Connected: it’s about trust

Your social media policy says a lot about where you work.

Social medis pictureBy Matthew O'Driscoll


There are varying practices across the organisations that PSA membership is drawn from. 

There are organisations that watch, monitor and log your every move but with no specific internet use or social media policy (Which begs the question: why?)

Then there are the workplaces that limit the sites you can go to through the use of firewalls and other machinations. Internet prohibition if you will. 

Some organisations even have a tiered prohibition approach where managers get a better deal over workers in lower-paid positions. 

There are the well-meaning organisations that start out with good intentions but develop guidelines and policies that look good on paper but in practice go as far as stopping people from doing their actual work.

Many organisations have simply given up and gone for what they thought were safer, broader internet and social media policies. But there are dangers with that strategy too.

Costco, the third largest retailer in the States, was told off by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for having a social media policy that was too broad. Costco’s policy said:

“Be aware that statements posted electronically (such as to online message boards or discussion groups) that damage the company, defame any individual or damage any person’s reputation or violate the policies outlined in the Costco Employee Agreement, may be subject to discipline, up to and including termination of employment.”

In fact, the board ruled that the Costco interfered with their employees’ right to free speech under the National Labor Relations Act. It called into question any organisational policy that threatens employees with disciplinary measures for posting comments online that may damage the company.

In the days following the ruling, Forbes reported another judge using this precedent to strike down restrictions in the social media policy of technology company Echostar.  


So what’s to be done?

The StickyBranding blog suggests that punitive social media policies are misdirected and that organisations are missing out on an opportunity to create a culture of collaboration:

“The real question is why does a company need to lockdown access to social media? The general perception is employees shouldn’t be playing on Facebook, YouTube or Twitter on company time. But locking down access to the Internet isn’t the solution.

“Employees who waste their days on social media are a symptom of a greater problem, an HR issue. You need to fix the job, the employee or both. A one size fits all social media policy isn’t going to solve a structural HR problem. It’s going to exacerbate it.”

In conclusion StickyBranding says embrace social media tools, lift prohibition and engage staff by asking questions such as:how can these tools improve communication, learning, collaboration and teamwork?

Or put simply: it’s about trust.




The State Services Commission published guidelines in September called Principles for Interaction with Social Media.

Sticky Branding is a sales and marketing company. They provide research and advice for companies looking to drive sales in the post-Google era.

Forbes provides business news and financial information.

Social media use web- and mobile-based technologies to support interactive communication between organisations, communities, and individuals. It has become one of the most powerful sources for news updates, mainly through Twitter and Facebook.


This article is from the December 2012 issue of the PSA Journal. You can read back issues of the Journal by clicking here.