#shrm11 - Melinda Riechert - Social Networking in the Workplace

by Matthew Stollak on Saturday, July 2, 2011

When I looked at the title of the presentation, "Social Networking in the Workplace: Untangling the Web of Employer Risks, Employee Rights, and Management Best Practices"  and the person presenting the session was a lawyer, my hackles were immediately raised.  Would this be a balanced presentation on social media, or one dominated by the dangers that would immediately strike fear in the audience about these tools.   Unfortunately, the session was the latter.

I have no doubt Ms. Riechert is an excellent lawyer.   She had a firm grasp of the case law; many of the audience members were truly engaged in her talk, and laughed at many of her more light-hearted remarks.

She discussed what is social media.  She discussed the rights of employees in terms of working conditions, whistleblowing, privacy, employee monitoring, and legal off-duty behavior.  Similarly, she discussed the risks to employers from social media, including damage to reputation, loss of priviliged information, defamation, violation of FTC rules, and loss of employee productivity.  She concluded with a discussion of management best practice to minimize risks and how to structure a social media policy.

So, what was/were the issue(s)?  First, her social media understanding was limited, by her own admittance. She noted that she signed up for Twitter only recently, and she was unfamiliar with many social media tools that might, for example, restrict protected information during the recruiting process.   Further, if I were a neophyte in regards to social media usage, any thoughts of leveraging the benefits would have been thrown out the window.  For example...

*She mocked Tony Hsieh and Zappos social media policy, which is to be real and use your best judgment.
*She advised supervisors not to friend subordinates on Facebook
*She warned against giving a LinkedIn endorsement to a colleague

After a SHRM Conference that seemingly embraced social media, from it being mentioned in the keynote addresses of Tony Hsieh and Arianna Huffington to the vibrancy of Social Media Lounge, this session was certainly a sour way to end a conference after such positivity.  And, who knows how many potential voices were silenced because of the cautionary approach endorsed by Ms. Riechert?

One comment

it is what lawyers do..hate that most have to present that message that way. They do need to stop.

by Michael on July 2, 2011 at 3:31 PM. #

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