I'm not a techie....

Rod Stephens
July 15, 2009 — 2,133 views  
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When I meet with people, especially after I speak about privacy and technology in the workplace, I often hear, "I'm not a techie so why do I have to understand social networking, texting, Blogging and cell phones." Usually this is followed by a litany of the evils associated with new technology. Since this post is being done in the relative privacy of cyberspace, I'll confess that when I hear the "I'm not a techie..." speech, I get a physical reaction.

As an employer, you cannot afford not to understand social networking, texting, instant messaging, and any other new technology that is used by your employees. Let's be honest, phones are not just phones anymore. The days of the rotary phone and party line have come and gone. Your employees, who do not consider themselves to be techies, are familiar with all of the latest technology and how it works. Understanding how these technologies work will help you understand how to protect your company from employees that abuse these technologies and allow you to better understand your employees and how they work. For example, I know that if I need to reach two of my employees a voice mail will get a returned call in a reasonable amount of time but a text will generate an immediate response. At first I was puzzled that a text would generate an instantaneous response. Finally, I asked my employees. They explained they prefer a text message because its quick, to the point and devoid of all the formalities that fall under the heading of phone etiquette. As a result, texting is the way I contact these employees. In the process of this adjustment, I learned it is an efficient way to communicate especially when you are in a rush.

As with anything, technology has benefits and risks. When personal computers and Internet usage became mainstream, there was a concern that employees would spend too much time playing Solitaire or surfing the web. Following that, concerns arose about inappropriate email usage. Now with the advent of Blogging and social networking, the alarm bell is sounding again. This time it is a concern over what is being posted on social networking sites or what is being tweeted to the world.

If you are over 30, especially if you believe 50 is the new 30, you need to take a deep breath. Ready? One, two, three....deep breath. You need to understand that there has been a paradigm shift in the way technology and privacy issues are viewed by those who are not as chronologically advanced as you are. To the under 30 generation (I know I am generalizing), posting things about their life on the web is an accepted practice. That means they don't think twice about posting their feelings about their personal and work life. They post things that do not always depict you, your company or your employees in a favorable light. It also can mean that things inadvertently get posted on the web that may be considered confidential. That's right, I said, "..inadvertently get posted..." because my experience has been that when something of this nature occurs it is not always done out of malice but, merely, because social networking sites (I am including Twitter in this definition) have replaced the local pizza joint or neighborhood bar as places for people to vent. The problem is that this new hangout is in cyberspace and every one with an Internet connection is privy to the conversation.

As an employer, the key to getting a handle on this dynamic is to spend some time learning about social networking, Blogging and texting. Most less chronologically advanced (younger) employees would be glad to help you understand these technologies. Once you feel you have a grasp on the technology and how it can be misused, communicate with your workforce through meetings and policies. Let them know what you consider to be conduct that could be detrimental or embarrassing to your company. Most importantly, allow your employees to give you feedback on how these technologies can be used in your business. You might just find a new way of conducting business.



Rod Stephens


Rod brings a unique perspective to the table in that he represents management and employees. We feel this allows us to offer a broader perspective to our clients in that we understand cutting edge employment law issues and how they are perceived by management and employees. Employment law matters can require immediate response in times of crisis. On those occasions, you can take comfort in the knowledge that we are prepared to provide the type of response that takes advantage of years of experience.