Dealing with Facebook-Addicted Employees

Beverly Flaxington

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues.  To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Bev,

Is it reasonable to expect my younger staff to stay off Facebook and their phones, and concentrate on what they need to do to be successful? It is aggravating to see someone’s desk and realize they are online with social media. We are really busy, and they are doing this instead of asking colleagues what else they can do to help them if all of their work is done. Is there anything I can do to get them to unplug and concentrate on our work during work hours?

Walt K., Minneapolis MN

Dear Walt,

You bring up a great multi-generational issue among employees. I am always hesitant to paint any set of people with a broad brush, and I recently facilitated a discussion with customer support representatives from financial advisory firms, all motivate and dedicated younger people in their 20s, but disgusted by colleagues who don’t pick up extra slack and, instead, search websites on their work time. I won’t make broad comments about everyone in the “techie generation.” But, I am well aware that many people (younger and older) don’t want to miss a text or a post during work hours. Many of us have become programmed to be tuned in 24/7 or close to it!

This really is a firm-wide policy issue. In the financial advisory arena, compliance tracks emails and websites, and can limit where and how employees can search from the firm’s computers. So, first of all, make sure your employee manual is clear about what’s acceptable and what’s not. As far as the iPhone or cellphone, you will also have to make it clear that those are off-limits during work hours unless the person is on break or at lunch. I know some advisory firms that do not allow people to take lunch at their desks; this forces staff to take their personal cell phone business elsewhere.

Once you set and communicate policy, you need to have someone cruise through the office and speak to people who are not conforming. You have to remember that using social media is literally a habit for many people – like smoking or chewing gum. They are attached and, in some cases, addicted. You will have to reinforce in order to get this behavior to change. It’s incumbent on you, or the leaders of your firm (if you have an HR department, delegate it to them), to speak to the offenders about what the problem is and what the requirements are.  But this can’t be done until the rules are first made very clear. Of course, be sure you are clear in the interview process about the rules around this too. Don’t wait for the problem to start to try and correct it; instead start at the beginning.

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