There is no doubt that social media has been a big part of our everyday lives both at a personal and professional level. However, the lines between the personal and professional when using social media can and have become blurred. We have seen people lose their jobs because of statements that they have made on social media; we have also seen organisations lose both business and credibility due to statements made by those associated to them on social media. We have also seen government departments like the department of Home Affairs in South Africa ban the use of mobile phone for certain employees has it was hampering with levels of productivity. It is therefore vital that the use of social media in the workplace have clear guidelines in order to avoid adverse situations for both parties.
Currently South Africa has no law or act that governs the use of social media in the workplace, however a number of cases at the CCMA and Labour Court, where the use of social media has caused adverse situations between the employer and an employee have taught us the following:
- Freedom of Speech is not an absolute right and therefore cannot always be used as a defense.
- Privacy – while the right privacy is entrenched in the Constitution, this is also not an absolute right and can therefore be lost especially if this right is used to infringe on the right of others.
- What you say, post or share in your personal capacity outside of working hours and outside of the workplace, using your own device on social media could still have an impact on the employer- employee relationship.
So how we ensure that the use of social media in the workplace in conducive to a health relationship between the employer and the employee?
- Policy – ensure that there is a social media policy in the organisation. The policy should outline what the organisation’s standards are in this regard as well as outline and what the acceptable behavior is when it comes to social media activity.
- Training – organisations should provide their personnel with social media use training, this will help them better understand the impact that their use of social media could have on them both personally and professionally level.
- Put in place a social media strategy and management plan, this way should anything go wrong there is a strategy and plan in place to deal with the matter.
With a reported 2.7 billion social media users worldwide, the reach is far beyond what any one of us can fully comprehend. Used social media correctly has the power to grow and build successful business and organisations, therefore it is vital that both business and organisations along with their employees are not only careful but also intentional about their use of social media.