As with most employee privacy issues, this is a simple case of needing to balance the rights of employees with the consequences for the organization. Discuss your arguments using ideas from ethical theories and stakeholders theory.
` Cyberspace has presented a great chance for people to interact and share personal details. The private information that employees make public through online forums or rather social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and numerous internet blogs is utilized by many potential employers, current employers and recruiters seeking further information regarding their employees(Dupree, 2006,P.32). It is worth noting that when individuals opt to use social networking sites for both professional and personal purposes, issues emerge pertaining the nature and extent of the shared information. Whereas some social networkers have tight control on information about themselves, others provide full access to anyone on the internet.
The social networking has blurred the preconceived information limits, and emergence of new issues that managers have no experience in. The ethical decisions that were once guided by legal, moral and social principles are no longer sufficient resulting to surfacing of ethical dilemmas. One of the core issues is employee surveillance. Many employers argue that this is the only they can monitor their employees in order to foster character and integrity of the firm and to protect the interests of customers, fellow employees and other third parties. Employee surveillance brings forth a dilemma in the code of ethics in firms as advancements in the social networking platform have created avenues to markets, with little or no agreement on which practices observe ethics and which do not(Nord, 2006, P.12). The underlying theme in advancements in Social Media is the invasion of privacy. Most of the employees consider that their actions outside and inside work as well in their private time are their business only. Animosity and mistrust crop up when the employers begin to delve into ones personal life. Some policies may seem beneficial and significant but there is a fine line between what information that should remain private and what information employers should be privy to.
Privacy, to some extent, is a right that many people misuse or rather take for granted. The social network is challenging this right and as more advancements are made, the need for privacy will continue to diminish. Some social media platforms like MySpace and Facebook are open to public with photos, correspondence, gender, demographic profiles and pastime activities. Human resource management policies and practices have not kept abreast with the great use and abuse of social networking sites used for background checks, job searches and employee surveillance. Many employers these days are receiving a greater number of resumes; they have stakeholder obligations to make certain that they are hiring qualified employees and that they have sufficient information on who they are hiring(Rudin,2000, P.12). The stakeholder theory that stipulates how stakeholders or managers should view the purpose and objectives of organization on some ethical standard in a way justifies online employer surveillance. The employers strive to guard a firm’s reputation jealously by ensuring their employees are sensitive to what information they publicize about the organization. Whatever content that employees post online can reflect negatively or positively on themselves or the firm. Professionals that have clear understanding of the “proper and reasonable use” of the information contained on the social networks are better set to face the ethical issues that arise and note the strategies for appropriate use. The greatest challenge for Human Resources Management is how to monitor and engage online employee behavior in a legal, reasonable and ethical way or manner (Timm, 2008,P.19).
Employees as they engage in social network are required the ethical principle of rights approach. This approach cites that ethical action is the one that protects best and respect the moral rights of parties affected. Under EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) policy, employees are protected from unlawful harassment and discrimination where even prying of information in the social media is unethical. Use of social media, particularly creates awareness of an employee’s protected characteristics like sexual orientation, political activities, marital status, marital status and religious affiliation. The easy access to the social network by employers presents significant EEO compliance issues. The information that is accessed may bring about discrimination or bias against employees. Even if the acquiring of the employee information on social media is not purposeful, the employers will be forced to tackle the significance of having obtained such information(Flynn, 2005, P.19). This may be uncovered or disclosed in the routine background check of a current employee or potential hire. To avoid EEO compliance issues from arising especially in the recruitment process employers are urged not to do online searches, train someone internally or outsource the hiring process.
Younger workers have a different attitude towards work than older workers, including a different attitude towards privacy, responsibility and commitment. If they wish to use social networking sites to discuss themselves and their jobs, then it is alright for employers to use these sites to glean information about them. Discuss your arguments with appropriate legislations, Acts, theories etc.
The conflict between the young and old generation has been linked to perceived decline in work ethic. The generation X has been branded the “slacker” generation with many employers complaining that young workers are not committed to their jobs and only worker the required hours and little more. The young employees view work with less formality and tend to operate on very strict terms. They view jobs as a way of earning money and no more to that. The young generation however has its positive attributes too such as more ambition and self-confidence compared to their elderly counterparts (Friedman, 2007).
The misuse of the internet has become a huge problem to most business. Many employees, particularly the young spend much of their company time interacting with peers on the social network. This group of employees has been taunted as reckless and less knowledgeable on the fine line between sensitive and public information that can be shared out. The information shared out in the social network can at times taint an organizations image. The youthful workers might deem it as normal or proper but in the real sense they might be exposing their employer firms whether in a subtle or outright manner. The levels of responsibility differ in age, with the youthful personnel having a tendency not to take proper charge of their roles and dependability(Joinson, 2006, P.56).
In the case of Nestle in March 2011 a youthful employee who was managing the company’s Facebook page posted comments that were rather offensive in response to negative statements. This portrayed total irresponsibility on the part of the employee who violated the principle of integrity thereby provoking a consumer hostile response. This prompted calls to boycott Nestle by the general public and increased criticism trained on the company. This is just an example of the employee irresponsibility. Alternatively, personnel might post negative sentiments about his or her organization in a social platform bringing about unfair and biased perception of the firm (Peslak, 2012, P.75).
