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Social media could have consequences at work

Posted July 1, 2010

— Social media – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and MySpace, to name a few – is merging lives online and off.

It can also be troublesome for companies and government agencies that don't want their names associated with some of the things their employees say or do online.

It's resulting in new policies on personal lives, as Troy LaPlante found out.

"I found out the hard way," said LaPlante, who's worked for the same company for 15 years. "It was not all that unpleasant. I did get a phone call from our human resources director."

An active political blogger, LaPlante was asked to take his company's name off his online profiles.

"We have this policy that you simply don't mention the company,” he said. “So I said, 'OK, is this being applied across the board?' They said, 'Everybody that comes to our attention, yes.'"

More and more companies are designing specific social media policies for their employees. Punishment can vary from simply asking an employee to remove online information to termination.

"If you don't have an explicit written social media policy for your company, then you have a defacto policy that says do whatever you want," said Dave Thomas, the social media director for international software company SAS. "You need to have something in writing that employees can refer to that explains the do's and the don'ts."

Because social media has become an integral part of doing business, Thomas says banning it is not the answer.

Facebook More companies developing social media guidelines

"It's much better to help educate employees about effective ways of communicating and how to represent the (company) brand," he said.

It's not just the private sector dealing with the social media revolution. Government agencies are also looking at online conduct.

In 2007, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol discovered that a trooper posted online photos of himself drinking alcohol with captions about getting drunk.

Trooper Brian Maynard says the situation prompted the Highway Patrol to take a closer look at what its employees post online.

"The Highway Patrol doesn't have a policy, per se, on what we can and can't do, but they expect a high degree of professionalism," Maynard said.

"You need to be able to trust your employees to use good judgment," Thomas said. "Employees have to also understand that there is really no way anymore to separate your personal life and your professional life online."

LaPlante did remove his company's name from his online profiles.

But as the lines between personal life and work life blur, it might become even harder for companies to manage what employees say online.

"It's impossible to police everybody's activities," Thomas said.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • Do Not Judge Jul 2, 2010

    Who are you all to judge Trooper Maynard, his wife, or Clendenin??? Get over yourselves and move on!! Are your lives so pathetic that you encourage the media to dig and to post negative stories that in no way affect how someone does their job???? Leave these people alone!

  • wildcat Jul 2, 2010

    Just be extremely careful what you put on-line.

  • kelly11 Jul 2, 2010

    Every business would benefit from having a social media policy in place, but it should not be an all or nothing approach. Instead of having a policy in place that blocks social media completely or doesn’t block social media at all and expects employees to follow policy rules, why not block some pieces of social media and keep some parts of social media accessible? Social media is growing in the business world and companies would be missing out on its benefits if it is blocked entirely. Palo Alto Networks might have found a solution to this problem, they have a new software that has the ability to do thing such as a read-only facebook. I think companies could really benefit from something like this, what do you think? Here's a link to new whitepapers they have created: http://bit.ly/d2NZRp http://bit.ly/bsrh9CFacebook

  • southend Jul 2, 2010

    "Has no one else done the math and figured out that THIS man is the husband of the SHP secretary that Clendenin was spending so much time texting with????? Well, "super trooper", let's see where your 'connection(s)' take you now."finwearer
    I just posted a similar comment but yours wasn't showing when I did. Keeping it all in the family.

  • southend Jul 2, 2010

    Does anyone else see the commonalities in this article and the recent texting one????? Hmmmmm!!!! Interesting!!!!

  • finwearer Jul 2, 2010

    Trooper Brian Maynard is quoted in this story?!? PLEASE!!!! Has no one else done the math and figured out that THIS man is the husband of the SHP secretary that Clendenin was spending so much time texting with????? Well, "super trooper", let's see where your 'connection(s)' take you now.

  • theartistformerlyknownasspeedy Jul 1, 2010

    If more State agencies looked with an Eagle eye at their employees, no doubt they'd Get Real and Axe many of them.