Industry insights for job seekers and employers.

To Befriend or De-Friend: Managing Employees on Social Media

Despite the ubiquity of social networking and its increasing use in business communication, inappropriate use of social media channels is common. Legal boundaries and accepted etiquette have not been established, and social media continues to blur the lines between work and personal lives. Employees and employers must tread carefully to avoid financial risk.

Erin Geiger Smith of Business Insider illustrates the dangers of friending employees or following them on Twitter. Geiger uses the example of an employer who notices a posting by a “friend” (employee) that indicates unacceptable behavior at work. In this example, the employee was intoxicated at work. If the employee is later fired, he or she can claim unfair dismissal based on harassment. Here are additional reasons not to friend or follow employees on social media.

  • The National Law Journal notes that any social media activity or information obtained through its use is non-work related. Therefore, if applied to work issues it can constitute discrimination. For example, an employee’s Facebook account may reveal religious or political views. A supervisor who is a “friend” of that employee could be accused of discriminating based on those views.
  • Similarly, a boss that only friends certain employees is showing preferential treatment. This is unprofessional and will not earn the respect of colleagues or subordinates. Personal relationships with employees outside of work are difficult, and social media relationships are no different.
  • Establish a policy at work for the use of social media. Include a delineation between personal accounts and work accounts. Provide written guidelines that clearly state boundaries for employees and management and explain the reasons for the rules. Never request that an employee promote or discuss business-related topics on personal sites. If employees do so, they must disclose their relationship with the company and state that their views do not represent those of the employer.

The use of social media can be a beneficial tool in the workplace. However, companies should define appropriate guidelines.

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