Leadership

New Ethics Study Shows Two Sides of Social Media Coin

By / Jul 23, 2013 (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)
Social networking is transforming the office environment in unpredictable ways, with changes that could potentially involve employees at all levels.

A new study by the Ethics Resource Center looks at risks and potential benefits of social networking in the workplace and how it is changing the way we work.

More people are logging onto social networks at the office, increasing the potential for ethical lapses in workplace behavior while at the same time providing business opportunities, according to a new study by the Ethics Resource Center (ERC).

The “National Business Ethics Survey of Social Networkers,” which surveyed 2,089 U.S. workers, found that three out of four social networkers spend time on these platforms while at work, and 28 percent spend an hour or more on social networks each day.

About 60 percent of active social networkers, those who spend at least 30 percent of their day participating in a social network, reported that they would comment about their company on these sites if it was in the news. More than half of active social networkers are also sharing information about work projects, and about a third are posting comments about coworkers and clients.

“Social networking is transforming the office environment in unpredictable ways, with changes that could potentially involve employees at all levels,” ERC’s president, Dr. Patricia J. Harned, said in a statement. “It is important that those in leadership roles do not fall behind the curve, so they are prepared to act in ways that will seize the opportunities social networking creates, while limiting the risk.”

Although the risk for ethical violations is higher with more people willing to air their company’s laundry on social media, the study pointed out that managers and business leaders can use social networks to help promote a strong workplace culture.

“Creative businesses can also use social networking to their advantage in terms of workplace ethics, using it internally to reinforce company values and build work­force loyalty and cohesion,” the study noted.

The ERC said that almost all employees will eventually join a social network, and most will spend at least a few minutes a day on these sites while at work. So in the spirit of the adage “If you can’t beat them, join them,” the group outlined several strategies for addressing the issue, including developing and training employees in a social networking policy.

Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. More »

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