Social Media and Ethical Workplace Behavior May Not Mix
Recently, I wrote about a study which found that the more people rely on technology to communicate, the greater the potential there is for them to be, let’s say, less than forthcoming.
Taking this concept a step further, could those little white lies lead to other questionable ethical practices by active users of social media? Are technologically savvy communicators more prone to exhibit less than ethical behaviors, and if so, what could that mean for businesses?
According to new research presented by the Ethics Resource Center, the answers to those questions have some troubling implications, both from the employer and employee perspective. In the ERC’s most recent National Business Ethics Survey (NBES), which is conducted every other year and is recognized nationwide as a “barometer” of workplace ethics, those who say they are actively engaging in social media also tend towards somewhat unethical behaviors.
For example, based on responses to the most recent NBES:
- Active social media users (those who spend at least 30 percent of their workday in one of the social networks) admitted to being much more likely to bend a workplace rule, such as keeping copies of confidential work documents or making a personal purchase with a company credit card, compared to employees who do not engage as frequently in social media.
- The social media aficionados also divulged that they might share “less than flattering” information about their coworkers or employers with their network at a higher rate than social media novices.
Interestingly enough, social networkers were also more outspoken on the survey when it came to their employers’ ethical behaviors, as well. Forty-two percent of the active social media users (versus only 11 percent of those who are not) reported feeling pressured to compromise standards on the job. Moreover, 56 percent of the active, compared to 18 percent of the non-active social media users, indicated that they had experienced retaliation for reporting something at work.
“It appears that as people become more accustomed to sharing information that was once considered ‘private’ across social networks, the tolerance level for questionable behavior in the workplace has increased,” ERC President Patricia J. Harned, Ph.D. said. “ERC will continue to monitor behaviors of those who actively use social networking to determine how these individuals impact the broader ethical cultures of their places of employment.”
Many more insights from the survey, including how the lingering recession impacts ethical behavior, are available here.