The social networking workplace conundrum

You're not allowed to use Facebook at work...

A conversation yesterday with someone whose employer blocks access to Facebook and other sites on the social web highlights a real conundrum with such bans, as Scott Adams perceptively illustrates in yesterday’s Dilbert comic strip.

Many employers cite time-wasting as a prime reason for such bans. Some worry about security risks and the threat of bringing in viruses into the corporate environment. Yet Alice in the Dilbert strip spotlights a flip side to such bans when she thinks about what she’ll do when not in the workplace.

And, broadly, that reflects what I heard yesterday in the conversation I mentioned. Not the exact words, but the clear meaning.

I wonder how may others think and act in similar fashion when old workplace control practices collide with newer behaviours and expectations of how you spend your time at work when “at work” has such an evolved meaning today.

Are bans worthwhile? I don’t believe they are at all, other than in workplaces where there is a very clear and obvious reason (hospitals, for example, and even then, an outright ban may not be the best way to address the issue).

For some years, my friend and podcasting colleague Shel Holtz has been at the vanguard of highlighting the issue, arguing a strong case for pros outweighing cons when it comes to enabling employee use of social media in the workplace – take a look at StopBlocking.org (it does wear its heart on its sleeve) and the resources there.

So the Pointy-Haired Boss thinks he has a win. I don’t think so – no one has a win in a situation like that. Everyone loses.

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About Neville Hobson

Entrepreneurial business communicator with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Co-host of the weekly business podcast For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report. Also an occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Follow me on Twitter and Google+.