Daily Archives: 26/03/2011
Posted by Paul S Allen
Social Media – Food for Thought
It is one thing to deal with people outside an organisation making comments or criticisms, but what happens when staff within an organisation starts to share their personal opinions and views online?
Where is the boundary of personal freedom (including freedom of speech) and control of a staff member’s ability to express an opinion publicly?
Some issues can be addressed with clauses within employment agreements regarding confidentiality of information and clauses that mention bringing the organisation into disrepute. There is no difference between offline and online activities in regards to this.
For the person who is using these forums it is good to remember a few basic rules about social media:
• Online, treat everything as public regardless of personal privacy settings
• People, including the media, employers and staff, are watching your personal accounts
• It is recommended to think twice before you post anything online, for example those comments and photos of that party last night may not be the best thing for your employer (or employee) to see.
Remember that it works both ways, you may check up on staff but they may be checking up on you.
Now what happens when staff members who have personal social media accounts become known publicly as being part of the business? The line between personal and business becomes blurred. If a staff member expresses an opinion or discusses personal values, beliefs or ideologies or even details about their routine or daily lives, does it reflect on the business? Can an employer insist that staff stop using social media or control/restrict what is said?
There are other questions in this area as well.
• Should an employer be searching a staff member’s account?
• Is it appropriate for an employer to “follow” or “friend” a staff member?
• Should you ignore/decline/block staff members (or your boss’s) friend request?
The question is where are the boundaries? Should it be left to chance or common sense or does it need to be controlled by policy or legislation?
Social media is here, to try to stop it is futile, to control it is problematic, so the other option is to become aware of how it works and educate yourself and others as to the appropriate use of this media.
Food for thought.