Social networking has become one of the most significant business developments of the 21st century as they have added another facet to the way people communicate all over the world. Used by millions of people worldwide, social networking sites have altered human behavior on the web, resulting in reduced personal inhibitions of sharing information online. There are three basic types of social networking websites: ‘free-for-all’ social websites, including Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook; professional websites, including LinkedIn, Fast Pitch, and Plaxo; and industry-specific websites like I-Meet. The popularity of social networking sites is relatively recent and the effect of online social networking (OSN) on employee productivity has not received much scholarly attention. The reason most likely lies in the social nature of social networking sites and OSN, which is assumed to have a negative effect on employee productivity and not bear organizational benefit. This research investigated recent Internet developments as seen in the social Web and specifically investigated the effect of OSN on employee productivity and what some of the consequences would be if employees were allowed unrestricted access to these networks. The findings concerning the nature of employees’ OSN activities, employees’ attitude or perceptions with regard to OSN in the workplace and how OSN can contribute or affect the productivity of employees is discussed in this article. Some of the basic misconceptions regarding OSN are highlighted and it is concluded that this technology can be used to increase collaboration between individuals who share a common interest or goal. Increased collaboration will stimulate knowledge sharing between individuals, with the possible effect of increased productivity. However, the risks associated with OSN should be noted, such as loss of privacy, bandwidth and storage consumption, exposure to malware and lower employee productivity. If you use social media purely as a break at work, think about whether it’s really the best way to recharge. If your job involves a lot of reading and writing, then scrolling through your social media feeds or posting updates doesn’t give you much of a break, I point out in the Tribune article. On the other hand, if you do mostly physical work, taking a few minutes for social media can enhance your workplace productivity by offering you a nice change of pace. When you do take a break for social media, make it a defined period — for example, five minutes every hour. Social media is detrimental to workplace productivity when you multitask by, say, keeping one eye on your Facebook alerts when you’re working on something else.
First, Potential Problems for Employers According to Wilson (2009), there are five principle worries that management has in regard to social networking: perceived loss in staff productivity, data leakage from staff gossiping freely in an open environment, damage to a company’s reputation, scams practiced by “cyber crooks,” and the open access to company information because of outdated passwords. There are many uses for the big four social networking sites. It is a concern to management and corporate executive officers that employees spend time on these websites while at work. One possible use of the networks that is a source of concern to management is the possible damage to the company’s reputation that can be brought about by posts online. If an employee were to be angry, or have had a bad day, they might be inclined to take their anger out online. This behavior could damage a company’s reputation. “Employers have the right to hold employees responsible for such conduct if the postings are used to ‘attack the company’ or ‘harass co-workers’” (Breslin, 2009). Another concern, from a management standpoint, is the belief that the use of social networking websites is detrimental to the productivity of the employees who spend increasing amounts of time on these websites. Employees are given access to company equipment, mainly computers and internet, in order to complete their jobs effectively and efficiently. According to Peacock (2008), “employers worry that staff are wasting time on websites during the day, weakening productivity and increasing security risks to the company by sharing data externally.” Computer servers can only process so much information at one time. The use of social networking websites, alongside email and company computer programs, slows down the servers. This means that employees are sitting around waiting for their work to be processed. “E-mail usage is upped. This slows down the server and means staff are not working” (Peacock, 2008).
A company can face lawsuits, bad publicity, and decreased employee morale because of employee use of social networks. According to Greenwald (2009), 55 percent of employees visit a social networking site at least once a week. Possible areas of company liability include sexual harassment, bullying, and threats of workplace violence, all potentially occurring during these visits. Sexual harassment occurs when one employee or supervisor makes continued, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, to another employee or supervisor, against his or her wishes. These behaviors can, and do happen online.
