Topic 4: Ethical issues of social media in the workplace

As we are now young adults, hoping to enter the ‘real world’ of business in few years to come on. Some of us might even have secured a job or an internship this summer. We need to start behaving like ethical employees, so it is good to THINK before you post in the workplace (Think has been capitalized for a reason. Keep reading…)

Below is a poster that I have created [1]. “Before you post THINK”.

Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 2.32.06 pm

One of the ethical issues raised by business use of social media that is particularly significant is that of integrity risk. When an employee makes use of social media wrongly whether from the company’s account or their personal account, it can lead to the exposure of integrity risk.

“While the decision to post videos, pictures, thoughts, experiences, and observations to social networking sites is personal, a single act can create far-reaching ethical consequences for individuals as well as organisations [2]”

There have been lots of stories about employees losing their jobs because of what they have posted online for example the infamous tweet of Justine Sacco [3] costs her to lose her job and pretty much everything. Another funny one was about how an individual was denied a job due to his activities posted online 20 years previously [4]. Indeed the inability to control the use of social media can lead to lots of ethical issues as a UK survey found bullying and harassment and discrimination were two of the top five risks of social media for the workplace [5]. Below is a comic social media in the work place video [6].

So companies can decide to monitor employee’s use of social media but will it even help? As employees might think their freedom of speech is been limited. But I think training employees on ethical use of social media might help, however it can be costly. To address the ethical issues raised by business use of social media, we all need to fully assess the risks and be aware of the challenges perhaps through guidance and policy implementation. Employers and employees need to realise the consequences of their action. We all should be mindful of The Golden Rule or ethic of reciprocity [7] which is a maxim, ethical code or morality that essentially states either of the following: One should treat others, as one would like others to treat oneself. One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated.

References:

[1] Idea from: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Think-Before-You-Post-Classroom-Poster-Yellow-845499

[2] Deloitte, Social Networking and Reputational Risk in the Workplace, 2009

[3] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/magazine/how-one-stupid-tweet-ruined-justine-saccos-life.html?module=ArrowsNav&contentCollection=Magazine&action=keypress&region=FixedLeft&pgtype=article&_r=3

[4] Social media monitoring raises disturbing questions: An Ethikos interview with Kansas State‟s Diane Swanson, Ethikos, September/October 2011, pp.7-9

[5] DLA Piper, Op cit, pp.7

[6] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UngGoZjr_cw

[7] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Rule

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9 thoughts on “Topic 4: Ethical issues of social media in the workplace

  1. I really enjoyed reading your post and think you made some great points. As everybody knows these days employers use social media as a way to look at potential candidates…as you mentioned above you have to be careful about what you post online even if it is your personal account as posts can be open to interpretation.

    You mentioned the case of someone who was denied a job because of a post they had made 20 years ago! Do you think that employers should be looking this far back into peoples past? I do think social media is a good way to find out more about what type of person you are looking to potentially hire but I think looking back even 10 years is not necessarily an accurate representation of an individual as people change and mature over time. What do you think about this?

  2. Hi Francesca,
    Brilliant question indeed, before I answer that though I am graceful for the good comments about my blog. So about your question, personally I think it is extremely ridiculous to check the posts of a potential employee 20 years back. Surely employers have the will to do a background check about someone before hiring them but as you said people change so going way 10-20 years ago is just appalling. However you should know that sometimes it might be helpful as they might get a hint of the person’s social, moral and intellectual life for example his crime records. But who ever put that on social media? Well some do because there was a story about a man who killed someone and then posted it on Instagram! All inclusive we cannot decide on the number of years employers are allowed to do a background social media check on us hence the best thing is just to be cautious and THINK before you post, as emphasized on my blog.

  3. Pingback: Topic 4: A reflective summary on ethical issues of social media in the workplace | aaaliyu

  4. It was really interesting to read your blog Aliyu. You have explained well how posting thoughts and experiences through social media effects people career life as employers do look at history of employees online activities. Relating to this I like the story of Justine Sacco you shared about losing her job because of a tweet.
    I also like how your blog is merged with the pervious topic (Topic 3) discussing how to maintain a professional online appearance (THINK).

    We have heard a lot about people losing their jobs because of social media posts. It concerned me that while freedom of speech law clearly state “it is a human right to voice one’s opinion publicly without fear of censorship or punishment.” Don’t you think what happen to people like Justine Sacco is against the freedom of speech law, and if so why don’t employers get sued?

  5. Thanks for the beautiful comments about my blog Mr. Saber Hamidi. Moving on… To the question you asked. From the limited knowledge I possess, personally I do not think what happens to people like Justine Sacco is against freedom of speech because everyone has the right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. However, the right is subject to restrictions prescribed by law, which are necessary in a democratic society. In simple terms Sacco was just a racist! Need not to say more I guess.
    On why employers do not get sued when they sack their employees because of social media posts. Well, employers have argued that adhering to company values and preserving the integrity and character of the business is a twenty-four hour duty; Facebook, Twitter, etc. postings that contradict core values of the company are appropriately unacceptable. Additionally, companies argue that they are entitled to demand loyalty from their employees; workers that badmouth their employer or colleagues on the public venue of the Internet cannot possibly have the best interests of the company in mind. From this point of view, employer restrictions on social media activities is less about free speech and more about standard and reasonable employee expectations.
    I hope this answers your question; indeed you can go online and research on this to learn more.

  6. Pingback: Ethics in the Web | Living and Working on the Web

  7. Pingback: Topic 4: Reflective Summary of Ethical Issues | saberhamidi

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