American employers have long been nervous about the mix of work and
play on the Internet. Not only could the many distractions available
online waste employee time for which the company is paying, but the Net
is also the gateway to pornography, racially abhorrent content and
And now the boss has something else to deal with online.
So-called social networking sites are all the rage. They hook you up,
to use one popular term, with friends, old school mates and complete
strangers for little chats and bursts of updates about nearly every
part of people's lives.
Most of these exchanges are harmless and
even fun. But it's one thing to tell all about one's family, personal
preferences and leisure-time activities. It's quite another to open
the workplace to the world.
"If I can put up pictures of the
kids," the president of a consulting firm told the Chicago Tribune,
"You can put up pictures from a meeting."
Or talk about
colleagues, complain about conditions, speak ill of the boss or the
company, even disclose trade secrets. Companies that spend millions of
dollars crafting a message and an image don't want a thousand employees
interpreting that message and image a thousand different ways.
most corporations have scrambled to set up guidelines. Some prohibit
any social texting on the job. Others allow it but warn employees of
its dangers and of the consequences of improper online behavior.
other companies say they trust the good judgment of their employees.
They've even encouraged those who text and tweet to plug the company's
products and steer online friends and followers to official company
sites. For these companies, online social media are not a threat, but
a new marketing tool.
Read more of Ted's personal reflections and stories from the road on his blog, Ted Landphair's America.