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Legal and ethical analysis
The world today has widely accepted the diverse influences that have been brought about by innovation in technology more so the prevalence of its application in nearly every aspect of our day to day lives. The internet, smart phones, computers and email are not only indispensible in social communication but are also viewed as critical towards business success. Innovations in technology have been embraced by business and organisations the world over as the world contracts in the age of information and communication as they seek to expand, consolidate and streamline their regional and global operations.
This essay seeks to ethical implications, legal issues as well as challenges facing both employees and employers with regard to the use of social media in the workplace. The discussion in this paper seeks to provide a critical analysis on the use of social media in the work place, address arguments for and against the use of social media in the workplace. Based on known legal and ethical principles as well as theories proposing possible solutions for business management will be comprehensively addressed with regard to social media in the workplace.
2.0 Social media
Social media has revolutionised the way people are able to keep in touch with each other. Social media has effectively accorded the masses easy and readily applicable means with which family members, colleagues, friends, and co-workers can communicate with one another in real time and in commentary. Almost every organization in the world today is making the best out of social media with respect to management, marketing, logistics and human resource related activities.
More so, social media has widened the work place concept such that there is no clear distinction of a work place. Internet technology coupled with social media as an innovation of the same, there is virtually no boundary as to public or private information or home and the work place. Telecommuting is one such way with which people working for the same organization can hold real time meetings while being at different locations.
Social media’s application in both the personal and business environments suggest that sensitive, intimate and more so personal information is stored in these online accounts and websites. This has compelled job applicants, legal system, employees, and employers, to be concerned with continued advancements in technology, development of social media and the challenges facing the contemporary workplace as a result of social media’s prevalence.
2.1 Defining social media
Social media can be described as being amorphous in nature with boundless platforms which tend to take up different forms. In general, social media involves internet networks established as web based sites. According to Hudson and Roberts (2012), social media is defined as an electronic form of communication allowing users to interact with the other users as well as the creators of the social media website. Smith (2012) on the other hand defines social media as the terminology applied to describe the use of technology such as smart phones and computers to allow for social interaction through words, audio, video or pictures in a highly interactive fashion.
Therefore, social media enables people with common interests to form interactive social relations through a variety of means be they pictures, words, videos or audio messages. Each user has his or her discrete account which can only be accessed using specific usernames and secret passwords. A user can contact another with a similar account such that they can communicate with each other after logging in into a specific website hosting both users. There are numerous social media networking sites the world over, but the most popular include
Facebook, Tweeter, LinkedIn, MySpace and You Tube. LinkedIn was established in 2003 to help professionals in any field to interact, network, advertise, market and search for employment opportunities. Facebook was established in 2004 and is by far the most popular social sire dedicated to friends, family, workers and acquaintances to share personal messages, thoughts, events, pictures, videos and audios among people who know each other on Facebook. On the You Tube website, people share videos such that one can upload a video for others to watch and give comments on the same. Twitter on the other hand is a social network site allowing friends, family, coworkers and even businesses to relate with one another through tweets. Tweets are short messages through which members use to communicate with each other on trending issues.
2.2 Social media’s influence on employers and employees
Employers today use social media networks for employee recruitment, screening, and even investigating prospective as well as current employees. Employers have been known to require login names as well as passwords from potential and current employees in order to know more about these purposes and whether they conform to a business’ strategies.
The available literature material suggests that employers do indeed use social networking site screen potential employees during recruitment exercises. A study conducted by Jatana, Sandoval and Glyer (2012) showed that from all participants queried more than 44% of employers used social; media in the screening of potential employees. The study also showed that nearly 40% of the employers in the study indicated that they failed to offer people employment opportunities based on data found in their social media accounts. Facebook was found out to be the most popular social media site used by the employers to screen applicants while nearly 8% of employers confirmed looking into applicants Tweeter accounts in determining whether or not to offer applicants employment contracts. According to Jatana et al (2012), the main reasons employers failed to offer employment to applicants was with respect to offensive pictures, alcohol and drugs use and offensive remarks made on social media regarding past employers.
Employees on the other hand are known to use working hours visiting social network sites which in most cases against company policy. According to Jatana et al (2012), an average employee is in most cases known to use at least two working hours daily visiting social media sites for individual reasons, In 2009, Jatana et al (2012) collected data that showed that nearly 80% of all employees with Facebook accounts logged in during working hours. Companies attempt to limit the use of company hours in any other way other than work related activities as this consequently leads to a decrease in employee productivity. However, social media has served the labour market well by creating employment opportunities both directly and indirectly.
In a survey conducted by Abril, Levin and Del Riego (2012) aimed at determining social media prevalence, social media accessibility to employees, company policy and attitudes regarding online privacy provided vital information on the subject. 2500 undergraduate students from America and Canada participated in the study. 94% of the students were in the 18 to 24 years age bracket representing both genders in equal measure. Nearly 68% of them were employed though less than 10%were in full time employment. 92% of the students indicated there preference for Facebook while 72% of them reported to have activated privacy settings on their accounts to restrict outside access on their profiles.
Over 80% of the students responded, indicating that they were not aware of employer social media policy while some indicated that they were not subject to such policies. Of the less than 20% respondents who claimed to be aware of such company policies reported that the policies were ineffectual and compliance poor (Abril, Levin & Del Riego, 2012).
75% of the students in employment claimed that they strongly objected employers’ tendencies to monitor social media use during working hours or the tendency to access employee profiles on social media. They referred to such policies as being quite inappropriate. 56% of the students considered employers’ practice of screening applicants through the use of social media profiles without their consent as being extremely inappropriate. 32% of the students in the survey worked for employers who did not have social media policies in the work place. This group was of the opinion that such policies effectively banned employees the access to social media while at work. However, some indicated that some of the social media policies in the workplace simply prohibited employer association with employees on social media for example posting the employer’s name on social media.
3.0 Legal considerations
3.1 Constitutional Law
There some significant constitutional concerns which pop up with regard to social media and public employment. The US Federal Constitution offers federal employees rights which can be asserted afainst yhe US government.