Business Agony Aunt

Ask Ronke Lawal: Should I Ban My Staff From Using Social Media At Work?


Got a question about your business or career? Welcome to our new Business & Career Agony Aunt Column, Ronke Lawal is here to advise you. Please send questions


Someone asked;
I manage one of the five branches of the company I work for. I have 10 employees in my branch and as a new branch the targets we have to meet by the end of the year is incredibly high.
The problem is that I need my workers to focus 100% on their jobs to be able to meet this target, at the moment we are below expectation, but many of them spend hours reading blogs especially Linda Ikeji blog, and checking out social media every day. I have warned them many times but they still do it, one of them is very active on twitter and she tweets severally daily, during work hours!
I may be old fashioned here, but I find it hard to believe they can be productive at work if they spend hours reading stuff online and discussing it. Will I be making a right decision if I ban the use of social media completely with great consequences for anyone who breaks the rule?

Ronke Lawal Answers;
I love social media (especially twitter), it is a powerful tool as part of a strategic marketing mix and on a personal level is a great networking tool for keeping in touch with contacts and friends across the world. Blogs can be a great resource for news and light relief reading. I understand that some people, however can become a little bit obsessed with social media platforms though and it has been known to affect the quality of their offline relationships and professional work. This is not as common as people may believe though, we do not give humanity enough credit when we do believe this.

I note that you have not mentioned how exactly the social media use has had a negative impact on the quality of work of your team. From your points above all of your experience is based on judgement as opposed to tangible outcome, in fact it doesn’t seem clear that your team will be unable to meet the deadline.
The issue here is not the use of social media. Social media can be used actively to increase creativity and actually help workers remain motivated at work. Think of it as a virtual coffee break if used reasonably.

The real issue here is respect and leadership. If your employees respect your leadership they will do all that they can to ensure that they fulfil the required outputs. Have you had a group meeting addressing all the issues that are faced in your branch including effective time management and targets? Banning something will do nothing to motivate your team or make them want to work harder, it will merely make them resent you and they will find other ways of “misusing” time. Even the term “ban” sends a message of distrust to your team.

You need to engage with your team and make them understand what needs to be done, you need to make them feel as though you are all in it together. If you follow an autocratic means of leadership it may backfire. Your team will become demotivated if they feel that you cannot trust them to do the work that you have assigned them to do.
I recommend that you monitor your employees actual progress and measure it against all factors, not just social media.

I would also suggest that you go on a social media course or ask head office to organise social media training. It can be a powerful marketing tool which may actually help meet some of your targets. If social media actually becomes PART of work you may see a slight decrease in its use at work. Become familiar with the very thing that you are weary of and it may actually surprise you.


Ronke Lawal was born in Hackney, East London of Nigerian parentage. Having graduated with honours from Lancaster University and the University of Richmond Virginia (USA) with a degree in International Business (Economics), she started her own business in 2004. In 2011 Ronke Lawal was honoured to receive a Precious Award for Inspirational Leadership. In January 2010, Ronke became the Chief Executive of the Islington Chamber of Commerce where she remained until the end of 2012 and became a non-executive director of The Hoxton Apprentice in 2011. She joined the board of Trustees of Voluntary Action Islingtonin 2012 and is currently on The Employers Panel for the National Employment Savings Trust She is a passionate business woman running RSL Management Services and theSimone Williams fashion label.  Apart from her active and involved business interests, her varied passions outside the business world include food, travel, music, literature and most importantly living a life she loves.

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