Survey: instructions on the use of social media in working relationships tend to be exceptional
The survey by Greete Kempel who defended her Master's thesis in Communication Management indicated that a public profile in social media functions as an unofficial CV of a candidate for an employer and is often used for additional background check. In the employers' view, an employee is a representative of the establishment when using social media in working as well as private life. However, only a few organisations have officially regulated the use of social media and expressed their expectations to the employees.
The interviews conducted with twelve employers from the public, private and third sector revealed that most employers consider the additional background check of applicants via the social media permissible when the user profile is public.
The wide spread of social media and the ambiguous limits between working and private life have made the use of social media during working hours regular, i.e. people are publishing work-related posts from their private accounts. “All employers found that no definite line can be drawn between working life and private life and that an employee is a figure representing the establishment regardless of the time of day, including in social media,” explained Kempel. The employers presume that the employee should adhere to the enterprise's values and obligations set by the employment contract also in their free time.
The employers included in the survey agreed unanimously that it should be agreed with the employees what is allowed in social media and what is considered misuse. The employers also agreed that as long as there is no code of conduct, the employees should not be sanctioned. “Out of the 12 participating establishments, only a few had instructions for the use of social media. The truth is that the establishments included in the survey do not generally train their employees in the field of social media. This in its turn may be the cause of situations where the employer has had to reprimand an employee on the use of social media and in one case, the employee was fired,” said Kempel.
Kempel emphasises the need for instructions regarding the use of social media in all institutions as one of her main conclusions: “If the employers expect a certain kind of behaviour in social media from its employees, then they have the obligation of notifying the employees and agreeing on a code of conduct.”