Are you a small business owner?  Have you ever been frustrated by your employees using social media during the work day?  This is a common challenge that many small and large employers are facing in workplaces.  In this blog, I will provide you with some communication strategies to discuss this concern and negotiate a solution that works for both owner(s) and employees.  Firstly, think about what bothers you most about the problem.  Are you concerned about the employee not getting their work done?  Or maybe you’re worried about being fair to all employees?   Figure out what your interests are.  Here are some common interests that you might relate to: a desire to treat employees well, to meet business targets, a desire not to be paying employees for personal communication time, and to have happy, productive employees.  Secondly, you’ll need to introduce the discussion in a direct and neutral way.  Ask to meet with the person privately, and schedule a mutually agreed upon time and place.  Then try something like…”I’ve noticed that you’ve been typing in your phone a number of times during the morning.  I’d like to talk about how social media is used in the workplace.”  Avoid blaming language. Rather, pick a topic that describes the concern without labelling anything as right or wrong, good or bad.  At the beginning of the conversation, it is important for you to be honest about your concern.  Here is a script using assertive language.  “When I see you looking at facebook three or more times before noon and at the same time you haven’t completed the work assignment I requested [description of behaviour], I get concerned [emotion] that you aren’t able to complete your work on time.  I also wonder if your personal use of facebook is one of the reasons you can’t meet your work targets.  I’d prefer if you kept your personal use of social media to before and after work, and your breaks.”

Next, it is important for you to find out what the employee’s interests are.  You can do this by using two specific listening skills: asking open questions AND reflecting back the emotions and content that you hear them say.  Open questions start with “What” or “How” and cannot be answered with a “yes” or “no”.  Here are some questions to try:

1)      What’s important to you about checking your facebook during the day?

2)      What do you think would happen if you didn’t check it?

3)      What do you like about your job?

4)      What is the most challenging part of your job for you?

5)      How does checking your facebook benefit you at work?

It is important to reflect back what you’ve heard in your own words after each question.  Start with “So you’re feeling ____________ about _______________.” or “What I hear you saying is______________”.  This will prevent the person you are talking to from feeling interrogated.

This is enough discussion of skills for now.  Stay tuned for how to move towards an agreement that meets both owner and employee interests.