Author(s), Title and Publication
Banghart, S., Etter, M., & Stohl, C. (2018). Organizational boundary regulation through social media policies. Management Communication Quarterly, 32(3), 337-373. doi.org/10.1177/0893318918766405
With advances in communication technology, concerns over boundaries between work and home are becoming more pervasive, and the boundaries are less distinct. From a communication perspective, chief among these concerns is the blurring of boundaries between personal and professional online information, opinions, and conversations, which has led to increased policy development and enforcement of employee communication behavior within and outside of the workplace. While social media policies are an organizational attempt to influence and manage online communication, organizations may also benefit from employees’ positive online communication behavior. The authors suggest the language within social media policies is important to understanding employees’ speech, expression, and relational engagement inside organizations, and the way policies are communicated is key to encouraging employee interpretations that harmonize corporate and individual interests.
112 social media policies were used to evaluate how organizations articulate where, when, and how employees should communicate through social media. Ultimately, evasive, distinct, invasive or contradictory logics explicitly and implicitly work to influence employee communication behavior, and references to materials, times, locations and contexts help define boundaries and the scope of influence between professional, public, and personal spheres. Companies with evasive logic neither defined boundaries, or the scope of their policies. Although these companies regulated specific employee communications, articulations of where, when, and under what circumstances were not indicated. Distinct logic, the least utilized, explicitly clarified employee social media use inside versus outside work, during work hours, on company-owned platforms, and emphasized a segmented approach to employees’ identities without overlap between professional and personal social media use. Regulations applied explicitly to professional activities and communication. By contrast, invasive logic, used by the majority, integrated and transcended personal and professional boundaries, and identities the scope to cover essentially all social media use, on all platforms, at all times. Contradictory logic, the second most utilized, articulated inconsistent boundaries and scope. Vacillating between segmentation and integration, employees’ identities, and work/nonwork boundaries were at times discrete, at times blurred.
Implications for Practice
Organizations should (1) look to employee-organization relationships to set the strategy for employee’s speech, expression and relational engagement, and the logic, tone and boundaries of social media policies, (2) supplement evasive policy language with personal communication to minimize a wide range of possible interpretations, and (3) consider building in opportunities for employees to emotionally disconnect from work, such as optional lunches or social outings, when policies contain invasive wording such as “you are always an employee,” which may lead to burnout, decreased job satisfaction and organizational commitment.
Location of Article
This article is available online at: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0893318918766405 (abstract free, purchase full article)