Influence Of Social Media In Management

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The popularity of social networks and their increasing use in the workplace present some concerns for employers, but all indications are that employers cannot hope to prevent social network use during work hours.  A possible use would be as a tool of communication between management and employees to ensure that employees are productive but not overworked. Another possible use is as a marketing tool. Social networking is an interconnected system through which alliances are formed, help is obtained, information is transmitted, and actions taken to achieve certain results. If businesses need to work with social networking websites, as seems likely, they should have a policy on social networking in the workplace. This recommendation is based on the assumptions that use of social networking in the workplace continues to increase and that internet security will never be perfect in filtering personal or business information on social networks. The extent of this problem is ongoing and impossible to predict.

Potential Benefits of Social Networks for Business Management

Contact with employees can be difficult for management. Social media provide an opportunity for management to have faster contact with their subordinates. If there is an issue that needs immediate attention, a manager can send a message through social networking websites and the internet to their employees to get the information they need to make a decision.

Social networking websites reduce the amount of time it takes for a job to be completed because they cut down the amount of time it takes for employees and management to contact each other.

Information is easily found through the Internet. Social networking websites can be one of the fastest ways to obtain information. “Organizations are actively leveraging the power of social networks to find new business opportunities, new groups of like-minded individuals and companies, and new sources of industry specific wisdom, advice and expertise” (Wilson, 2009). Social networking websites allow companies to find and share information about different marketing strategies and techniques.

Potential Problems for Employers

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.

Employees are given access to company equipment, mainly computers and internet, in order to complete their jobs effectively and efficiently. 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.

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.

The increased risk of liability can decrease productivity and cost the company a large amount of money, from dollars spent in defending against lawsuits and possible revenue lost due to damage to the reputation of the company.. “Cyber smearing” is a key concern for employers; that is communications that are considered libel and defamation that occur online. “An employer could find itself defending its employee’s unauthorized postings against claims of defamation, harassment, or trade disparagement” (Wise, 2009). Companies have to think about employee privacy but also the risk that goes along with it.

The Employee View

There are negatives from the employee standpoint as well. 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.

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  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.

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.

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Ritesh Prasad

The author is a lawyer and Master in Business Administration as well.
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