Gartner Blog Network

Should Government Employees Be Themselves On Social Networks?

by Andrea Di Maio  |  April 21, 2009  |  4 Comments

Earlier today I had a conversation with a client from a UK local authority about the impact of social media and web 2.0 on the workplace. I made my point that it is important to break the boundary between personal and professional profiles if one wants to leverage the power of social networking (as I said in a previous post). He replied that a boundary should be maintained, especially if workers use government equipment to join social networks: in fact they may be seen as misusing government assets and services by spending time on social networks for personal purposes. This seems to be an even thornier problem with elected officials (such as counselors) who may be engaging with individuals outside both in their capacity of elected officials and as politicians.

The discussion soon moved toward whether the problem could be solved – or at least relieved – by having counselors (and other employees) use personal equipment.

This implies a shift from preventing the use of professional tools for personal use to allowing the professional use of personal tool. But then, if one looks at personal social networks as a tool, why shouldn’t they be used for professional purposes?

Think about an employee who helps citizens with re-employment. He or she may have a profile in LinkedIn for personal purposes, and being in LinkedIn from the professional perspective would make a lot of sense (e.g. to explore job opportunities for the people he or she assists). However it is quite possible that the personal connections he or she has developed when using LinkedIn as a personal tool, could help find further opportunities for those people. Therefore putting allowing personal connections to be used for professional purposes would help him or her do a better job.

Where does one draw the line? If one is prepared to let an employee carry his or her smartphone or laptop, why not his or her social network connections, which are likely to be far more beneficial to the organization?

Category: social-networks-in-government  

Tags: consumerization  facebook  web-20  

Andrea Di Maio
Managing VP
15 years at Gartner
28 years IT industry

Andrea Di Maio is a managing vice president for public sector in Gartner Research, covering government and education. His personal research focus is on digital government strategies strategies, Web 2.0, open government, cloud computing, the business value of IT, smart cities, and the impact of technology on the future of government Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Should Government Employees Be Themselves On Social Networks?

  1. Rotkapchen says:

    This is at the heart of the issues businesses are having today, the realization that there is NO enterprise. Clay Shirky points out all the economic jusification for enterprises to come to bear in the first place is now collapsing (save for certain scenarios).

    Business management practices and principles are woefully out of date with these new realities. The things you point out here are just the tip of the iceberg…one that is breaking apart and melting very quickly. The huge chunks falling into the water are the ones causing the great tsunamis that are wiping out business after business (many others are simply on a slow death march or have been saved from death by acquisition).

  2. Erik Jonker says:

    A very real issue (also in the dutch context). However there are in my personal opinion probably no general rules or principles to solve the dilemma you mention. The use of a smartphone is an excellent example, nobody wants to carry two phones around with separate business and personal contacts. Does that mean they are totally mixed ? No, the civil servant makes his own judgement whether to use his personal contacts for business or not. A boundary is maintained but not by the organisation but by the individual. This is not completely new, for people with large social networks the dilemma was also present before the arrival of internet/web 2.0 technology. The answer to your question, yes, you should be yourself, but you choose your own behavior in different contexts and circumstances. Where you try to act in the interest of your organisation. This asks a lot of responsibility, especially when you are active as a civil servant in blogs, social networks ,twitter etc. But it makes the job a lot more interesting.

  3. Jed says:

    Forgive me for not adding much here, but I want to publicly agree with Erik’s comment and commend Rotkapchen for taking the iceberg metaphor to new heights.

  4. […] The third type of risk is almost inevitable. In fact, even if there is no deviation from the prescribed code of conduct, employees may reveal, via a combination of personal and professional information, patterns that may make the organization vulnerable. One approach to contain this would be to make sure that employees always create a professional profile that is separate from the personal one. On the other hand, this may severely constrain their ability to actively engage with various stakeholders (see previous post). […]

Comments are closed

Comments or opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual contributors only, and do not necessarily represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management. Readers may copy and redistribute blog postings on other blogs, or otherwise for private, non-commercial or journalistic purposes, with attribution to Gartner. This content may not be used for any other purposes in any other formats or media. The content on this blog is provided on an "as-is" basis. Gartner shall not be liable for any damages whatsoever arising out of the content or use of this blog.