Should Social Media be banned in the workplace?


The debate still rages.   Social Media – Productivity drain or Marketeers dream offering untapped and untold revenues from places as yet unknown?  This debate still polarises opinion as evidenced by a recent survey from McAfee, the Computer Software Anti – Virus Giant.

1000 executives were surveyed from 17 countries.  75% of companies surveyed usual web 2.0 applications for marketing and customer service or for crowd sourcing rather than outsourcing projects or tasks.

Tellingly, countries with high growth economies such as Brazil and India are more likely to view social media as a potential source of revenue.  Could this be that as a rule they are more open to challenging assumptions, to testing the status quo?

Despite the obvious upside evidenced by the survey, more than 50% of those surveyed prohibited Facebook use in company hours.  The larger the company, the more likely the prohibition.  Around 25% of those companies monitored employees social media use for inappropriate behaviour.

What’s the real issue here?  According to the McAfee survey, employers principal concern around web 2.0 applications centre around its use as a platform to deliver malicious software.  More than 70% of those organisations surveyed lost more than $2m as a result.  Whilst clearly an issue, is this not just simply an excuse?  Bottom line, company execs consider employees using social media are slacking off.

I remember being told only 15 years ago by the Managing Partner of a large well-known Law Firm that not everyone in the practice would have a personalised email for fear that important information would be passed to the outside world.  He was also convinced that chargeable time would suffer as employees would be emailing friends to arrange that evenings social activities.

I know employers who have banned mobile phones in the office.  What does that do for talent attraction and employer branding. Do you want to work for an organisation who trusts you and treats you like an adult or one that doesn’t?   On the flip side are you ready to behave responsibly in the work place?

Social media is just the latest  toy on the desktop and its revolutionising the world of work in the same way that the mobile phone and email did.  Management has to work out a way of engaging with it to the best advantage of all involved.  Ignoring it is simply down to a lack of understanding and trust.

In my experience rarely do people come to work to do nothing all day.  If they do and you hired them that’s your fault, you hired the wrong person in the first place.  Trust people, set them objectives, engage them, inspire them, manage them, lead them.  Treat them like grown ups.  If they behave like kids, treat them accordingly and deal with it.  That’s management.  Banning social media says much about the failings of management.  It’s here to stay, take it for what it is, a great tool to reach out in new and exciting ways to customers that five years ago you could only have dreamed off.

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2 Comments

Filed under Employee Engagement, Social Media

2 responses to “Should Social Media be banned in the workplace?

  1. Ravi

    Lee, great post, and indeed very relevant to everyone in the digital world. I feel the right thing to do for corporations would be to harness the power of social media and engage with employees in a way that brings out the best in them. Social media is here to stay, and any attempt to block its usage is only going to disenfranchise the work force – particularly so in an era of increasing income disparity at work place.

  2. micvadam

    Lee, like your post. I honestly do not think that banning social media is an option since the common use of smartphone. People will take part whether you allow then or not. What is a better practice is to have some constructive guidelines (some call it a policy) to use social media in the workplace. This can include how people can spend their time on social media (and yes, for some that could be over their lunch break).

    Mic Adam

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