Is The Invasion Of Social Media In Private And Public Sphere Threatening Traditional HR?

During the past few years the use of social media for private and business purposes have exploded. There can hardly be any doubt that the introduction of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and Google+ has brought with it tremendous changes in the way people and businesses relate to each other as well as impacting the way organizational processes are conducted within businesses. In this, Human Resources (HR) departments are no exception. Social media does affect HR as well as relations between staff at a work place.

Like Pandora´s box, HR-departments can now easily access a pool of information about potential and current employees that prior to social media often would have been unavailable.  In some cases this can be legitimate however some search methods such as Facebook´ Graph search has no sense of humour and does not catch irony. If you are really unlucky, past likes and comments might make you appear as a violent psychopath ‘liking’ turtle-eggs for breakfast through a combined Graph search and any hiring manager would have second thoughts about hiring you; perhaps a slight over-exaggeration to prove a point but none the less it is true that personal appearance through social media does not always provide an accurate image of a person, which could lead to unfair recruitment processes if made fact-based by HR.

HR uses information gathered from social media when hiring new staff, but also employees can use the same tools to establish information about colleagues at their work place, which in some cases become unethical. In a way, social media has contributed to a shift from ´bringing work home´ to ´bringing home at work´ - thereby personalizing professional relationships. Colleagues can now “be-friend” each others at Facebook, “like” each others´ activities, dogs, gardens, new shirt, holidays and the last office party - ´dislike´ is not an option provided by Facebook.

So far so good, or is it really? There might also be negative implications following these developmental trends. These might be situations where shared photos and comments are used against you at the workplace, where private images are spread to embarrass you. Where is HR in such situations? Does this all mean that social media has eroded workplace privacy and sidelined HR?

Social media is first and foremost a fantastic communication tool when applied ethically. The intention was never to use it to reveal material one normally treats with discretion, to embarrass your colleagues or attack people you don´t like online. This translates into social media etiquette. No doubt has the revolution of social media challenged traditional HR-policies. No doubt has it made us question whether we are witnessing a positive or negative trend. What we can see emerging is increased attention around the need for legal protection in cases where social media behaviour break the right to privacy, tend towards public harassment, acts of discriminatory nature or otherwise attention perceived negative and humiliating. However, we are not yet at a stage where we enjoy such protection. This requires HR-departments adapting to include challenges the introduction of social media at workplaces have brought with it. In a larger context it involves the general framework ruling the worldwide web.  



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