Tuesday, March 20, 2012

When employers cross the line with Facebook

A colleague's son recently interviewed for his first professional position in anticipation of his May 2012 graduation. The interviewer asked general questions about Facebook, then turned to her computer, went to Facebook, and asked the son for his login ID and password. Since his profile and wall were private to the prospective employer, she wanted to log in to see his activity.

Does that cross the line? What would you have done if you were being interviewed and your login information was requested?

Does requesting login information for current employees cross the line too, or is that different?

I realize employees spending company time on social sites could be problematic on several levels--poor work performance, lack of teamwork, low productivity. But, is it the company's business how employees spend their non-company time?

If you don't want your coworkers or employer to know about your kids, hobbies, vacation, friends, friends' kids, family, family issues, is it their business to force you to reveal such things?

My perspective is that the issue really is about the company and its culture.

First, if company were utilizing the employees' skills well, there would be no time for Facebook during the work day. Also, the employees would not be interested in wasting time if their time were being used well.

Second, if the managers knew their people better, demanding logins would be unnecessary. Managers who show interest in their people can learn about kids, family, friends, hobbies, interests, etc. If employees feel the need to keep their lives secret, that says something about the lack of trust for their managers and the organization. Or, perhaps the employee's hobbies are illegal or immoral?

Third, as a manager or employer, once you learn private information, you may be responsible for it. You might shoulder the burden of an employee's sick grandparent now that you know there is a big fundraiser. Or, you might become witness to legal battles between exes. Or, you might learn about lifestyles that are not common in your organization. Learning more than people want to reveal is not always advantageous for the company.

If an interviewer asked me for my Facebook login, I would request theirs first. After all, I would want to see just who I would be working with and how they spend their time. Do you think the interviewer would provide it? Me either.

What do you think?
Is requiring Facebook login information from job candidates and current employees over the line?

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