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Should your staff be allowed to use Facebook and Twitter at work?

“Late last year I was at a dinner with a Board I won’t mention by name. There were roughly 50 people at the event. Tables were pre-assigned and I found myself sitting across from a chap in his mid-50′s whose professional job was an accountant. He worked at a rather large firm as a partner.
…Somehow, the chatter gravitated to Facebook. Our accountant friend chimed in and said, “The partners and I decided this year to ban Facebook. It’s a distraction and too much of a time waster for our associates.””

DAN PONTEFRACT www.danpontefract.com (16 January, 2013)

Dan Pontefract is an author and blogger, one of the many headlining the move to a brave new world of business.

The excerpt from his recent blog post captures a conversation many of us are having these days. This social media thing: is it something employees should be allowed to do at work?

The instinctive default answer is, of course, no. Most business owners and leaders would answer like this: “Facebook at work? No way. Work is for work, not exchanging dumb greetings with your cousins in Australia. Do I allow employees to be visited by their rural relatives? I need to get maximum benefit from what I pay these people. We are a professional company, and we can’t all be Twittering or Friending or whatever, when we’re supposed to be working. Let them do that stuff on their own time.”

Did you find yourself agreeing? Some further questions, then:

First, what else do you ban your employees from doing? Personal visitors and calls? Long lunch breaks? Smoking time? Hanging around the coffee machine too much? And how is that working for you?

Second: Is there nothing you want from social media as a business? Are you really asleep on the huge potential this new way of communicating has for your branding, your marketing, your customer care – and even your internal collaboration?

Third: how exactly will you implement this social media ban? By firewalling your network? Are your staff also banned from using smartphones? Do you collect them at the door, and do you block social media sites on them, too?

Fourth: what exactly is your business model? Are you employing automatons who do as they’re told, ask no questions, have no other life, are obedient at all times? Perhaps then you should ban social media…but why would you need to? Your people sound brain-dead anyway.

Are the clouds parting? I hope so. We have left the world of command-and-control business behind, but some are still refusing to vacate the past and enter the present. If you want to employ the human equivalent of unmanned drones, good luck. The rest of us are looking at social platforms to understand how best to utilize their power and functionality.

In Dan’s words: “Don’t do it. Wake up. Invite yourself to the 21st century. Enjoy this phenomenon called collaboration.”

Consider this: if you allow social media into the company tomorrow, will all your employees immediately shirk off and tweet away all their hours, and leave their work undone? If so, what kind of people have you employed, and what kind of leadership are you displaying, if only banning things gets work done?

Are your customers on Facebook? Are your children on Twitter? Are your future employees on Linked-In? Are your family members sending you snaps on Instagram? Of course they are. So why would you stay off, and force others to stay off? Embrace this thing, open it up, understand it, use it. Set some rules and norms and policies, by all means, but don’t do the banning thing. Some people ban books, too…

Work norms are changing fast. Don’t lock yourself out.

Even if you still hate the idea, you’ll be giving in soon anyway. Archive that.

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