Social Networking at Work Is a Major Risk with Large Costs

The Ethics Resource Center (ERC) has been conducting nationally representative surveys of ethical attitudes, knowledge, and beliefs in the US workforce since 1994. Its latest comprehensive report, 2011 National Business Ethics Survey (NBES) of Social Networkers: New Risks and Opportunities at Work, included a series of questions about social networks and the people who use them. The intriguing findings on this subject led ERC to perform a follow-up survey in 2012 that focused on employees' social networking activities. The resulting report, National Business Ethics Survey of Social Networkers (NBES-SN), found that the emergence of social networking has serious implications for the workplace. ERC believes "social networking is affecting the way work gets done, reshaping ideas about transparency and confidentiality, and even altering attitudes about the type of conduct that is acceptable in the workplace."
 
The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) provided an indication of the importance of social networking to financial markets on April 2, 2013, when it announced that companies can use social media outlets, such as Facebook and Twitter, to report key market-moving information to the general public. These actions comply with Regulation Fair Disclosure (Regulation FD) as long as companies inform investors which social media outlets will be used.
 
According to the NBES-SN, "Social networking is now the norm, and a growing number of employees spend some of their workday connected to a social network." In 2011, three-quarters of American workers at all levels reported that they belonged to one or more social networks. The 2012 report notes that the proportion is higher today. Contrary to popular belief, young workers aren't the only ones using social networks. While the rate for eighteen- to forty-five-year-olds was 83 percent, participation by those in the forty-five- to sixty-three-year-old group reached 67 percent.
 
A November 2013 presentation by The Infographic Show reported that 67 percent of people use social networks when they're supposed to be working. Analysis of demographic factors in the NBES-SN, including gender, management level, intent to stay, education, union status, and compensation status (hourly or salaried), confirms that the population of social networkers closely mirrors the overall working population in the United States. The issue showing the greatest difference between a social networker and the US workforce as a whole is tenure. Fewer social networkers have either short (less than one year) or long (eleven years or more) tenure at their employer.
 
The top social networks that the largest percentages of employees use are Facebook (95 percent), Twitter (43 percent), Google+ (37 percent), LinkedIn (37 percent), Pinterest (23 percent), MySpace (21 percent), and a personal blog (14 percent).

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