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11 DWP workers sacked for using Twitter and Facebook – the shocking story of government internal communications?

Victoria Tomlinson posted this on

Iain_Duncan-SmithYesterday, 11 civil servants at Iain Duncan Smith’s department for work and pensions were sacked for using Twitter or Facebook.

According to the Guardian, the sacked officials were among 116 DWP employees who have faced disciplinary action for blogging and social networkingsince January 2009, according to figures revealed under the Freedom of Information Act

Of these 116, the article said 34 were given a final written warning, 35 received a written warning and 36 were reprimanded orally for their use of social media.

The DWP said use of Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites was “completely restricted” for most of its workers. The only employees allowed to use the sites are those who have a “genuine requirement for access”. The department’s official Twitter account is run by the DWP press office.

What hits you about this news item?  Is it the banning of social media – or the number of employees in disciplinary action?

The DWP’s website says it has 5,345 employees – so 2% of the department have been reprimanded, given written and final warnings, or sacked.  Is that shocking?

Is this not a major internal communications problem?

1. Leadership is critical to good employee relations
Sorry Iain Duncan Smith. But the culture and performance of your department is largely down to your leadership. What on earth are you doing – or not doing – that so many of your team are having to be disciplined?

2. Employee consultation is critical for sensible policies
Steven George-Hilley, the director of technology at thinktank Parliament Street, said: “In a social media age, it beggars belief that employees are being banned from using sites like Twitter and Facebook in the workplace.”

Such widespread abuse of the DWP’s policies and rules suggests employees think they are ridiculous (as would a large number of the working population in the UK).  Employers need to involve their teams in setting the rules on social media policies for employees.   Trust them, a team working together will get this right.

Frankly most bosses don’t understand social media, its opportunities or its risks – and clearly have no idea how to create policy.  Your team will know what they should and shouldn’t do – and ensure the rules make sense.  To everyone.

3. Employees must understand and believe in your policies
When your team has agreed a sensible policy, let them then explain and communicate the policy across your business. They will understand the reasons for the rules and can explain the thinking.

If employees don’t ‘get’ what they see as a stupid rule, they will flout it – and it’s as plain as day that this is what is happening at DWP.
Which is the most shocking aspect of this story – the banning of social media or 116 employees being disciplined in a government department?

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