More Accounting Tomorrow Posts

Go Ahead, Firewall me!

April 12, 2010

What happens when your firm freaks out and prevents access to social media sites like Twitter and Facebook? Generational expert Rebecca Ryan of Next Generation Consulting has a few ideas. Those who think networking online is the root of all evil may want to sit down.

Hi, Rebecca,

I read the question about using iPods at work. Our firm allows iPods, but now something else has come up: putting up firewalls and forebidding us from accessing social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. What’s up? Our younger employees (I happen to be one) think this is ridiculous. But the guys in charge recently announced that social media sites keep us from being billable, and open us up to lawsuits.

WHAT? It seems like we’re having a generational face-off. What do you recommend?


Firewalled from Facebook (Chicago, Ill.)

Dear Firewalled,

Did this firewall nonsense start after the Inside Public Accounting interview with Nancy Flynn, in the March issue? She scared the bejeezus out of readers saying that (a) Firms have the right to ban any sites they want, and (b) Firms are opening themselves up to breaches of privacy if social media sites are available.

Nancy is an “e-policy expert,” and from what I read in the interview, she seems to have been born on the “Employees-are-harmful-toxins-that-must-be-hermetically-controlled-or-they-will-ruin-your-firm” island.

She does have a point: if your firm hires stupid people who don’t know how to act, talk, or tweet professionally, then policies like Nancy’s probably make sense.(Firewalled, if you work in a firm like this, please start polishing your resume and networking immediately, because your firm won’t last very long.Of course, you’ll have to do it from home, because you probably can’t access LinkedIn from work.)

I have a totally different take on how to get the best from people, and limiting their access to their friend feed is not it. From our research with over 40,000 employees, trust at work is the most important predictor of productivity. Or, as Jason Fried wrote in his new book, Rework, “When you treat people like children, you get children’s work.”

So the real issue is not about firewalling. It is, "What kind of firm are we trying to build and maintain, one that needs layers and layers of policies and policing, or one with high standards for trusting, professional relationships?"

PS: If your firm does enact this firewall business, I suggest all the employees counter with their own "Firewall policy" like, "I will not take your calls or emails after 6 p.m., because that's my personal time."

Comments (1)
Let's all step away from the edge here. It's not an all or nothing deal here, but we need to have both sides be reasonable. Not unlike personal use of a work telephone or personal use of a cell phone, you have to have GOOD JUDGEMENT. The best way to get good judgement is to make some BAD JUDGEMENTS. All of this is a risk management decision anyway, and if you completely avoid risk, you will also completely avoid returns on risks taken.

It's not unlike when you're going through the grocery store wearing sweatpants and a hoodie. As a professional, you're on display all of the time, and should look reasonably presentable all of the time. Social media is no different - if you're posting links to Sam Kinison or Andrew Dice Clay videos on YouTube with a public profile, you're playing with fire.
Posted by bftcpa | Tuesday, April 13 2010 at 6:13PM ET
Add Your Comments:
Not Registered?
You must be registered to post a comment. Click here to register.
Already registered? Log in here
Please note you must now log in with your email address and password.