Staff and the problems with social media

I was interested to read the National Business Ethics Survey published this week which identified that staff who are significant users of social media face more issues in the workplace. This includes facing more retaliation when acting as whistleblowers in a company.

Among the results from the study by the Ethics Resource Centre are that:

  • social networkers are more likely to reveal information about what happens at work when they are online
  • 42 per cent felt it was acceptable to blog or tweet negatively about their company or colleagues
  • a huge 72 per cent said they plan to change employers within the next five years

It may be an American study but it raises some interesting questions for businesses and organisations. With the blurring between personal and professional life what advice, support and training is available for staff who may be using social media? Is it something that is actively encouraged, discouraged or ignored? Staff engaged in social media can be a huge asset to an organisation. If they are content, satisfied and feel able to get involved then they will be able to present a positive image of the organisation whether that is at work or when online.

If they understand the boundaries, and those boundaries are reasonable and not Draconian, then they will avoid leaking information that may compromise the business. This is 2012 and social media is becoming as much a part of every day life as the telephone or sending an email. Can businesses really try to ‘gag’ their employees, or tell themselves the online world does not exist?

I was stunned to read about the controls being placed on the Olympic volunteers working in London this year. According to the BBC report social media is managed by the communication team, and the article states:

“It says (the LOCOG guidance) Games Makers should remember to avoid making any public statement on any subject relating to London 2012 without the prior approval of the Locog Communications team – including agreeing to attend any event to speak about any aspect of London 2012.”

These strict rules are surely going to be impossible to impose. How will they monitor all the thousands of people linked to, or working on, elements of the Olympics? What will they do if people are communicating through social networks without authorisation? Can such censorship be able to survive in 2012?

So if we go back to the American study, we have to remember that if the staff using social networks feel so empowered that they will discuss their work we must invest in employee relations and communication. And rather than see social media as something that must be controlled and censored, why not embrace it as a way to help promote the positive elements of the company or business. In 2012, these active social media users could be a businesses most powerful asset.

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2 Responses to Staff and the problems with social media

  1. laptopcop says:

    Great blog, very true. I hope that police forces understand this. In my force, from everything I’ve seen we’re discouraged from using social media, and it’s deemed a bad thing (for individual officers, not for corporate stuff). I think it can have great advantages and in todays climate where everything revolves around ‘engaging with the community’, local officers who tweet what’s happening in their neighbourhoods is a great way of doing just that.
    More and more young people are using social media, so it’s definitely going to be one of the best ways to engage with them.


  2. Tom Phillips says:

    Interesting blog. However, I don’t think the 2012 LOCOG policy is anything anyone in local government would so much as blink at. It’s pretty much the default position in most local authorities that the only people authorised to make public statements are the Comms team. And thereby hangs their opposition to staff tweeting etc, and their “need” to own all social media traffic too.


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