There is currently a heated debate raging in the HR community about whether organisations should have a Social media policy. Neil Morrison Group HR director at Random house sparked the debate by insisting that using a social media policy demonstrated a lack of trust in employees. Many have responded that it is about giving people clarity rather than being patronising.
We would agree with that view. Generally people in a work environment want boundaries – they want to know what is expected of them and where the lines are. This extends to many areas of behaviour at work, not just use of social media. Having a policy provides that guidance.
One comment made was that what you call the policy doesn’t matter; you just need to be sensible. We wholeheartedly agree with being sensible – we have been advocating a common sense approach in these blogs for a while – but actually we do think the language you use and what you call the policy makes a difference
Even using the word Policy may distance the people it is meant to relate to – “Guidelines” has less of a dogmatic ring to it. If the content is written in plain language with examples that relate to day to day activities, it will sound less legalese. It’s about ensuring it does what it says on the tin. For example, if you call a policy about appropriate behaviour “Dignity at work” (which many organisations do) does that tell people it is about appropriate behaviour or suggest it is more about equal opportunities policies?
Working a great deal with organisations in this area we were interested to see what terms our clients used – so we have been asking them. We suspected that while we call support in this area Managing Appropriate Workplace Behaviour, managers would use other terms and the results have been very interesting. Many will use the words that reflect the situation as they see it eg dealing with office banter, managing difficult people, conflict in teams. That has been a very helpful insight for us in terms of marketing our support in these areas. But it also underlines that getting the language and terms right when you communicate with your audience is key.
So we don’t agree with Neil Morrison – companies should have policies, but they should think about how to word them and how to communicate them so that they are meaningful.