Monday, September 13, 2010

Employees In The Era Of Social Media

Till such a time that we discussed and gossiped in the real world, it was fine. 

Then somewhere Web 2.0 happened. All of us, who were till then laymen and consumed content, were vested with extraordinary powers to create and distribute content with far-reaching impact. It has become a strange world, since then. Free-speech has assumed new proportions.

Couple of days back, I had this conversation with a friend who works for one of the largest IT Consulting companies in the world. He told me that as part of the recruitment process, the company does scan the blogs of applicants. Now considering that I intend to be a salaried employee with no interest in the entrepreneur-adventure, does my virtual verbal diarrhea have any repercussions for my career? Considering that it is easy to be watched and tracked, does my online outbursts hurt my chances?  

I have made some positive mentions about one of my ex-employers. But completely avoid writing anything negative about any of my employer, present and past. And, clients are absolute no-no. So much so, I usually think twice before writing anything negative about a brand. 

Call me a coward, if you want, but am rather very apprehensive about being very vocal on Internet.

Earlier, I had written about Customer Service in Social Media Era. The reason for social media becoming spitting bag is that it is easy for individuals to do so. Now, who wants to go to a website and fill out forms or call a 10 digit number, only to press a few more. But more importantly, social media has become top priority  within the Customer Interaction Management industry.

I had this conversation with an extreme social (new) media enthusiast. He felt that it is absolutely fine with someone expressing his views in the public space. If I recall correct, he said that every individual is also a consumer. And that one should share their experiences with brands so that others can make an informed decision. Quite valid, I think.

It was widely reported that an employee was asked to leave after he made some reference to an institution in a blog. The employee and the employer both denied that the separation had to do anything with the post. In another case, an employee in a client servicing industry tweeted with negative reference to an organization because its staff bus was being driven rashly. While, his employer and the organization didn't have a relationship in India, they were working together globally. There was no damage in this case, thought it did ruffle some feathers and left a bad taste, I heard.
So, what is the desired behavior? Should companies monitor an employee's online avatar? Can social media acts of employees be considered exclusive of his work area behavior?  

As I mull over these points, I am reminded of this profound quote from the blockbuster Spiderman about power and responsibility. I still remain confused.

Many companies, today, have evolved behavioural guidelines for employees. While I have not seen one, myself, I think it would certainly be drafted in such a way that it covers any liability arising due to employees' net act. On a side note, have you read any Sexual Harassment policy? Gives me jitters!

And, oh yes, Shashi Tharoor and Lalit Modi will go down in the history for being two people who lost their jobs due to Twitter, whether directly or indirectly. Now, I am mighty scared.
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