Ethics Policy and Social Media Use

Most employees are on social networks multiple times each workday.

~ Ethics Resource Center, 2013
In the evolving workplace almost everyone is a social networker. This has serious implications for employers, according to the National Business Ethics Survey of Social Networkers: New Risks and Opportunities at Work, a report recently released by the Ethics Resource Center (ERC), and summarized below.

Ten percent of employees are active social networkers, spending 30% or more of their work time on social networking sites.  Another sixty-two percent of employees are moderate social networkers, spending some work time on social sites.

Most of the time is spent in personal, rather than work-related, pursuits. While most employees engage in passive activity – looking at friends’ photos or twitter feeds, or seeking information, others actively post comments, write blog posts, and share information, often about work.  As the report states:

Workplace “secrets” are no lon­ger secret, and management must assume that anything that happens at work; any new policy, product, or problem, could become publicly known at almost any time.

However social networking also creates opportunities. Many companies use social networking to promote a positive brand externally.  Employees who engage in social networking can be positive advocates for their companies, as well.  Internal use of social networking technology is not as prevalent, but the ERC is of the opinion that:

Creative businesses can also use social networking to their advantage in terms of workplace ethics, using it internally to reinforce company values and build workforce loyalty and cohesion.

The ERC report identifies a number of strategies, including the following four it deems particularly critical.  Companies should, it says:

  • Develop broad-based strategies and social networking policies grounded in ethics and values, not merely compliance, so that employees are able to handle novel situations in an environment that continues to evolve.
  • Establish a social networking policy sooner rather than later and reinforce it with training to reduce ethics risks for employees and management alike. Importantly, rules must reflect today’s realities so that workers are more likely to abide by them.
  • Take advantage of social networking to enhance internal and external com­munications, especially outreach to employees to reinforce the company’s ethics culture.
  • Invite social networkers to help shape social networking policy and to help the ethics/compliance function engage employees through social networking.

Clearly articulated policies, supported by training, monitoring, and enforcement, provide protection on many levels. The National Business Ethics survey data shows that having clear, consistent policies for internet use and social networking results in increased mindfulness about social networking conduct and use.

Ethical Advocate has addressed this topic before, in its October 22, 2012 post “Ethics Policies and Social Media.” Regardless of the source, the message is the same. It is important to address social media use. Ethical Advocate can assist you to define and integrate social media policies into your ethics and compliance program.


Ethics Resource Center (ERC).  National Business Ethics Survey of Social Networkers:  New Risks and Opportunities at Work, July 2013.