Sunday, July 17, 2011

Do We Need a Manager’s Guide to Employee Social Media?


I have to confess, I’m not a user of Facebook. I’m an avid blogger, casual Twitterer (btw, what do you call someone who Tweets?), and use LinkedIn for professional networking. So when it comes to workplace managerial guidelines for Facebook, I’m clueless.
However, as the father of two avid Facebook users and now that I work at a college, I have some credible sources for Facebook workplace horror stories.

One of these sources showed me a story from the Huffington Post called “The Funniest Facebook Snafus of All Time”. Apparently, some dolt had some unflattering things to say about her boss, forgetting that her boss was also her Facebook friend. He responded to her comment with a scathing rebuttal and fired her.

Wow. Can you really fire someone on Facebook?  Is there some kind of Donald Trump button?
Here’s another real life scenario I came across lately:

Employee calls in sick. Employee’s coworkers see that employee has posted a status update bragging about what an awesome day she has planned for her day off. Coworkers, not being Ferris Bueller fans, aren’t too happy about having to pick up her workload.
What should they do? “Like” it, so she knows she’s busted? Print out a copy and leave it on her desk? Tell their manager?

If they did tell the manager, then what should the manager do? Treat it as “private” information, as if it doesn’t exist, and ignore it? Confront the employee? Hire a private investigator to take pictures of the employee going to a Cubs game or art gallery on company time?
Managers, you’d better be ready to deal with these wacky scenarios, because you’ve got a whole generation of employees bringing a set of cultural norms into the workplace that never existed before.

What about it, readers? Are there managerial dos and don’ts when it comes to social media? Or is it too soon to write them?
Should a manager just apply “common sense”, the same as we do with phones, or when the internet first arrived in the workplace?

Something tells me this is different, especially when it comes to Facebook.
Does anyone have an example of a progressive workplace social media policy (other than the usual, i.e., doing it on company time, divulging trade secrets, etc…)? How about a blog post that seems to nail it that you could point us to?

Finally, how about sharing your best workplace Facebook snafu?
I don’t have a “top ten” list for this one, just a lot of questions. Thanks.


12 comments:

bonebody said...

Basically I always tell people not to post anything you don't want somebody to know about you. I teach information security and information assurance concepts and this is one topic of discussion that can go on and on. It doesn't matter what you do on the internet, once it's out in the open, somebody can intercept it. The best way to stay secure honestly is to just not connect to the net at all.

As far as workplace policies, I was thinking about creating a blog detailing that type of stuff myself.

Rob Lindemann said...

I researched this subject for a recent HR related course I took. Although it is an emerging area of workplace dynamics, there are several policy examples and guidelines. Here's a few links:
- Social Media Policies Database, http://www.compliancebuilding.com/about/publications/social-media-policies/
- How to Blog Safetly About Work, http://www.eff.org/wp/blog-safely
- Blogging on the Job, http://news.cnet.com/FAQ-Blogging-on-the-job/2100-1030_3-5597010.html
- Social Media Policy report (download), http://socialmediagovernance.com/downloads/download-social-media-policy-study.shtml

Dan McCarthy said...

Bonebody-
Thanks. There's a lot of stuff out there for employees (I.e., what not to do to get yourself fired, etc...), as well as company policies, but what about how to deal with this stuff as a manager? It seems like we are really just winging it.
Sounds like a good blog idea!

Rob-
Wow, a database with over 200 company policies! Thanks!
I've heard of hr departments that tell managers they are not allowed to do their own background checks on candidates, but I'll bet they all still do.

Bret Simmons said...

Dan, David M. Scott wrote a blog about the TNT social media policy. Click the link in the blog to see the policy, I love it. http://www.webinknow.com/2011/06/tnt-employees-social-media-guidelines-a-great-example-of-can-do-attitude.html

Rob Lindemann said...

@Dan: Yes managers commonly tell me they do an informal background check on candidates by simply doing a search on Google or Facebook. These are called the "digital footprints" we create online and they can leave quite the impression. Read more about digital footprints at:
- http://theedublogger.com/2011/07/14/how-to-check-your-web-footprint/
- http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/nov08/vol66/num03/Footprints-in-the-Digital-Age.aspx

Dan McCarthy said...

Bret-
Thanks, love the TNT guidelines!
Dan

Dan McCarthy said...

Rob-
Thanks for sharing the info about footprints- should be required reading all of us!

Jon Hyman said...

Let me recommend HR and Social Media: Practical and Legal Guidance, which will be available later this week from Thompson Publishing. For more information on what this book will cover, please visit my blog, where its contents are detailed.

Jack King said...

