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Running Head: SOCIAL MEDIA ETHICS IN THE WORKPLACE 1

Social Media Ethics in the Workplace

Sydney A. Hickman

The University of Alabama


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Abstract

This paper explores the findings and research from three published articles on the effects of

social media ethics in the workplace. The rise of social media has infiltrated almost every aspect

of human behavior, which includes daily operations at work. Today, companies who employ

anyone under the age of thirty are forced to deal with the ever-growing use of social media and

how that affects their company. Most obviously, this means that accountability is at an all time

high. Accountability of social media can be found in several different avenues of todays

workplace; employers to their employees, employees to their employers and their work, trade

secrets and copyright, and the employers burden of educating the employee on this topic.
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Social Media Ethics in the Workplace

Few major corporations could have predicted how widespread social media use would

become in America or their workforce. And none could have ever expected the ramifications that

drag corporations into not just work, but home life. Because of the increased accessibility of

social media to working populations, there has been a dramatic increase of communication

between employers and employees, as well as between each other. This has allowed these

workers to share issues and move to create change. A new balance of power is established when

this happens, but social media should not be blamed for these issues it is only the catalyst to open

the discussion (Upchurch, M., 2015). Corporations now fearing the combined effort of their

workforce to create change have to decide why they are afraid to begin with, and then decide if

the changes to quell this issue are worth possible backlash. With the Web 2.0 the sharing of work

cultures and practices becomes incredibly easy. Employees tweet about their atmosphere, blog

about their coworkers, and Instagram pictures of their working environments. Due to this

increased visibility employers are forced to make all of these aspects of their company better. A

better organizational culture will be reported in one way or another to the benefit or detriment of

the company (Dawson, M., 2016). There is a new level of accountability that all major

corporations feel, whether it is in their luxurious office buildings, or hot production lines, there is

little expectation of secrecy of working conditions.

Even though employers now expect that almost every function of their employees work

life is or could be broadcasted on the web, they are not the only group that has increased

accountability. The same tools that employees use to watch dog their employers can be used to

gather legitimate data on employees. This data can inform the employer about the employees
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utilization, hours spent working, and sites theyve visited during work hours (Upchurch, M/,

2015). On the more positive end of the social media issue, regular tools like Google Hangouts,

and Facebook Messenger have sped up communications between employees infinitely since the

age of only email. There is an argument that the use of these tools is not as helpful as many

employees are quick to testify to (Upchurch, M., 2015), but this is an injustice. The old email

tools like Lotus Notes, and Instant Messenger are nothing compared to the speed and reliability

of modern day communication tools. The major issue presented is that they are not as secure

because the platform does not belong to the corporation itself but a separate outside entity. This

means that depending on the platform and the information being shared, there needs to be some

discretion used by the employee before utilizing that tool. An example would be that a financial

auditing firm would not want its employees sharing lists of clients over a twitter feed, or even

Facebook Messenger. To battle some of these issues some corporations create intra-net social

media tools. It is then up to the employees to learn to use these tools and make sure that the

information they are putting out there is appropriate and secure (Upchurch, M., 2015). LinkedIn

is another issue that employees must be aware of, especially when it comes to terminations. After

working at a corporation for a long time, an employees LinkedIn can be a comprehensive list of

projects completed by not just the employee, but the corporation as well (Dawson, M., 2016).

Introducing cell phones that are so innately tied to social media can be a difficult

challenge for companies that have trade secrets or copyrights. For a company to keep a trade

secret, they have to prove that there is a reasonable effort to keep that secret from being exposed.

Cell phones make this issue tricky. An employee with a cell phone can single handedly ruin

years of work. In an effort to protect trade secrets or copyrights, some companies try to make

examples out of employees or regular civilians, but this has led to several court rulings favoring
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the accidental use of copyrighted work (Ensign, D., 2016). This happens at the University of

Alabama with the script A with some constancy. Students filming in areas filled with script As

actually bring up copyright issues and are seen in similar situations. Because the sites that

footage or pictures are posted on cannot be held liable for the copyrighted content many of the

cases brought to court are against average people who do not have the legal power to stand up to

major corporations (Ensign, D. 2016). Within the work place, this means that employers have a

fair amount of control over posts by their employees should they choose to accuse them of

copyright infringement.

All of the issues that are presented by social media usage within the workplace have to be

addressed in order to protect the corporation as a whole. This has to originate from the upper

level management, however, it is the job of the regular employees to give feedback and insure

newer technologies are included. To keep control over the workplace social media use this

training needs to take place as early as possible (Upchurch, M., 2015). The importance of this

training early on has been evident in recent bullying suits filed by employees against other

coworkers in which the employer was held responsible. Avoiding large suits like these or the

potential for them needs to be a major priority (Dawson, M., 2016). In the modern social media

scene an employers liability to their employee does not end when the workday does, if the same

issues that happen in the office persist.

Conclusion

Social media within the workplace can present some serious concerns, but also be a

gateway to faster communication. Employees and employers alike must work together to create

and uphold rules and policies on social media use. This is necessary to protect many different

aspects of the corporation including clients and copyrights. Only through dual interaction can
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these polices protect the work being conducted while ensuring that employees are not being

forced to withhold information. The issues swirling around social media usage in the workplace

are not going to be resolved any time soon, all that can be done is active participation between

employees and employers in education about accountability and appropriate use.


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References

Dawson, M. (2016). Social media and the workplace: Three important things learned from cases

to date. Mondaq Business Briefing

Ensign, D. (2016). Copyright and social media. Copyright Corner, 80(4), 13.

Upchurch, M., & Grassman, R. (2015). Striking with social media: The contested (online) terrain

of workplace conflict. Organization, doi:10.1177