Business leaders in the corporate world are showing double standards as far as social networking is concerned. A new study reveals that half of American companies ban the use of Facebook in the office. Yet at the same time businesses use Facebook to research potential employees. It seems that what’s good for the bosses is not good for their staff. It’s OK for bosses to use Facebook, but not their workers.

Such double standards are the stuff of division. They lead to demotivated teams and they make it much harder for companies to be effective. Banning Facebook is much like banning the telephone, or taking pens away from workers in the 1970s. It is part of many people’s working DNA; to suggest it is a distraction from business shows a clear misunderstanding of the way Facebook can work.

Yet, those business bosses who want to ban their staff from using Facebook obviously do realise the potential benefits of the social network by using it to find out more about possible employees. So what is this all about? It’s the same old story – power. “I’m the boss and you do as I say.” And that’s precisely the kind of management style that works against businesses.

People who use Facebook have been shown to be MORE productive in the office than people who are banned from using it. People who use Facebook tend to have greater networks of potential benefit to a company than people who don’t. People who use Facebook are better at strengthening relationships than those who don’t.

It’s about time we stopped this “I’m in charge and I don’t think you should use Facebook (though it’s OK for me)” attitude. Bosses who want their businesses to be effective in the 21st Century should be allowing their staff to use Facebook – but crucially should be planning a strategy for how social networks can be used effectively within business. It is the lack of leadership on the use of Facebook within a business setting that causes the problem of distraction.

Far from looking at the apparently “bad” behaviour of their staff on social networking, bosses need to look at themselves and work out why they are failing to take advantage of social networks and how they can be incorporated into their organisations effectively. The bosses who don’t do that will be the ones taking businesses further down the slippery slopes during the recession.

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