Social Media and the Workplace
Social media is the new frontier, and employers should have a social media policy in place.
Why? Because most of what an employer has to worry about in the physical workplace occurs in social media ten times over. For example, sexual harassment, a phenomenon which can cost an employer millions in case of lawsuit, is only exacerbated in the social media context. Whereas good old-fashioned embarrassment constrains employees from mouthing off to their co-workers face-to-face, such constraints do not exist in the virtual world.
Here are just a few ideas of what to include in such a social media policy:
1) A definition of what social media is. Include examples of such sites like Facebook, My Space, etc.
2) A requirement not to engage in social media during work time unless work-related. Need I say that sites like Facebook are a huge time-suck for a generation that is already struggling with a mass ADD disorder? I didn’t think so.
3) A reminder not to post anything unprofessional. Acknowledge that employees have the right to a private life with which an employer can not interfere. However, social media sites make the personal professional. Most attorneys I know even browse Facebook, Twitter, and the like to check out potential clients, so ask employees or co-workers to exercise some restraint in what they post publicly.
4) A link between sexual harassment policy and social media policy. Reiterate your policy on vital issues like sex harassment in the social media context. Remind employees that they can be disciplined for creating a hostile work environment via sexually harassing posts.
5) A reminder to claim individual opinion as just that. Be clear with employees on what kinds of posts affect public image and would not be considered acceptable. Make sure employees state that their opinions are just that, their own, and do not reflect their employer’s thoughts on a topic.