Saturday, August 22, 2009

What's YOUR Social Media Policy?

As social media enter the workplace, intentionally or not, organizations in the public and private sector are rushing to develop social media policies and/or adding social media sections to their employee handbook. Some of it is preemptive, some is reactive.

An organization launches an enterprise social networking tool and various groups consulted raise concerns. Human resources has concerns. The legal team has concerns. There are so many unknowns. Let's dig up all existing policies and make sure we add to it to cover all eventualities -- most of which we can't predict. Those we can predict are typically already covered by existing policies.

An organization just had a negative experience with some internal abuse of social networking tools and decides to clamp down on anything and everything that might happen in the future. You can spot a policy that emerges from such a situation if some of the language refers to situations that would only apply to a small number of employees.

Whether the policy work is preemptive or reactive, I wonder whether the authors of such policies ever consider how their words might be interpreted by employees.

Employee Reactions
* "That's just the official policy, nobody cares about what the policy says. Just be careful and don't get caught. They can't monitor everyone all the time anyway."
* "Wow! They can use that to fire me if they want to. As a matter of fact, they can probably find something in there to fire anyone if they really want to get rid of someone."
* "They're just targeting employees who get caught watching porn at the office or who spend their days surfing the web and don't do the work. It doesn't really apply to me."
* "Fine. I get what this is all about. Security, productivity, I get it. I think it's time I develop my own policies." :)

Here are some ideas -- not restricted to social media:

* I shall not share links to my personal social bookmarking site with my employer even if 99% of my bookmarked resources are work-related. By extension, I shall not share any relevant web-based information with my employer or co-workers if the information was found during off-hours.
* I shall never use my personal computer to do any employer-related work. It doesn't matter if my computer has the necessary software and the work site computer doesn't. Downloading free software to the work site computer is an obvious no-no.
* By extension, I shall never use my own pens, paper or other supplies to do any employer-related work.
* I shall never try to bypass red tape / bureaucratic processes in order to get the work done. Forget about common sense. It's a myth. Policy rules!
* I shall make sure I understand policy thoroughly and send as many clarifying emails as I feel necessary to my supervisor. Better swamp their email box than get fired over some misunderstanding.
* I shall limit the number of times I check my work email during off-hours. I shall never respond to a work email during off-hours. I shall never check my work email on weekends.
* I shall not think about work too much during off-hours. 15 minutes a day is the limit.
* I shall not mention my employer (especially not in any favorable way) on my blog or other social media tool. By extension, my employer's name shall appear only on my CV.
* I shall not arrive at work early or leave late. Any encroachment on personal time is totally unacceptable.
* I shall make sure to separate employer-related knowledge from what I really know. Only employer-related knowledge is relevant at work.
* I shall investigate surgery or mind-control techniques that might allow me to better separate the part of the brain that deals with employer-related work and the rest of my brain. We wouldn't want too much collaboration between the two. There is no such thing as a gray area of professional interests that isn't directly job-related. That gray area is a danger zone. The brain has two sides: job-related brain vs. personal brain. Everything that is not strictly job-related is personal and therefore should not be used at work.
* Self-censorship is the best policy. Anything that might be misinterpreted should be deleted, never spoken and forgotten.
* I shall make sure that no one reads my blog. If one person reads it, it's one too many. Who knows what they might read into this post?

Get it? Obviously, I'm taking it a little too far and I can laugh at it, but I wish employers would lighten up a bit too. What do we really need? Training? Yes. Policy-driven fear of termination? I don't think so.

Oh, by the way, this has obviously nothing to do with my own employer. I wouldn't want this post to be interpreted as criticism -- that would be against official policy. :)

Oops! I am in clear violation of my own policy. Just spent more than 15 minutes thinking about work-related issues during off-hours... on a Saturday, no less!

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