Bosses concerned over employees’ online behavior, employees say “butt out”

Sixty percent of businesses executives feel they have a right to know how employees portray themselves and their organizations in online social networks, according to the Deloitte LLP Ethics & Workplace survey.

Even though bosses might want to know what their employees are up to on the Internet, employees aren’t ready to open up. More than half of workers (53%) say their activity on social networks should be of no concern to their employers. Younger employees are in the most agreement, with 63% of 18- to 34-year-old respondents believing that employers have “no business” monitoring their online activity.

While they may not be ready to let their bosses in on the conversation, most employees seem to have a clear understanding of how their activity is a risk to their employer’s reputation. As much as 74% of respondents believe online social networking sites make it easier to damage a company’s reputation.

“With the explosive growth of online social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, rapidly blurring the lines between professional and private lives, these virtual communities have increased the potential of reputational risk for many organizations and their brands,” said Sharon Allen, chairman of the board, Deloitte LLP.

Just last month, Domino’s Pizza went into crisis control mode after two employees posted a video online showing themselves contaminating food while preparing it for delivery. The “gross” video went viral, resulting in embarrassment on the part of company executives and a couple of felony charges for the employees.

“While the decision to post videos, pictures, thoughts, experiences and observations is personal, a single act can create far reaching ethical consequences for individuals as well as employers. Therefore, it is important for executives to be mindful of the implications of this connected world and to elevate the discussion about the risks associated with it to the highest levels of leadership,” said Allen.

If they’re worried about the reputational risk it poses to their organization, most executives don’t seem to be doing much to curb it. Only 17% of executives surveyed said they currently have programs to deal with the possible risks related to employees’ activity on social networks. However, nearly half (49%) of employees stated that such guidelines would do little to change their behavior online.

“One-third of employees surveyed never consider what their boss or customers might think before posting material online,” Allen continued. “This fact alone reinforces how vulnerable brands are as a result of the increased use of social networks. As business leaders, it is critical that we continue to foster solid values-based cultures that encourage employees to behave ethically regardless of the venue.”

Read these related posts for more information on the impact of social networking on corporate culture and how to set social media policies:

Domino’s employees fired, charged after “gross” video goes viral

The impact of social media on corporate culture

Dangers of using social networking sites to screen applicants

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