Should Employers Know What You Post On Your Personal Sites?

According to a study by Deloitte LLP, a majority of employers feel that they have a right to know what’s .... A rant or negative opinion about a company can end up damaging reputations and divulging secrets valuable to competitors. But most of us can’t help but check up on our personal sites. The most common reasoning for staying active in personal social media goes something like this:

I keep your Twitter feed in the background of your desktop, and get email notifications when something happens to my Facebook page. Not only does it keep me up to date with my favorite news sources and working friends, but it also provides a welcome mini-distraction from spreadsheets and frustrating phone calls!

I feel that, for most people, the issue is not posting negative things about your workplace for all the world to see. More likely, the true fear is the impact such actions will have on your character. Consider these two easily-imaginable scenarios:

Scenario #1: Your boss walks up to your desk at the exact moment you’re tweeting “Can’t wait to get outta here and go tanning!”

Scenario #2: Twitter’s a no-go, but you can’t help keeping your Facebook profile. That is, until you see that an old high school friend has tagged you in several photos from that vacation in Cabo. The one with the “dance” contest.

So, it’s easy to see how being constantly plugged into social media can be detrimental to your productivity. But it also allows us to feel more connected to friends and the world outside our cubicle. And as more and more young people join the work force, forbidding the freedom of social media would be met with the same horror as forbidding free coffee for employees.

Do employers have a right to prevent you from accessing certain sites? If you get your job done, does it even matter if you do occasionally indulge in these applications?

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Comment by Phil McCutchen on May 21, 2009 at 11:48am
I think that the big problem with social media is that, to paraphrase another cliche, "What happens in Vegas DOESN'T stay in Vegas."

Corporations have always tried to manage their reputations and images, just as individuals do. With social media we're seeing a breakdown in the ability to do so. At the same time we can see that more and more people appear to be losing their own inhibitions, self-restraint, or just plain old common-sense courtesy towards others, their employers, et. al. as they post and/or twitter willy-nilly.

Bottom-line then: Corporations have the well-founded legal right (and the responsibility in many cases) to monitor and police their communications by employees. A secondary consideration is the impact of such activity on productivity, performance, corporate resources, etc. We're already seeing companies establishing policies regarding the ... Like it or not, as time goes on, I'm sure we'll see many more in corporate, institution and government.


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