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17 Apr, 2013

Facebook Etiquette at Work: Sharing Personal Info, Opinions Pose Career-Risks


SEATTLE–(BUSINESS WIRE)–17 April 2013 – Employees who share personal information and opinions on Facebook are in danger of risking job security and jeopardizing workplace relationships, according to a recently released survey conducted by Fierce, Inc., leadership development and training experts.

Nearly one in three employees have witnessed or know of a coworker reprimanded for an inappropriate Facebook post. Employees may also risk tarnishing professional reputations, with 40 percent engaging in some form of inappropriate communication with colleagues on Facebook, such as gossiping or flirting. The survey consists of responses from almost 800 executives and employees in multiple fields, including healthcare, retail, manufacturing, education, and financial services.

The social network doesn’t appear to help foster camaraderie in the office either, as 51.1 percent of employees say Facebook is ineffective at enhancing work relationships. Of those respondents, 16.3 noted that shared opinions cause loss of respect for coworkers. Other work-related repercussions of Facebook include:

  • 53.2 percent of employees feel uncomfortable accepting a friend request from a manager,
  • 17.9 percent note that coworkers’ sharing of personal information is uncomfortable,
  • 22.6 percent admit Facebook negatively impacts their productivity.

“Organizations should think very, very carefully about forbidding any communication or potential team-building tools in the office, whether it be Facebook, sports fantasy leagues, or political conversations,” said Halley Bock, CEO and president of Fierce, Inc. “Forward-thinking organizations should hold exploratory conversations with employees to gather diverse perspectives on using Facebook at work, then establish clear guidelines which hold employees able to access the network appropriately.”

Here are three general areas of conversations Fierce recommends companies should explore with staff in order to navigate Facebook issues and develop viable policies:

  • Friend requesting: Do employees feel comfortable being Facebook friends with managers? Should supervisors refrain from sending friend requests to employees?
  • Sharing of personal information and opinions: What is and is not appropriate to share on Facebook? Will there be repercussions for posting inappropriate photos or comments? If so, what are they? Are there policy inconsistencies between what is acceptable speech in the office and what is posted on Facebook?
  • Time spent on Facebook: What are acceptable time limits for Facebook usage each day, week, or month? Can employees be permitted free rein during breaks, at lunch, and before or after established office hours?

Facebook use at work is nearly ubiquitous, with more than eight out of every 10 employees logging onto the social networking site. Despite its almost universal adoption, more than half of all organizations – 51.6 percent – have no social media policy. Smart organizations are now considering guidelines that establish clear social-networking policies for employees to follow.

Leading-edge organizations are fostering multi-perspective conversations about what is and is not acceptable behavior to best manage work interactions both on and offline. Such foresight will result in deepening of professional relationships, workplace innovation, and better bottom-line results.