Social media: a balancing act in the workplace

Like it or loathe it, social media is more than just a passing craze.

It has become increasingly influential in business, being used for marketing, networking and increasing brand awareness. It can be a quick, cheap and very effective tool. Not to mention it being accessible to small businesses as well as large.

There are, of course, drawbacks to such a powerful means of communication. Some very well documented cases have highlighted just how catastrophic an ill-judged comment or update can be for brand image and reputation.

A difficult beast to tame

Social media is a wild beast and can be difficult to tame.

Itís unlike communication tools of the past. There was always time to formulate ideas and craft your message. Edit and re-write. Check and re-check facts. Only then did you publish.

Itís the immediacy which can be your downfall.

A single comment or flip response can find a huge audience. In the time it takes to read your comment, reconsider and delete, it can be too late. Before youíve hit the delete button, itís been read, saved, shared. Itís out in the wild.

Not a new problem

Speaking before thinking is by no means a new phenomenon.

The general rule of thumb is to think before you tweet, post or send. Itís simple common sense. But itís easy to let your guard down, especially when emotions become involved.

Some see social media as a place to debate sensitive issues, share office gossip and air their frustration. Venting goes public.

Everyone has a bad day/week/year (delete as appropriate), but once you press the Ďsendí button it can become a whole lot worse. That innocently meant, seemingly blithe comment suddenly takes on a life of its own.

Where should employers draw the line?

So where is the line drawn between acceptable musings and unprofessional ranting? Once again it boils down to common sense.

For an employer, any disciplinary action taken must be in proportion with the comment made. What are the direct consequences of the comment upon the business or employment relationship?

Using this admittedly vague yardstick, social media misconduct outside of work can also impact on a business. It too can also be perceived as damaging to an employer, who might want further action taken.

Employee beware

As an employee, you can take certain steps to ensure your personal use of social media is distanced from any association with the workplace.

First, do not identify your place of work on social media profiles. Second, ensure any potentially controversial statements or blog posts are issued with a disclaimer. Your views are your own, not those of your employer.

Follow these steps and an employeeís right to privacy should not be in conflict with the need for an employer to protect the businessís interests.

Itís an undoubtedly grey area and one that can be extremely contentious, not to mention costly if you get it wrong.

In your experience

Weíd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. And remember, no ranting, venting or mentioning your business name now!

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