The study found that the misuse of social media has infiltrated the workplace with often negative effects on employees’ privacy, forcing many to switch off or limit their use of social networking sites.
One in ten respondents discovered secret discussions about them online were initiated by colleagues using social media, and 11 percent have had embarrassing photos or videos taken at a work event and uploaded onto social media sites.
This is as high as 19 percent in Spain and 14 percent in the UK. A small number of all adults (6 percent) even found themselves subjected to unwanted romantic advances through online media, and in the US this number rose to one in ten of all adults.
As the use of social media increases for both personal and professional purposes, the privacy many workers value and expect is slowly diminishing through employee misuse and cyberbullying. To prevent personal information from being circulated at work, many adults are turning away from social media altogether.
Of those who agreed social media has eroded their privacy at work, nearly a quarter (24 percent) now avoid posting on social networks that have caused them privacy concerns, while 23 percent limit their posts. More than half (53 percent) are more careful about what they post.
Tony Anscombe, AVG’s Senior Security Evangelist, said: “This study highlights the need for a combination of greater education around social media alongside stricter enforcement of the accompanying standards for social media etiquette at work. And we’re not just talking about employees here; employers can trip themselves up just as easily when managing the company’s own social media presence. Until everyone is clear about exactly what is and isn’t acceptable online behavior, trying to enforce policies will just fail, leaving the door open to cyberbullying and invasion of privacy. If organizations take the time to first educate before establishing and enforcing policies, privacy can be protected in the workplace without having to sacrifice any of the social activity we all enjoy.”
Key findings include:
Forms of cyberbullying: Four out of five (82 percent) adults believe that sending unpleasant or defamatory remarks to or about a colleague using digital communications constitutes cyberbullying (93 percent in UK and New Zealand). Other forms of cyberbullying include posting negative comments on a social media site about a colleague’s appearance at a work event (79 percent) and criticizing a colleague behind their back through email, instant messaging, social media or SMS (69 percent).
Incriminating or embarrassing activity online: Nearly one in ten (nine percent) adults has had a manager use information against them or a colleague which has been found on a social media site. This is highest in the US (13 percent) and Czech Republic (12 percent).
Cyberbullying driving workplace confrontations: Cyberbullying can easily spill over into heated debates in the workplace with more than half (51 percent) of adults admitting they would confront colleagues in person if they felt they were the victim of cyberbullying. This is as high as 65 percent in Germany, 56 percent in France and 54 percent in the Czech Republic. One in 10 (11 percent) would retaliate to cyberbullying through digital communication.
Cyberbullying policies: A quarter of adults (25 percent) are not protected from cyberbullying as workplaces do not cover this within existing policies. Only 37 percent of all adults know of a comprehensive policy, which covers cyberbullying, in the workplace. This is highest in Australia (57 percent) and the UK (51 percent) and lowest in France (20 percent) and Germany (23 percent).
Social media responsibility: Half of all adults (50 percent) believe their company is responsible for the online behavior of employees during work hours if they are using their personal social media accounts. Sentiment is felt strongest in Canada (63 percent) and the US (61 percent) while only 27 percent of Germans agree with this. Outside of work hours, only 16 percent of all adults agree that companies are responsible for employees’ online behavior.
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