Dan, I have to ask, Where is leadership if we are leaving it to managers (particularly HR managers) to deal with wacky issues of the day? Maybe I am missing the point but I do not see this as an HR (or management) issue; it is clearly a leadership issue. Because it’s a PEOPLE issue, not a personnel (policy) issue. I am often struck by just how deeply our society, even in this day and age, is engrained by traditional practices and policies attributed to an industrial-age fixation on efficiencies that has been beaten into our head since our very first day on our very first job. Let me ask, how does one define 'sick,' and whose is it to define? Does it have to be physically evident with sniffles and a fever? What if she is sick of her tiny cubical or the loud hum of the air conditioning unit just outside her window (or over her head)? What if she is sick of the stupidity and lack of leadership demonstrated day after day by those in positions of authority over her who, in all honesty, care only about what they need to do to cling to the next rusty rung of the corporate ladder while, simultaneously, doing all they can (given their precarious position) to look good to their boss (including, all too frequently, making others look not-so-good)? What if she is sick of the water cooler gossip and the endless parade of shenanigans (including individual development plans) that pit one employee against another rather than instill a sense of teamwork and camaraderie? What if she is sick of all the lies, all the jockeying, and all the manipulation? What if she is sick of never being heard, of having no voice? What if she is sick of the customer being held in higher esteem by the management team than she and her coworkers? What if she is sick of being 'managed' when, all along, all she ever sought in return for her efforts was someone with the heart of a leader, someone who put the team before self (certainly before the customer and the stock holders), someone who knew what it was to serve others first, lead second? It seems to me just how she allots the time-off provided to her is her business. Even if she has held a policy in disregard, she has broken no law. Nor, interestingly, do I see evidence of her straying from the rather progressive TNT guidelines mentioned above. But this is what I do see: if she needs a break, let her have it, in peace. The others (who presumably live in trembling and fear under a thumb of intimidation guarded by too many policies, overly burdensome rules, and a dictatorial HR dept) need to get a life or, at least, find the courage to begin living. Attitude is a reflection of leadership. Why cast stones when they should be applauding her, indeed joining her? Need the workplace be a prison? BTW, if the others are so worried about workload, and the need is so pressing, I have to ask why are they spending time on FB status updates and, more importantly, why doesn’t leadership/management step in to help the rest of the team carry some of the ‘load?’ She is not to blame. Leadership, or the lack thereof, is to blame. Clearly, leadership needs to step back in, giving members of the team a wide berth to balance their life individually as THEY best see fit. In the end, everyone wins (including the customers), and the atmosphere of fear, trembling, and gnashing of teeth soon dissipates. BTW, get rid of the water cooler. Show the managers what it is to lead. At least show them leadership is NOT a list of rules or a stack of policies. If it's too late for some of the managers, insist they go elsewhere where their skill sets are still in vogue (wish them well; pay them handsomely, and bid them a fond farewell). Then, let the people lead! Yes, that’s right. They'll know best what to do, and they will do it exceedingly well … without the burden of yet another unnecessary policy.

Alex Dahrouj said...

This is a very interesting subject to discuss,

This is my own experience on the subject:

One of my staff members, who happen to be a friend over facebook, posted that she is not satisfied with her job and the reasons were my managerial skills.

I have decided to ignore the post as her manager but not as a friend. I replied appropriately, as a friend not her boss,.

My reasons were: since I chose to add my team members to my facebook page, I have automatically decided to make them my friends and therefore, they will have access to my personal life and vice versa. Plus, it shouldn’t concern me in the first place since she did not approach me or my boss to discuss her issues.

She might be going through some hard times and decided to take it out on me through an entertainment tool.

I think acknowledging and replying to that post as her "manager", I would have used an entertainment tool to monitor and control my team members during their personal time, and would have made a big deal out of nothing.

I guess what I'm trying to say is: if we choose to have a friendship relationship with our team members, we should respect that and expect incidents like these.

As for having a policy for social media, I don’t think it is necessary or needed, if you don’t like to see or hear what your team members are saying about you behind your back, just don’t add them to your personal page.

Alex Dahrouj said...

This is a very interesting subject to discuss,

This is my own experience on the subject:

One of my staff members, who happen to be a friend over facebook, posted that she is not satisfied with her job and the reasons were my managerial skills.
I have decided to ignore the post as her manager but not as a friend. I replied appropriately, as a friend not her boss,.

My reasons were: since I chose to add my team members to my facebook page, I have automatically decided to make them my friends and therefore, they will have access to my personal life and vice versa. Plus, it shouldn’t concern me in the first place since she did not approach me or my boss to discuss her issues. She might be going through some hard times and decided to take it out on me through an entertainment tool.

I think acknowledging and replying to that post as her "manager", I would have used an entertainment tool to monitor and control my team members during their personal time, and would have made a big deal out of nothing.

I guess what I'm trying to say is: if we choose to have a friendship relationship with our team members, we should respect that and expect incidents like these.

As for having a policy for social media, I don’t think it is necessary or needed, if you don’t like to see or hear what your team members are saying about you behind your back, just don’t add them to your personal page.

Dan McCarthy said...

Joe-
Thanks for the recommendation!

Jack-
Thanks, you do bring a different perspective to the table.
While you make some interesting , passionate, and provocative points, I was simply looking for some help for managers (or bosses, leaders, whatever) when it comes to dealing with social media.

Alex-
Thanks. that may help some, but I don't agree with the whole "manager as friend " thing. Although, I know a lot think it's OK.