Personal vs. Professional: Where Do We Have Employees Draw the Line?

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There used to be a clear divide between personal and professional interests. Now, for employees at all levels, the separation isn’t quite so black and white.

Lives inside and outside the workplace have always intersected to some extent. But it’s more than just occasional overlap now – it’s integration.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

I was walking through the office this week and heard hysterical laughter. I looked over and saw a member of my sales team doubled over at their desk. This person’s monitor was plainly visible, and it was clear that they were logged into a Twitter account. I figured this person was taking a quick break, laughing at a joke from a friend – certainly nothing to do with their job at that particular moment.

Later in the day, I had the opportunity to ask them what they were laughing about. The answer was not one I was expecting.

Yes, they were joking around – but with a prospect. They were going back and forth on Twitter about something that happened on a TV show they both watch. A meeting is set for next week and this person was building a relationship.

This got me thinking …

Big Opportunity – Big Consequences

The same way that smartphones have blurred the lines on traditional business hours, social networks are breaking down barriers between personal and professional interests.

We follow and communicate with friends, family, clients and prospects in unison from personal Twitter accounts and Facebook pages without thinking twice. Relationships and new business opportunities regularly grow from social media connections. But they can be damaged just as easily.

Employees are a company’s most important asset – and one of its biggest liabilities.

The role of the employer

In a recent poll of working Americans, only 31 percent said their employer had a specific social media policy in place. And results were largely split on whether employers should hold employees accountable for posting inappropriate content to personal social networking sites (46 percent said companies should hold employees responsible, 42 percent said they should not ).

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Social media is an incredibly powerful communications tool. This is an undeniable fact.

People share real-time thoughts and feelings as they engage with friends, followers and online communities. And because most employed adults spend the majority of their day working, they are naturally going to talk about some work-related experiences online.

So the big question is this: Should we monitor our employees’ social media use?

What they do, post, and share through personal channels can obviously affect business. But where do we draw the line?

Work-life integration has created a conversion of personal and professional. Companies need to acknowledge this with employees and clearly communicate what is expected, what is acceptable, and what is not.

The line between personal and professional is not completely lost, but it’s being redrawn.


2 Comments on “Personal vs. Professional: Where Do We Have Employees Draw the Line?

  1. This article makes some excellent points, including the fact that the lines have blurred and need to be redrawn.  Social Media is an important business tool, as well as a valued personal tool.  I think with the prevalence of the medium, businesses have an obligation to teach people to be responsible with the brand in their use of social media. 

  2. Great article and some interesting things to think about. Social media, smartphones, and the rise of being able to log in from anywhere, at any time make the lines between personal and professional blurrier. Job seekers can even interview with hiring managers right from their phones using online video! The demarcation between on and off hours is blurring more and more with each passing day. Most of your employees will use some form of social media and it’s important for companies to develop a clear policy so there are no misunderstandings and hurt feelings.

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