Social Networking and Employee Conduct
The ethical challenge facing companies and social networking technology is twofold -- engaging stakeholders, including impacted communities as well as customers and stockholders -- and devising a workable policy for employee social networking conduct on and off the job. As a company owner or manager, implementing policies concerning Internet and access to social networking sites, designed to increase security, are completely legitimate, and may even be mandated if your company handles sensitive demographic or financial data.
However, a policy of limiting or blocking Internet access on your company's computers in an attempt to force employees to focus exclusively on work, is a lost cause. Smart phones and personal laptops with wireless connectivity allow employees to circumvent locked-down company networks. Moreover, companies are beginning to experience pushback from younger workers who expect Internet access as SOP at their jobs. A smarter strategy is to recognize the way young workers conduct their working day. What looks like wasting time may actually be an employee engaging a friend for help with a work-related issue, Martha Irvine writes.
Attempting to control employee conduct after hours is also questionable. While companies can and do terminate employees for social networking conduct away from the job, the issue is far from settled ethically or legally. As a company owner or manager, you are on more solid legal ground in establishing a business ethics policy that prohibits employees from presenting themselves as spokespeople or agents of the company without official permission. Moreover, companies may find themselves with increasingly limited job candidate prospects if they insist on rigid standards of behavior during their employees' off-hours as future generations of Internet-savvy workers enter the labor market.
Please continue to the next page to read more about developing an ethics policy, and the "triple bottom line."