Any topic (writer’s choice)

Any topic (writer’s choice)

Answer the questions below:

Ill TWEET You at the Water Cooler

Bob was the CEO of Cornerstone, a global consulting firm.  With 160 consultants based in 17 offices in 11 countries,  Cornerstone was considered a medium-sized firm in its principle area — innovation man-agement.  It had experienced steady growth over the last seven years by Bobs predecessor, and had reasonable success in attracting both clients and staff.
Bob had a broad network of clients and colleagues as a result of professional organization member-ships with whom he kept in touch and with whom he had often spoke about industry news and trends.  Recently, several of Bobs friends had told him about how they had started blocking many of the social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and other social media tools from the the workplace computers and network.  Usually Bob did not get involved in instructional technolo-gy (IT) decisions unless they involved large investments or strategic alliances; for example, in supply chain integration. 
Six months earlier a large client of Cornerstone (an oil company) with had experienced a severe securi-ty breach when employee internet use enabled hackers to access confidential information about oil reserves and pricing.  Such use had caused difficulties with certain applications and had caused several computers to crash.  On one weekday, the main support application for the entire Exploration Division had been down for six hours.  Another business day it was plagued with challenges when consultants were unable to enter their billable hours into the tracking and billing system. 
The oil companys IT Department had decided to shut down access to a wide swath of external inter-net applications until they could find ways to maintain security and ensure which business applications could run efficiently.  The Executive VP of Information Systems noted:
We simply do not have the manpower to deal with the technical issues that have to be solved in order for employees to use social media sites and Google tools.  Not only does it take an army of people to make sure that security is not breached and uptime guaranteed, but, it also requires additional Help Desk resources for managing requests and problems. 
Bob now needed to decide how to balance the restrictions his own IT Department wanted to impose upon employee use of the internet; and specifically, social media with the business benefits he thought it offered the company.
Another big client Bob knew well had forbidden employee use of social networking sites on their work computers because they felt as if productivity was suffering.  The problem was largely, but not exclu-sively, the result of abuse by certain individuals, but the clients top management now regarded any external use of the internet as a productivity killer.  An anonymous survey showed that most of the emails sent in a day were private and that most of the external websites accessed were social net-working sites.  To make matters worse, some employees were using work computers to post infor-mation on their personal blogs that was critical of the company and its products.  The situation re-minded Bob of what a CEO friend had told him over coffee in Switzerland: 
Trust is good but control is sometimes better.  Bernie Madoffs clients can give you 60 billion reasons for not trusting anyone.  And dont you remember it was Ronald Reagan who started his talks with the Soviets by saying :
Trust but verify.

Productivity had become Bobs primary concern as profitability had decreased over the last 18 months.  During the last meeting his directors had given him explicit directions to monitor productivity so Bobs top priority had now become finding ways to improve employee efficiency.  Restricting internet access seemed an obvious area for investigation.  What was most important was the number of billable hours each consultant submitted each month and social website use certainly was not billable by any stand-ard Bob could imagine.
However, when he went to see his HR Director Carolyn, he heard a completely different take on the matter:
Corporations that limit internet use make the assumption that there is a wall between personal and work life.  This may be true for some people.  When they go home, they turn off the office phone and computer and turn on the per-sonal phone and computer.  However, many people blur the boundaries between work and personal life.  This is espe-cially true in todays knowledge-intensive economy, where output and results count for more than an employees physical presence in a specific location for a specific time.  Moreover, there are some employee groups who may need high flexibility to make ends meet.
Carolyn, an insightful observer of human behavior continued:
Downtime at work is not a new phenomenon.  However, the way I see it with the arrival of the internet, it has been redefined.  Reading the newspaper or walking the halls has been replaced by surfing the web and connecting with friends on the internet.  Most people are not capable of concentrating on specific tasks for extended periods of time.  We all remember this from school or our college days.  Breaks are needed and in fact, research shows that a moderate amount of social media usage and other similar decompression exercises can actually increase productivity.  Per-haps Facebook is the new cigarette break.
Bob asked her if there was a business reason for not limiting social media use.
Companies that dont take advantage of social media websites will lose out in the war for talent.  By restricting them, companies are alienating the next generation of employees who see these sites as part of their toolkits.  They inte-grate the sites into their way of working through swift access to information and their professional contacts.  When companies block access to widely used sites, they are basically saying they dont trust their employees.  Its doubtful that blocking access to these internet sites will increase youngsters appetites for corporate life  or retain those who are already there.
Talking with a friend he had known in high school who had launched several successful internet ven-tures, Bob heard a similar opinion. 
Companies that cut off access to the diverse and timely information on the Internet particularly through social net-working tools are at a competitive disadvantage.  Isolation leads to inferiority and cultures that do not adapt to change become extinct.  No man is an island and the same can be said of organizations.  To cut oneself off from information streams, means getting rid of market connections and potential multiplication effects.  There are clear advantages associated with using a growing and evolving network for work purposes.  These are seen with both in-ternal and external internet use.
Returning to his office, Bob reflected on the fact that unlimited external website use by employees resulted in decreased productivity, compromised the security of confidential company data, and gave disgruntled employees the tools to spread negative publicity quickly.  Limiting or prohibiting internet use at work had its own disadvantages:  Increased controls created a sense of distrust in employees, curtailed the companys ability to take advantage of the internet and social media, and meant that employees occasionally working from home, or needing to occasionally manage personal issues from the office, may not have this flexibility.
Bob recognized that social media applications like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn are a part of modern life, but he was beginning to see how their use in the workplace revealed a tension be-tween trust and control.  While Bob wanted to ensure productivity and control, internet use by em-ployees whose judgment or ethical standards may be questionable compelled him to foster an atmos-phere of trust and collaboration.  He wondered if his debate was just a larger version of previous poli-cy discussions he had had about employee use of applications such as  Google toolbar or of work phones for personal calls.  Bob didnt know what to do next.

CASE QUESTIONS:
1.    Discuss the ethical issues and their implications to be considered in the case.
2.    Should Bob just forbid use of all social websites and give IT the go ahead to block all of these sites?  Or should he choose to let internet use be unrestricted?
3.    Outline how you would handle the situation if you were Bob.

Please use  credible sources for any facts and figures and provide references.  Please base your ethical argument on a body of literature that supports your approach.  Post your responses to the Tweet Me Forum.