Academic journal article SAM Advanced Management Journal

Managing the Effects of Social Media in Organizations

Academic journal article SAM Advanced Management Journal

Managing the Effects of Social Media in Organizations

Article excerpt

Organizations use social media to create brand recognition, recruit employees, learn about their employees, obtain information, and market products. Employees use social media to reach out to others and to develop and foster networks. Popular social media such as Linkedln, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs, chat rooms, and on photo-sharing sites may cause employee time to be consumed with non-work-related subjects whether they are on the job or not. Most organizations do not know the extent of employee use of social media. Since social media activities are increasing, organization leaders need to focus on the ethical treatment of employees and attend to legal liabilities affecting their organizations. Both organization leaders and employees should understand the risks and rewards of using social media in the workplace. Leaders need to develop policies and strategies to minimize their risks. Further, in the wake of the growing and pervasive use of social media by employees, leaders need to be at the forefront in developing ethical criteria in maintaining the rights of employees, reputation of their company, and respecting privacy laws.

This article describes the emerging social media issues that create risks to employees and organizations. It analyzes the issues related to the use of social media in the workplace, provides methods for minimizing risks, and suggests policies and procedures that maintain the integrity of the organization, protect it from legal repercussions, and guard the rights of employees.

Definition of Social Media

Social media has been broadly defined to include Web-based methods and electronic methods of distributing information. Examples include Linkedln, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Myspace, blogs, chat rooms, wikis, and photosharing sites. Social media sites distribute a plethora of information in seconds to people on a global scale and are transforming business environments by radically altering the definition of "workplace." No longer a physical environment, the workplace now extends beyond an office and encompasses technology that accommodates the ability to work for an organization at any time and any place. Social media has become a part of life. For example, a study conducted by the American Red Cross (2012) revealed it is the fourth most popular site for obtaining information during an emergency.

Social Media Issues

Social media has garnered the attention of organizational leaders, employees, and the legal profession - which is beginning to propose rules and regulations regarding the use of social media in the workplace. Consider the following hypothetical situations:

* After viewing an applicant's YouTube video containing information about the applicant's pregnancy or disability, an employer does not hire the applicant.

* An employer hires a nurse for a job in a nursing home, despite having viewed the applicant's Facebook page where the applicant is photographed drinking alcohol.

* An employer fires an employee after the employee's Facebook page displays disparaging remarks about the employer.

* An employee enamored with the company's product places embellishing but untrue remarks about the product in a chat-room.

In light of the growing prevalence of social media in the workplace, managements must proactively identify and address ethical and legal issues that confront today's organizations. For example, a 2011 survey conducted for the Society for Human Resources Management found that 68% of the respondents stated their organizations employ social media for marketing, external communications, and recruiting purposes. Forty-three percent claimed their organizations blocked employee access to social media sites on company-owned computers and hand-held electronic devices. Yet a surprising 73% reported that employees who use social media do not receive social media training (Leonard, 2012a). Organizational social networking concerns arise when employees forget the format of communication: this format is not private (Trott, 1998). …

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