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Facing Facebook & Social Networking Sites at Work

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May 27, 2009

A recent survey reveals something most of us probably already know – using social networking sites at work drum up privacy and ethics issues and that many organizations don’t have it figured out yet.

Consider this: 53 percent of employees said their social networking pages are none of their employers’ business, according to a 2009 Ethics & Workplace Survey released by Deloitte.

In contrast, 60 percent of the executives surveyed believe they have a right to know how employees are portraying themselves and their organizations online.

Sounds like a communication breakdown.

Still, 78 percent of those executives say there is nothing unethical about expressing oneself online and 55 percent of employees agree.

But who draws the line between what’s professionally appropriate and personal expression?

The survey shows that there is great reputational risk associated with social networking as 74 percent of those surveyed believe it is easy to damage a brand’s reputation via sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. At companies with clear social networking guidelines and policies, this percentage goes up to 80 percent, compared to 70 percent at companies with no policy.

Additionally, nearly half of the employees surveyed say even if their companies had clearly defined guidelines, it would not impact their online behavior.

With all these differing opinions, what should business leaders do? Deloitte suggests emphasizing culture, values and ethics in an effort to decrease risk around online social networking sites.

The question remains: how exactly do you do that successfully?

What do you think? To read about how accounting firms are addressing social networking sites, check out my story, "Social Networking @ Work."

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