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The Social Media Paradox: Hurting Your Career by Helping Your Company

It’s social media week all over DC and other major cities this week which basically means a ton of FREE great conferences and workshops. I’d encourage you to check them out here: http://socialmediaweek.org/washingtondc/

With all that said I attended the Ethics in Social Media workshop this afternoon and there were some eye popping numbers. First off 11% of employees are what are considered Active Social Media Users. That classification basically encompasses everyone that is on a social network for 30% or more of their work day. Coming form a social company that number seemed low to be but that’s beside the point.

Where the numbers really start to get interesting is when it comes to whistle-blowing. The Active Social Media User is 3 times more likely to call out wrong doings in the work place and that’s anything from too long of a lunch break all the way to stealing money from the company or sexual harassment. While some of the whistle-blowing might be buzz kill I would venture to say that having a culture where these things are called out an aired is something that management and especially HR would like. Is this sense Active Social Media User are pushing the workplace to a better more transparent place.

Also Active Social Media Users are 42% more likely to say nice things about co-workers and actively push their companies brand online.

The numbers continue to get more interesting: Active Social Media User are 3 times more likely to experience retaliation from other co-workers and the company itself. This extends from being passed over for promotions, pay reductions, or even firing. Obviously the more you blow the whistle the more you open yourself up to retaliations but is that really fair. No it’s not but until we institutionalize whistle- blowing that’s just the way it is.

So what’s the verdict? Are social media user just a bunch of complainers? Or are they people being unfairly persecuted for pushing the ballot forward?

What’s the line between doing what’s right and doing what’s best for your career?

All information used in this blog is attributed to the report by the ERC: ethics.org/nbes

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Andrew Krzmarzick

Interesting report out, Stephen. I’m not sure I completely understand the correlation between the behavior of being an active social media user and the propensity to call out colleagues for inappropriate activity. Is it because social media users are more likely to divulge personal information, therefore they’re more willing to share information about co-workers? Did they say anything in the workshop about the correlation?

Corey McCarren

Are those “Active Social Media Users” using social media as part of their job or just to kill time? If it’s not part of their job description then maybe that can help explain them being passed over for promotions if people think that they aren’t spending enough time looking busy.

Stephen Peteritas

Andy they didn’t say anything in the numbers about the propensity but basically all the panelists pointed to that same line of thought. Kind of the it’s easy to be a big man behind the computer screen theory.

Terrence (Terry) Hill

It is true that for active Federal employees, there is a lot of risk in participating in social media discussions. Not everyone values freedom of speech and Feds are expected to keep mum about the workplace and never criticize the administration or their organization. We walk a fine line between our urge to share our opinions and the pressure from our agencies not to have opinions.

Kathleen Smith

Within the category of “active social media users” you will have many sub categories: those we are involved in social media personally, those who are using it to support their profession and those who are doing social media as part of their job description. You will then have very distinct lines as to which content is being shared. Many folks have been clear about stating if their “views” are personal or if they are part of their company’s voice, and even then it is tricky. Once you start adding in “whistleblowing” into your shared content realize the social communities do police themselves and you should be prepared for the consequences.

Dorothy Ramienski Amatucci

I agree with Corey. I know a LOT of people who just “play” on SM sites all day. They are posting pics of LOL Cats and clearly not doing work. I also know a few people who are using SM to get the word out about their organizations — or work they are specifically doing for their organizations. I think it’s a balancing act. If you post something on your Facebook wall that has to do with work, no one should give you grief about it. If you are commenting on your friend’s baby pictures during work hours, though, that’s another story.

Dannielle Blumenthal

This is one of those situation where I look at the findings and compare it with my own observations and experiences. Like Robert I would question methodology so it’s more of a conversation-starter.

I do believe that social media makes you more likely to be transparency-oriented and self-expressive. I also think that if you are not well-trained and socialized in behavior appropriate to your agency or organization you can mess up.

Also if you are not careful about separating your social media persona from your work persona you can cause confusion. Not everyone is careful.

There are factors beyond the users’ control that can affect how they are received internally too. I don’t tweet a lot by social media standards but If people don’t tweet at all, to them it can seem that way.

I was watching MIT kids featured on TV recently…they were constantly using multiple devices and avoided much direct face to face interaction. Like they sat together but ignored each other.

In 5 years this whole conversation will be so different…the ones who are not avid social media users and online collaborators will be outside the norm.

Corey McCarren

Dorothy: Definitely. 30% of a workday on social media seems really steep. I mean not for me personally, that would mean I’m not doing my job! I find it hard to imagine that 11% of workers in most organizations have any reason to be on Facebook or Twitter that much in a day, however.