The employers, through social media policy, can provide employees with guidance on how to address the ethical challenges. The policy must be consistent with the organization’s policy on ethics and integrate the existing policies centering on communication. This policy would provide direction on personnel’s personal use of social media and the use of social media on behalf of the organization by the employee. The policy also includes issues such as online bullying and harassment, and employees’ right to privacy. This policy makes it clear that a company’s personnel are not judged for expressing opinions or other personal activities as long as they are in the boundaries of the law. The employees could also be highly advised on using security settings on the many social media platforms that they engage in such as Facebook and Twitter. This guidance emphasizes the desire for the employees to internalize and reflect on their individual responsibility to the company when using social media. These guidelines should be regularly reviewed and employees sufficiently informed of any changes and development in the social media and its use.
An effective social network policy should be developed through dialogue and engagement between its employer and its personnel. The dialogue is particularly important for organizations deciding on the issue of whether to or not to monitor employees’ use of social network. This is essential in ensuring that the policy is fairly acceptable, reasonable and understood by both parties. Citing EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) policy, many employees are protected from discrimination which might even emanate from their engagements on the social network. The EEO policies might not hold in the case of youthful employees who are reckless and irresponsible when sharing information to the public domain. The discrimination and probable gleaning of information by the employers on these employees is right as the employer is working on the greater stakeholder interests which are incorporated in the stakeholder’s theory. The employer, in such a scenario, can be said to be working to avert any embarrassment and misrepresentation of the organization’s stand.
Rather than seeing the use of social networking sites by employees as an employee-versus-employer, win-lose situation, a progressive employer will turn it into a win-win situation. Discuss, drawing on ideas such as pluralism and unitarism, strategic HRM, relational psychological contracts, high commitment HRM, human capital and knowledge management.
The social networking sites can be used positively by the employees and employees for a number of reasons. The social media can offer a platform for the organization to gain raw feedback from its clientele. The organization can use this feedback so as to improve on their products (Chao,1998, P.23). The social network offers an advertising chance for many companies’ products and services. The company gets a chance to inform its clients on new products and services hitting the market. It helps spread word about the company and its products and services to more people online, dramatically boosting the brand recognition. The social network also humanizes the organization by not confining communication to traditional ways. This is due to the fact that in social media interaction with the public is heightened and happens in real-time. It also means that the firms have grassroots in real-time and respond to unforeseen events rapidly. The acquisition of contacts database is another merit for using the social network. This happens through to the interaction between the organization and the social networking clients. The last benefit of the social media platform to an organization is the fact it boosts trusts and loyalty from the general public for allowing feedback through the interactive forums (Lane, 2003, P. 39).
The use of social network can translate a win-win situation for employers and employees if proper policies of engagement are put into place. The firm that knows and understands the power and merits of social media can take initiative and employ a unitarism approach. Unitarism approach is based on the human resources managerial position which assumes that everyone in a firm is a team member with a common or unified purpose (Miller, 2000, P.31). The unitarist view postulates the harmonization of roles and objectives between managers and employees. This approach can be used by the employers to empower employees to act as the firms agents while engaging in the social media. The employers or managers and employees can formulate fresh ideas in the quest of making public relations for the firm. This can happen effectively if the firm has a clear social media policy that outlines the procedure of engagement between the firm as a unit and the general public. The firm should make a common practice of creating social networking profiles to advertise and publicize their goods and services. So as to avoid misleading the general public, the employees or personnel can declare that they are acting on behalf of the organization for example if they are posting product reviews on the social media. The clarity in policy on the unitarist approach in the social media by workers and employers will be able to counter the blur between the ethics and personal opinions which might spur challenges and risks as the company tries to venture into the social media. The unity in the social media approach will ensure that firms have a psychological contract between employers and employees which will translate in mutual beliefs and functions as they engage with the clientele base online (Knights, 2006, P.61).
The pluralist approach on the other hand will ensure that in the social engagement that both parties, namely, employers and employees, have different roles as they represent their firm on the social media. The employer can be tasked with the role of moderating and overseeing what and how the employees are engaging with the general public. This will ensure that possible risks of employees deviating on the social media are averted by all means. The strategic human resource management if employed in the firm as it ventures in the social media will ensure that the business social network policy strategy is aligned with that of the human resources to ensure that the firms goal of engaging and satisfying its stakeholders(the public) is achieved. The strategy by itself should be a well thought out plan that should incorporate as earlier stated the efforts of both the employees and the employers. The social network interaction by the firm as a strategy should be in line and integrated with the core values and objectives of the firm in order for it to be termed effective.
The involvement of employees in the social media on behalf of the firm ensures that the firm incorporates high commitment as in Human Resources Management. This is translated through the incorporating employees in information sharing and enhancement of the worker voice in the firm’s affairs as it engages with the clientele base online. The knowledge management relationship with human capital comes into play where tech-savvy employees will be more indispensable to a firm that appreciates the power of social media as it seeks to achieve its objectives. Knowledgeable employees will ensure a firm’s online policy is well implemented and modified in time in order to meet the needs of its clientele as it seeks to achieve the organizational goals. The human capital that is well-aware of the benefits that come with social networking will ensure that the set policy is implemented effectively and efficiently.
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