Direct Marketing Article
Social Media Safety in the Workplace: Tips to
Protect Your Employees
By Dr. Richard Weinblatt, The Cop Doc
There are many stories out there already, which any manager will share when
complaining about their employees. There is the one with the salesman who
scans Twitter for hours. And then there is the employee who harasses a
co-worker several cubicles down from him by hijacking her Facebook account
and posting harassing comments. And of course there is the ubiquitous case
of the worker that slams the employer on LinkedIn and is fired, thus
exacting a morale-busting toll on the employee, the workplace, and the
From workplace distraction to conduit for stalking, harassment and other
criminal activity, the rise of social networking has its supporters and its
detractors. While some lament the greater bandwidth demands, virus/Trojan
infiltration, and social engineering (identity theft) issues that can pummel
a company's computer network and employees, along with sapping of
productivity and channel for co-worker harassment, others point to the
teamwork and mental break productivity enhancement outcome.
While initially scrutinized by law enforcement agencies with hopeful
candidates who hope to be a badge bearer, employers have now embraced its
usefulness as a method of assessing the true character and traits of
aspiring employees. On the flip side, for some enterprises, the ever
expanding world of Facebook and their ilk has encroached into the workplace
with devastating professional and personal consequences.
But can the likes of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and FourSquare be used in
the workplace in a way that doesn't expose supervisors and employing
organizations to moral and legal liability? Can the anonymity-germinated
freedom of the Internet that workplace bullies, would be Lotharios, and just
plain lazy folks are emboldened by be controlled and channeled into worker
productivity? The answer is a resounding yes.
While social networking is a relatively recent technological manifestation,
other forms of technology have long dotted the desks and shared the cubicles
of workers. The phone, the fax, and the copy machine are but three examples
of other technologies that could, at least to some extent, be abused by the
lazy up to the downright criminal worker.
The key for supervisors and executives is to recognize the uses and abuses
facilitated by the innovation and what steps should be taken to control the
Here are a few tips that you can implement in your enterprise today:
Have Clear Policies. Very specific policies need to be in place,
which govern the usage of the Internet and social networking sites. While
some organizations may find it easier to just ban their access altogether,
this is akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater. A middle of the
road approach is probably more appropriate for most employers. Have them
sign for those policies indicating that they have read, understood and had
the opportunity to ask questions.
Educate Employees. Make sure that employees, as well as supervisors,
understand what is expected of them as far as social networking conduct
within and when referring to the workplace. While you're at it, reinforce
sexual harassment, related issues, and their relevant consequences even when
they're taking place within the virtual world.
Employees that bash the workplace online can be heading to a heartache-laden
experience for everyone. While free speech and whistleblower protections
exist, the laws vary from state to state. Employees may not be on as solid
footing as they thought when confronted with disparaging comments they
posted online about the employer or a fellow worker.
Take steps to assure them that such online networking etiquette expectations
are in place to protect them, as well as the company.
Take Technological Precautions. Be sure to keep one step ahead of the
nefarious forces of the Internet. Continuously updated anti-virus
protection, mandatory changing of passwords on a temporal basis, and strong
firewall protections are imperative to the smooth operation of your endeavor
in the new social networking world. Web filtering systems are also available
to enable the employer to restrict access based on a number of different
options including time frame (such as breaks or lunchtime) or a time limit
(such as one hour per day).
Monitor Usage. Be able to monitor Internet usage and, in particular,
social networking within the workplace. Be sure that employees understand
that their computer interaction is being recorded. This oversight is vital
as the company may bear civil or criminal responsibility for some actions of
The democratization effect of the technology has diffused communication
channels and put more power in the hands of individuals. As said in
Spiderman: "with great power comes great responsibility." Employers need to
be properly suited up to fight the scourge of villainous social networking
in the workplace.
About the Author:
Dr. Richard Weinblatt, The Cop Doc, is a former police chief, ex-criminal
justice professor, and past police academy director who is an expert on
police, crime, and safety topics. A speaker and book author, Dr. Weinblatt
regularly writes articles and has been interviewed in the media including
CBS News, CNN, MSNBC, and The Washington Post. To find out more or to
contact Dr. Weinblatt, visit