There used to be a time when employers wanted to restrict the social media usage of their employees while they are at work. Now, it seems that employers want to keep an eye on the employees’ social media activities even when they are at home.
There have been some extreme cases about employers requesting Facebook passwords while screening job applicants and about employees getting fired or sued from criticizing their boss on social networks. There are also services like FaceTime’s Socialite, a security management and compliance solution for social networks, available for companies to “more sophisticatedly” track and control employees’ social media activities.
Facebook posting is hardly a valid reason to fire anyone (at least in Finland), but the employer does have a legal right to expect respectful behavior of its employees in social media – as in real life (see Kauppalehti) – and therefore the ability to restrict employees from discussing job related issues on social media sites. Fair enough! But besides that, many companies nowadays have internal policies and instructions concerning not only what people SHOULD’T but also what they SHOULD do in social media.
In social media era companies’ strategy is restructured around social engagement and, as any strategy, it needs to be operationalized by its employees. However, it raises a question; to what extend an employer does or should have a right to expect an average employee to actively contribute to social media conversations wherever they occur and embrace the company on different social media forums? More importantly, how should these different instructions and policies be implemented and applied in order to prevent employees from doing any harm, but at the same time to discreetly direct and motivate them to embrace the company in social media?
Some companies rely on common sense for guidance whereas others set up detailed step by step instructions for their workers to obey. Strict rules and explicit social media policies do not turn mischievous workers into corporate advocates and can even damage the company’s image as an employer. However, clear instructions are also needed in order to give confidence to the employees to participate in social media discussions without a fear of losing their job.
Any suggestions how to strike the happy medium?
M.Sc.Econ, project researcher
University of Oulu