Conduct and Consequences: Social Media Policy In The Procurement World by Jon Hansen

Posted on February 25, 2015


My post from last week titled Are these profile images representative of the brand Coupa wants to project, continues to attract considerable attention. In fact if anything, it is experiencing a upsurge in terms of reads from not only within the procurement world, but even beyond.

As is the case with any topic, especially one that is ubiquitous from the standpoint of transcending a particular industry, this one has generated more questions beyond the original subject matter.

Here is another perspective to consider . . . while personal responsibility is key, what role if any, should/does company policy have in establishing standards? For example, and even though and employee’s profile can have an impact on the company’s brand image, without having a policy in place can a company reprimand/terminate an employee? 

As part of an interesting discussion stream within the IACCM LinkedIn Group, I posed the above question in an effort to determine the role and responsibility of an organization in establishing a policy surrounding the social media conduct of its employees.  I also for the record, posted this same question in a Twitter discussion stream.  Both elicited some interesting responses, including the one below from Suzanne Birch CEO IACCM Resourcing and Campbell Birch:

You do love your ‘hot potato’ topics, John! I have had such policy set out in our employees’ handbook for many years. As long as such policy is fair and reasonable ie without being extreme, and you can show that it is not personal but in the best interests of the business, and is also discussed during the interview process, and the letter of offer/contract of employment states that employees are expected to follow company policy as set out in the employee handbook, then the employer does have the right to coach better personal dress standards/presentation if it’s appropriate, and follow through with warnings and dismissal if change can’t be achieved. – Suzanne Birch

My obvious follow-up question to Suzanne was simply this; What percentage of companies like yours, do you believe have been proactive in terms of establishing such a policy?

While she has not yet had an opportunity to respond, it is a question that I believe will increase in importance – especially within the procurement world, which has lagged behind many industries in terms of social media use and presence.

For example, the majority of those who read the Coupa brand post as it is becoming known, believe that the images were not appropriate.  The question is to what extent is Coupa responsible for ensuring that those who work for them or with them, project the proper image?  Of even greater interest, has the company established a standard by way of a policy as to what is and is not acceptable?

While’s Euan Granger agreed that projecting a professional image is important, he also Tweeted the following:

Click to view the entire discussion stream.

Click to view the entire discussion stream.

Euan’s question is both reasonable and worthy of serious consideration.  After all, where does one’s business persona end and personal freedom begin in the social media world?

Referencing the Coupa brand post, it depends.  In both the first individual’s LinkedIn and Facebook profiles, they indicate that they are employed by Coupa.  However tenuous of a tie-in to the company, it is still nonetheless there.

But perhaps the bigger potential for what I will call the blurred lines between business and personal profiles of different social networks, comes in the form of the following comment on LinkedIn from the Group Event Director at Revolution Events:

Click to access this discussion stream.

Click to access this discussion stream.

Puxty-Ward’s indication that she always looks “at people on facebook,” would seem to suggest that there are no hard or definitive boundaries along the lines suggested by Granger.  In other words, once it is out there it is out there.  It is therefore not uncommon for people to check an individual’s profiles on multiple social networking sites, whether they are considered personal or not.  What’s more, you do not even have to be connected to a person to have a limited or excerpt view of their profile.

This brings us back to the larger question relating to today’s post . . . to what degree can and should a company establish and enforce a social media policy for its employees?  What is that proverbial line in the sand that triggers corporate intervention?

I have the feeling that as the procurement world’s social media experience increases, there is going to be a great deal more to say regarding this topic in the coming months and beyond.

In the meantime, what do you think?  Should a company have the ability to establish standards on individual employee activity on social networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook?


Posted in: Commentary