The growth in the use of social media has spilled over to the workplace, and this has created new issues for employers. Should you allow employees to access social media sites in the workplace? During their break times only? What about using social media off-duty to complain about the employer or their supervisor?
Given that it is the employer that provides internet access in the workplace, the employer has full control over how it is used and can prohibit use for other than business reasons. Most employees bring their smartphones to work in today’s workplace, and they are typically free to use them as they wish, as long as it is on their own time (non-work time). And of course there is the use of social media outside the workplace but relating to the workplace.
You need to have a social media policy to deal with these questions to address issues with privacy and free speech. I suggest that the following provisions are included in an effective social media policy:
- Be respectful – always be fair and courteous to fellow employees and others that work on behalf of XYZ, Inc. Keep in mind that you are more likely to resolve work-related issues by speaking directly with your co-workers or by utilizing our Complaint Resolution/Open Door policy. If you decide to post your complaints or criticism, you should avoid using statements, images, audio or video that reasonably could be viewed as malicious, obscene, threatening or intimidating, that disparage others or might be considered to be harassment or bullying. For example, offensive posts meant to intentionally harm someone’s reputation or posts that could lead to a hostile work environment (see our Non-Harassment Policy in this handbook).
- Be honest and accurate – Do not post information or rumors that you know to be false about XYZ Inc., co-workers, or others working on behalf of our organization.
- Stick to appropriate and respectful content – Do not post confidential information; see our Confidentiality Policy. Express your opinions as your own and not those of XYZ Inc., and do not represent yourself as a spokesperson for the organization unless you have that responsibility.
- Speak in the first person and use a disclaimer – Make it clear that the views expressed on your site belong solely to you; “The opinions expressed on this site are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of XYZ Inc. .”
The key is to balance the interests/rights of the employee with your own interests as the employer.