Red Hot Thoughts



One of our HR Coaches came to our weekly staff meeting last week wondering how she was going to make it through the next two years.  Like many on our staff, she has teenagers.  And, like many parents of high school students, communication has taken on a whole new challenge with the arrival of text messaging.  We knew that she and her husband had taken their son and his best friend to a new restaurant as a special treat the night before our meeting.  He’d finished summer school with great grades and was headed to camp with his friend early the next morning.  She was looking forward to a night of great food and good conversation.  As she reported to us at the meeting, the food was great.  The conversation, however, wasn’t quite what she’d planned on.  Her teenager spent the entire meal bent over his cell phone, sending and receiving text messages…most from his friend who was sitting right next to him!

After consoling her that things would improve (though maybe not for a few more years), we discussed ways that text messaging has affected not only our home life, but our work life as well.  Texting, blogging, and personal websites have all become accepted forms of communication with the younger generation and companies must decide how these communications are going to be integrated into the workplace.  We’ve put some of our thoughts from our staff meeting discussion on page two.

There can be no denying that personal and business lives are blurring.  Multi-tasking is taking on a whole new meaning with the intrusion of text messaging, blogging, and personal emails entering the workplace.  These new ways of communicating are creating confidentiality as well as “off work time” concerns.

Both text and instant messaging often use abbreviations or ‘texting shorthand’ to communicate to the recipient.  Because of the short, abbreviated message, communications can be misunderstood—sometimes with dire consequences.  The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on such a case this summer.  An employee was discharged for improper use of text messaging that was perceived by the recipient as being anti-gay harassment.  After a lengthy trial and appeals process, the court found for the employer because they had a policy in place on the use and mis-use of such messaging and they were within their rights to fire him.

Obviously, sending personal messages through cell phones or computers during business hours means employees are probably not focusing on their work.  Countless studies have been conducted detailing how much time is lost everyday Loss of productivity aside, text messaging also can create a safety hazard.  Many states are passing laws prohibiting text messaging and/or cell phone use while driving.  More and more companies have included rules for cell phones and text messaging in their safety policy.

People are using websites such as “Facebook” for professional as well as personal connections.  If you have knowledge of an individual’s blog or “Facebook” account, you need to be cautious about using your knowledge and information obtained from these sources when making employment or workplace related decisions.  California, New York and Colorado all have laws pertaining to discrimination due to the use of information about an employee’s legal off-work activities when making workplace decisions.

Also, video resumes are looming just around the corner.  Many larger corporations already report receiving an increasing number of video resumes.  If your business moves in this direction, proceed with caution.  In addition to not being able to require video resumes from all candidates, you need to be especially careful to objectively document why you may not have selected an individual for an interview or a position.

In addition to discrimination concerns, technological advances have opened the door to confidentiality matters.  Blogs may provide opportunity for your employees to discuss their workdays in their on-line journals while also, knowingly or unknowingly, disclosing confidential information about your business.    While an increasing number of employees may have a blog, many employers do not have a “cyber-policy” outlining confidentiality issues.  A recommended cyber-policy should have clear rules about infringing on the privacy rights of the company’s other employees, customers and clients.  It should also address the company’s right to control communication about the business and any trademark issues.  If not already covered under an existing e-mail/internet policy, understandable rules about accessing blogging sites should also be addressed.  Additionally, the consequences of violating the policy should be clearly defined.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 at 9:27 am and is filed under Advice. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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