How A Social Media Policy Avoids These Productivity Pitfalls

Social media can be good for your business.  You can use it as a marketing tool.  Or you can advertise your vacant roles.  Maybe you use it to keep an eye on your competitors.  Or it can just provide some light relief from a heavy workload.

We all use social media these days – and that includes your employees.  And that is where it can all go wrong, of course.  So do you have any control over how your employees use social media?  And should you care?

Monitoring the use of social media

Some employers may want to try the “blanket ban” approach to social media in the workplace, but this is often counter-productive and almost impossible to enforce.  Many people have access to computers at work and nearly all will carry a personal mobile phone.  Some companies even provide a mobile phone for work purposes.  Social media is available on all of these devices.

If you were to try this approach, you would find it very unpopular with your employees. A better option might be to allow “reasonable” use at work.  If your employees have a sensible workload and are engaged and interested in their work, they will not abuse this trust.  They might choose to have a quick look at Instagram whilst they grab a coffee.  But they are not likely to spend hours scrolling through Facebook posts.  If your staff are being managed properly, then you should find there is little problem with over-use at work.

Productivity Pitfalls

There is potential for more of a problem if people are posting comments, rather than just reading posts. This could become a more serious cost to productivity. If people are getting involved in long “conversations” in social media, then they are not thinking about their work.  They might only take a few minutes to post something but their train of thought is broken.  It takes a while for that concentration to return.  This can easily happen repeatedly if they are answering a string of comments on a social media post.

There may be a further problem if the content is inappropriate.   This covers a variety of risks.  It might be something which potentially damages your business reputation.  Or it could be something for which the employer is blamed (vicarious liability). It could breach confidentiality.  It could alienate your clients.

This, of course, leads to potential disciplinary action.  That is inevitably another drain on productivity for the employee who posted the comment and others.  It will affect all the people involved as witnesses or doing an investigation.  Or those involved in the hearing.   The productivity of the whole team will also take a knock.  They may need to take on extra work whilst the disciplinary action is ongoing.  Additionally, they may well be talking amongst themselves about it.  And, depending on the severity of any sanction, they may have to adjust to a different person in the team, or a realignment of the work.

Other concerns

Other things which employers may want to guard against include:

  • There is evidently a risk of introducing malware into your systems.
  • Reputational cost. This depends on the content of the employee’s comments.
  • Negative comments about colleagues – or even threats. I have been involved in the dismissal of an employee where they had made a physical threat to a colleague on social media.
  • Loss of trust between employee and employer. This could even lead to a situation where the relationship is untenable.

This is not a complete list of the things which can be a problem in social media posts, from an employment perspective.  You may be concerned about other issues as well.   If that is the case, then I would urge you to take professional HR or legal advice.

How can employers avoid this productivity drain?

My approach would be to allow reasonable use of social media at work – or at least not to try and stop it.

I would urge any employer to safeguard themselves by producing a Social Media policy.  If there are clear rules and they have been properly communicated, this can go a long way to achieving acceptable use.  In particular, it is important to lay down what is NOT acceptable.

If people are allowed the freedom to make sensible choices, they will generally behave as adults.  We all like to know our boundaries and work within them.  If the guidelines are not restrictive, we do not generally breach them.

You may have exceptions to this in your workforce.  With a clear policy in place, you have the means to deal fairly with any issues.

If you think this article is useful and you would like any strategic HR support or information  on producing a Social Media policy  – or any other people-related issue in your business – contact us for a no-obligation chat.

Jill Aburrow runs an HR strategic consultancy business – JMA HR .  She provides strategic HR advice and support to businesses who want to improve loyalty, growth and profit. Why not join the JMA HR mailing list?  Jill has been a professional strategic HR advisor for over two decades. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (FCIPD) and has a Post Graduate Certificate in Employment Law.

 

What is Mediation and How Do I Use it in the Workplace?

Mediation is a formal process to help resolve workplace disputes.  It has to be voluntary – it won’t work if one party or the other has been forced into it.  You must also ensure it is confidential.   Mediation involves an independent third party working with the conflicting parties.  The aim is  to try and find an amicable result which works for everyone.  It can be done internally, using a third party mediator who is not involved in the issue.  You need to ensure the mediator is seen as independent by all parties.  Alternatively, you can use an external mediator, who will definitely be independent.

The Benefits of Mediation

If you have conflict in the workplace it can be extremely disruptive, and not just for the parties involved.  It is crucial for you to manage this conflict before it destroys the smooth running of the organisation.  If you fail to manage it, then it will ultimately have a negative effect on your business.

The conflict could escalate to such an extent that  external organisations become involved (such as ACAS or Employment Tribunals in the UK).   Those organisations actively encourage parties to use mediation as a resolution.

As well as helping to resolve workplace conflicts, successful mediation can improve communication and restore trust.  It enables the parties to feel that their position has been heard and considered.  It enables people to move on from the conflict.

When should we be using mediation in the workplace?

