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Keep Your Team's Social Media Use in Perspective

Ask The Expert

By Barbara Mitchell

Q: I'm seeing what appears to be a lot of time wasted by my team on non-work-related activities like web surfing and social media. I don't want to be a micromanager, but how can I get my staff to focus on their work?

A: This issue is becoming increasingly prevalent in today's workplace. Some organizations have tried to mitigate it by asking employees to leave their smartphones and tablets in their cars or lockers, but that won't work. Parents need to be in touch with their kids or their kids' schools, and no millennial will give up their phone without a protest.

Other organizations block sites like Facebook and Twitter, but these are not popular decisions, and people can still access them from their personal devices.

So, what can you do? First, accept that our always-connected world is the new normal, but you can still manage your staff in a way that gets the results you need. Consider whether the work is getting done on time and in a professional manner. If so, you don't need to make an issue of the time you see as wasted on social media.

You certainly can address this issue in a staff meeting by discussing your expectations. Remind your team of the organizaton's social media policy, which should include the monitoring of sites visited on your organization's network. This reminder may be enough to change your employees' browsing and social media habits, at least on their work computers.

Consider whether the work is getting done on time and in a professional manner. If so, you don't need to make an issue of the time you see as wasted on social media.

If the work isn't getting done on time or isn't up to your standards, address the issue in private with each employee whose work is not up to par. As you would do in any disciplinary action, lay out the facts about the behavior you want to see changed and the consequences if changes don't occur. After the discussion, email the employee with the outline of what was discussed and keep a copy for your files.

Monitor the employee's progress against the improvement goals you set. If you don't see improvement in a month or so, follow up in accordance with your organizaton's progressive discipline poliy.

The issue really isn't how much time you think is being wasted on social media. This issue is whether work is getting done on time and to your specifications. If you stay focused on productivity and quality of work, you probably won't mind your employees spending a little time on Facebook and Twitter—and they'll appreciate that breathing room in their day.

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR and The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. Do you have a question you'd like her to answer in "Ask the Expert"? Send it to [email protected]

Performance Management