Next, the Employee View Employees also have views on the issue of social networks and work. Many professionals are using social and professional networking sites to build their personal brand. Professionals use these sites to engage audiences in their on-going projects. For example, musicians use Myspace to reach listeners who would normally not have access to the artist’s music. Twitter is used throughout the world of sports and entertainment to give fans an inside look at 74% of employees surveyed say it’s easy to damage a company’s reputation on social media. There are negatives from the employee standpoint as well. A situation that has been arising for the working professional is going onto Facebook to see what their friends are doing, only to see that their boss or colleague has messaged them about an urgent work matter (Available all the time, 2009). Using these sites has blurred the lines between work and private time. If the employer requests interaction with, or wishes to “friend” an employee, how does an employee not accept that without an issue of etiquette arising, especially if employer and employee are friendly toward one another in the office. This raises the related question of whether it is appropriate for a co-worker to reach out to another co-worker on a social networking forum to talk about work matters. According to Rothbard, “on the one hand, it enables flexibility. In some ways, it makes you more effective. But it can also lead to a lot of burnout. In the long term, it may lead to conflict about how you feel towards your other life roles and your ability to be fully present in any one domain” (Available all the time, 2009). This burnout would be defined as exhaustion of physical or emotional strength usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration. If an employee is in constant contact with superiors and coworkers through social networking sites, the employee may eventually feel like there is no line between work life and a personal life because he or she has become available all the time. Blackberry, for example, are often provided to employees to check their email on the go, or to check their twitter and face book accounts. This can create exhaustion in the employee who can never have a clean line drawn between work and play, especially if that employee has “friended” the boss. There are two sides to this; “on the one hand, it enables flexibility. In some ways, it makes you more effective. But it can also lead to a lot of burnout” (Are you practicing, 2009). In the case where an employer and employee are social network “friends,” nothing is kept secret. The employer will be able to see how his or her employee behaves outside the office, which can be 7 seen as an invasion of privacy. As long as the employee is not making the company look bad, there should not be a problem for the company. According to McGrath, “as an employee you want to ask yourself, ‘How accessible do you want to be?’” (Available all the time, 2009). Roth bard notes that “Facebook itself is not likely to take a role in establishing norms to sort out the conflicts between business and personal friending” (Available all the time, 2009). This sometimes brings up the uncomfortable issue of, if an employee and employer are friends in the office, why they cannot be “friends” on a social networking site. If an employee and employer are friendly at work, and choose to be “friends” on a social networking site, then both have access to all areas of each other’s lives. Many potentially awkward situations can come up around the use of Facebook and other social networking sites because too much information is given out. In the workplace, people are going to think twice about what they say and the amount of information that is given. Rothbard thinks “in face-to-face communications, people are much more careful about the volume and nature of the information they disclose. However, over the internet there is a huge lack of awareness, or obliviousness, about who is receiving this information” (Available all the time, 2009). “They have to realize there are potential negative consequences that can flow from coworkers knowing more about you that is prudent” (Are you practicing, 2009). Behaviors that might not be problematic between friends outside of work could be interpreted very differently by colleagues and employers. In the extreme, the possibility of sexual harassment could be an issue and repercussions and could leave an employee out of a job. “If an employer discovers that an employee has engaged in objectionable communications online, then discipline is appropriate” (Wise, 2009). There is liability for the employer relating to employee communication online so that in certain circumstances, to protect the company name and the victim involved, firing the employee is necessary. In the work environment, an employee has to maintain a professional image. When the line between work and private life becomes blurred, an employer might feel free to explore an employee’s online communications. “Workplace conflicts have also come up at companies where managers have limited or banned Facebook for being a distraction and monitor employees’ personal pages for images or comments that might reflect poorly on the business (Available all the time, 2009). When an employee is “friends” with their boss they have to think twice about the content they post on their personal page. Even though it could be an invasion of privacy to check up on your employee, the employee has essentially given permission to the employer to see their page by becoming “friends” with them. According to Williams, an employee just starting in his or her career may not have yet developed a sense of his or her professional self.
This individual may be less cautious about the image he or she projects on social networks, even when that image may be visible to bosses or clients. Although this lack of caution is simply a function of inexperience, the employer has the responsibility of keeping the company name reputable. This may give the employer the right to terminate an employee because of something on their Facebook or Twitter page. This is the ultimate downside to becoming “friends” with your employer on Facebook (Available all the time, 2009).
Furthermore, leaking of information. Social media shears a lot of news some of them I fake and some at true as well. As reported Facebook is the most common and widely used social network in the world. Some information’s are leaked from a company without the people who leaked it even knowing they are responsible. Social media nowadays is not just for fun or to chat with friends. Some people use social media as a market place while some people use it for bad things. For example, if an employee goes to a social media page while at work and using the companies computer and gets a virus, the could lead to the leaking pf information from that company there by making the company vulnerable.
In conclusion, social networks have evolved into a mix of socializing and working, and lead to a degree of sacrificing privacy. Many businesses are struggling with the use of social networking sites and might benefit from the following changes. A necessary first step for any company is to create a social networking policy. By setting a policy, employees know the 11 company’s rules regarding the use of social networking sites. In addition to establishing a policy for employees, a company may want to determine how much use will be made of social networking sites for marketing purposes. A company should work with, not against, social networking websites. Working against social networking websites is unproductive. Companies that fight the advancing technology are fighting a losing battle. Technology is constantly changing the environment in which a company operates, and management should be aware of these changes. It is in the best interests of a company to know what websites are available to its employees, be willing to grant access to certain websites to keep employees productive and be able to monitor usage of social networking websites.
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Journal of Communication, Volume 65, Issue 2, 1 April 2015, Pages 396 422, https://doi.org/10.1111/jcom.12149