Mediation can be used successfully to resolve issues where two people cannot work together.  I have used it successfully where two people had reached the point where they did not speak to each other, but where they needed to collaborate on a project.  Every time they needed to discuss anything, they just argued, with neither party listening to the other.   They were never going to be friends, but the mediation enabled them to work together in a professional manner.  It achieved a successful outcome for the project.

You can use mediation if your employee has raised a formal grievance.  Or it is sometimes useful if there has been a fairly minor act of misconduct.  Mediation can provide a safe environment to raise these issues.  They can be discussed and resolved without the need for formal action.

You could also use mediation as a formal way of following up any formal proceedings.  It can be a particularly helpful way to improve working relationships so that all parties can move forward.

What happens in mediation?

There is no set way for mediation to take place.  The mediator can discuss the alternative approaches with the individuals and agree what they want to do.  Sometimes, the mediator will discuss the issues separately with each party and then feedback to the other party until they can reach some agreement.  Alternatively, all parties can sit round a table and discuss the issues in an open forum.  The mediator can suggest solutions, or the individual parties can suggest solutions.  External mediators can often suggest practical solutions to complex problems.  The aim is for the parties to come up with outcomes which are appropriate and which work for all.

Mediation is a flexible solution and can often be more successful than having to abide by a decision or instruction from a third party.

The discussions are completely confidential and are not binding.  If an agreed outcome is reached, then that becomes binding.

Are there any disadvantages?

Mediation may not be the right solution for more complex problems, or where there has been a serious breach of conduct.

Mediation does not guarantee a successful resolution, which may make it hard to justify the cost.  If you use an internal mediator, then it is likely to take up  a good deal of their time, at least in the short-term.  This also moves their focus from the role they are employed to do.   Even if you use an external mediator, then it may still not be possible for the parties to reach a workable solution.

Mediation only works when both parties agree to take part in it.  Some people are not prepared to try to achieve an agreed outcome.  They are so entrenched in their view, that they want their “day in court” to prove the rights of their case.

If you think this article is useful and you would like more advice on dealing with this  -or any other people-related issue in your business – please join our mailing list, or contact us for further guidance.

Ditching the Garbage – Taking Decisive Action

Taking decisive action in the workplace can be difficult for an employer.   It is tempting to bury our heads in the sand and hope that the problem will resolve itself.

Roseanne Barr, the American comedian, has been in the news for all the wrong reasons this week.  In case this story has passed you by, Roseanne starred in a popular comedy in USA in the 1990s and a new series has recently been aired by the broadcasting network, ABC.

The new series has only been running a few weeks, but Roseanne has posted her strong views on social media.  In particular, sh has made some racist and disturbing comments on Twitter.  Her fellow actors on the series were quick to distance themselves from her views and ABC immediately pulled the series off air, to wide approval.

I don’t want to discuss racism or misplaced comedy in the workplace, at least not in this article.  I do want to highlight the lessons we can learn from ABC’s decisive action.

Taking Decisive Action

Roseanne is a big star in USA and her series makes serious money for ABC.  It would have been easy for them to publicly reprimand Roseanne and allow the series to continue.  Their swift action to close down the series will have cost them – at least in the short term – and will potentially have put Roseanne’s colleagues out of a job.

It would also have been easy for ABC to wait for a few days, to see if the furore died down .  Roseanne has apologised and claimed her comments were a joke which misfired.  There are many in USA who may well agree with Roseanne, or at least will not be unduly upset by her comments. Others think that ABC’s action is a bar to free speech.

But I believe the swift and decisive action to take the series off air was a sensible and appropriate response by ABC.  It will not be popular in all quarters, but is likely to have pleased far more people than it upset. The decision shows strength and an encouraging lack of influence by financial considerations.

I am sure the general approval of ABC’s actions will win them friends across the world.  I am also sure that the actors who have been affected are likely to get offers of other work fairly quickly, either by ABC or other networks.

What can smaller employers learn from this?

 Too often, disruptive people “get away” with bad behaviour because of their usefulness to their employer.

I once had to deal with a complaint that a sales manager was bullying a female staff member.  The company were reluctant to take disciplinary action as he was “our best salesman”. There was a fear that he would leave if he was subject to disciplinary action.  And he would be difficult to replace. The manager, of course, revelled in his seeming invincibility and his behaviour became gradually worse.

The female staff member left eventually, as did other colleagues with similar complaints.   I imagine the cost of replacing those staff was large.  The company  also had to continually deal with complaints about the manager.  They potentially lost revenue as he was unpopular with clients as well as staff.

In the end, the difficult individual left of his own accord, to suit his own timing, showing no loyalty to the company. If they had taken some disciplinary action at an earlier stage, they would have had more control over the situation.

I am not intending any criticism of the employer. They were placed in a very difficult situation and made the best decision they could, for important business reasons.  The point I am making is that sometimes the difficult path of decisive action is the better path.

 If you think this article is useful and you would like more advice on dealing with this  -or any other people-related issue in your business – please join our mailing list, or contact us for further guidance.