Employees need to respect the social media guidelines at their workplace, and even more, need to remember that social media is not an excuse to treat each other badly.

Join the Discussion

Do you use social media at work?

As an employer, what is your experience with social media in the workplace?

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