Worlds Collide: Where Does Professional Stop & Personal Begin?


First Ill look at Jennys vacation photos and then make sure Mike isnt posting about politics again.

First I'll look at Jenny's vacation photos and then make sure Mike isn't posting about politics again.

Technology has done a lot of good, but one of the consequences of our hyper-connected, always on world has been the encroachment of work on personal time.

Who among us hasn’t checked email on a vacation day? In fact, don’t most companies expect it? Who among us doesn’t have their Blackberries and iPhone in their coat pockets on Saturdays? Who hasn’t dialed into a conference call at night or very early in the morning? Does anybody really leave work at 5 p.m. anymore? Is it even possible?

Now comes social networking to blur the line even further. Is your Twitter account a professional or personal one? Or both? Are you connected to both friends and family and colleagues and customers on Facebook? Should your LinkedIn profile be about your professional experience or help to promote the products and services of your company?

These are big questions – and none of them really have answers yet. All of this is so new. That’s why a recent survey by Deloitte LLP called “Social Networking and Reputational Risk in the Workplace” is so fascinating to read.  This is from the executive summary:

“This enhanced world of connectivity is also rapidly blurring the lines between professional and private lives.  And while the openness of these new communications tools creates great opportunities, they can cause ethical dilemmas for individuals and present many challenges for businesses that can leave brands exposed and vulnerable.”

Trying to find the dividing line between work and play is going to be very difficult.  Most companies are similar to the Washington Post, which recently released a social media policy for its editors and reporters that read in part:

“When using social networking tools for reporting or for our personal lives, we must remember that Washington Post journalists are always Washington Post journalists.”

Don’t all companies expect that?  Don’t you represent your company all the time?  The vice president for marketing at a technology company can’t very well make his Twitter account professional from 8:30 a.m. to at 5:30 p.m. and then revert it to a personal account in the evenings.  It doesn’t work that way.  The VP has to understand that his actions and his words will reflect on his company even if he says them on a Sunday afternoon.

Here are some of the findings from the Deloitte survey that caught my attention:

  • 74 percent of employees surveyed say it’s easy to damage a company’s reputation on social media
  • 58 percent of executives agree that reputational risk and social networking should be a board room issue, but only 15 percent say it actually is.
  • 53 percent of employees surveyed said their social networking activity are none of their employers’ business
  • 40 percent of executives disagreed and 30 percent said they informally monitor social networking sites
  • 61 percent of employees don’t care that their employers are monitoring their social networking profiles and say they won’t change their behavior

But perhaps the most amazing statistic is that 55 percent of executives say their companies don’t have an official policy or guidelines dictating how employees should be using social networks.

How about your company?  Does it have a social media policy?  Does your company have a strategic plan for using social media or are they just winging it?

What are you thoughts about the dividing line between professional and personal on social networks?  Do you even consider your boss and colleagues when posting online?

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