Guidance for Managers on the use of Social Media in the Workplace

The University recognises the capabilities, benefits and opportunities from the use of social media tools within the organisation.

The following guidance is designed to support the effective management of social media within the workplace.

Guidance on the reasonable and appropriate use of Social Media in departments

As the use of social media has become part of many staff members role, it is important as a manager, to define what is considered to be reasonable and appropriate use of social media within your team or department.

If you are currently using social media or if you plan to incorporate its use into team/departmental activities, it is essential that you outline to staff, the agreed principles of usage which are reasonable and appropriate for the team/department.

For instance, you may decide to define which workplace activities can utilise social media, an example might be the ability to use a blog to communicate to the team/department about the progress of a project.

It is anticipated that usage levels may vary over time and it is therefore advisable to communicate regularly with staff to ensure that usage remains at an acceptable level and abides by the set principles of use.

If social media use is not a necessary element of staff roles, then you may decide to inform your staff that reasonable use of personal social media would be during designated breaks and before/after work.

The division between personal and professional use of social media is difficult to define and as such there may be occasions where personal use impacts on the workplace. It is therefore advisable to communicate to staff that any online conduct should not differ from conduct offline.

Addressing inappropriate use of Social Media

Whilst the University would like to encourage the use of social media for the purpose of business related social and communicative activities, it is important to recognise that occasionally it may be subject to misuse.

It is important that any reports of misuse are taken seriously and investigated impartially, thoroughly and promptly.

For serious instances of misuse, which could constitute as misconduct, it is essential that action, via formal procedures, is taken immediately.

For reports of less severe instances of misuse, the following approach is advised:

React Reasonably

Your reaction and subsequent approach should reflect the nature and extent of misuse.

It is important to recognise that it is only natural for staff to chat about work via social media. The majority of the time these comments will be harmless, for instance, “I had a terrible day at work!”.

Problems occur when negative comments become more specific or relevant to the workplace, for instance, “My boss, [Name], is…” or “The University of Sheffield is…”.

It is therefore important to firstly consider what the likely impact to the University or University colleagues, before determining the appropriate action.

Meet Informally/Formally (as appropriate)

For cases of misuse, or for repeated misuse, where there may be consequential issues to address, it is advised that managers meets informally/formally, as appropriate, with the individual to:

  1. Give them the opportunity to explain or clarify the circumstances of the alleged misuse, particularly if comments may have been misrepresented or misinterpreted, before next steps are taken.
  2. Explain why their behaviour is felt to be unreasonable or unacceptable.
  3. Ask them to apologise to anyone who has been upset by the post/comment.
  4. Ask them to remove or withdraw the post/comment, in particularly serious cases.

In cases of excessive usage within working time, managers are advised to meet informally/formally with the individual, as appropriate, to re-define the agreed principles of usage which are reasonable and appropriate for the team/department.