HR and Social Media Spying

Should HR use social media as a means of investigating the character of current employees?  Many HR professionals use social media for recruiting; however,  is it okay to view existing employees facebook pages?  What are the ethical considerations surrounding this issue and how are most human resource professionals responding to this question?

Without a doubt, social media has become a force to be reckoned with and another tool for recruiters to seek out and connect with potential job candidates.  HR professionals are in the business of understanding their human capital.  Making the best hiring decision starts with using every possible available resource to them in order to understand the skills and CHARACTER that a potential hire will bring to the workplace.  If facebook, twitter, or any of the social media sites for that matter are the best means of determining the character and integrity of that applicant, then why not utilize it?

The elephant in the room is whether or not it is okay to peer into existing employee’s facebook pages or tweets.  Many HR professionals are insistent that it is not the business of HR to snoop into the personal lives of its current  employees and that we should look at the INTEGRITY of  ourselves for snooping in such a manner into the private affairs of individuals rather than attempting to investigate the integrity of character or personal activities by reading into their off the cuff remarks on twitter or the reading into the picture of them with a martini in hand last weekend.  Those who use social media outlets in this manner are often dubbed  “HR voyeurs” by their colleagues.

While some companies have created policies that strictly prohibit the use of social media to “spy” on individuals, others simply don’t discuss it.  The general consensus among HR professionals is that social media is a part of the personal affairs of an applicant or employee and is therefore, not the business of the company.  However, there are some examples where the temptation to “spy” can be great.  For example, when an employee is suspected of using drugs and is exhibiting unusual behavior in the workplace, it could be said that their behavior outside of work is effecting their performance at work.  Is this a situation where peering into the personal realm should be allowed?

It serves as a sharp reminder to everyone that participates in any way on the web that your information can be viewed by anyone and that there will always be those who will take the liberty of peering into your personal life.  There will always be a small percentage of HR voyeurs lurking in business environments; even if they don’t admit it to their colleagues.   The question remains, how distinct should we view the realm of the professional working world and the personal?  Are there certain situations in which it is justified to use social media to investigate existing employees?

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