Should Employers Silence Their Staff?

prevented from using twitter or facebookThis comes about from a high profile news story this morning about Manchester United banning their players from social networking sites, leading to some of them having to delete twitter and Facebook profiles.  But it has been raised in various guises before in relation to everyday professions.  Should employers be able to control what their staff say outside of work time, on the basis they could reveal details about their companies activities.  In this case Manchester United have done so to ensure that all communication can be done through official channels (i.e. so they can control it!) and their circumstance is slightly different to an everyday company.  Football is high profile and the press are all looking for an easy story that can be gleaned from 140 characters.

But what about in the real world?  Should companies be able to enforce their employees off social networking sites?  And more importantly is it in their interest to do so?  I would argue that this level of control is likely to produce rebellion rather than compliance.  Perhaps not for the multimillionaire footballers who have so much to lose, but from the normal employee.  After all, it wouldn’t take much for them to set up a fake profile in a different name and start tweeting even more negative stories as a result of the ban.

I think it is in a company’s interest to let employees have their freedom of speech, and only addressing should there be isolated instances of abuse or misuse.  By all means put a fair usage policy in place to give them some guidelines to work to and make sure you monitor what is being said, but putting complete bans in place is only going to produce more problems than it solves.

Similar debates range about extra curricular activities such as moonlighting, but I’ll leave the final word on that to Judith Lewis – If Your SEO Is Not Moonlighting, Fire Them