3 reasons why your company needs a social media policy
Some of the biggest business gaffs of recent years have involved social media. Employees mouthing off about their bosses on Facebook; unprofessional profile pictures and status updates; not-so-secret office romances… change your settings to private, now!
Here is a selection of the funniest (and most avoidable!) social media blunders of the workplace with advice for employees; plus, read on for our employers’ guide to writing a social media policy.
‘I think I work in a nursery and I do not mean working with plants.’
Mrs Whitham was a team leader for Club 24 Ltd., a customer service arm of the Volkswagen corporation. Following a tough day at the office, she updated her Facebook status to ‘I think I work in a nursery and I do not mean working with plants’.
Although only Whitham and her 50 Facebook friends could view the comment, word got back to her superiors (through two of her so-called work ‘friends’) and she was dismissed from employment. Club 24 maintained that her comments could have damaged their relationship with Volkswagen.
Whitham challenged the dismissal in an Employment Tribunal. Central to her defence were the points that she had not mentioned Volkswagen by name, and that Club 24 should have considered alternative disciplinary procedures before dismissal, such as demotion. She eventually won the case.
Most of us have dozens (if not hundreds) of Facebook ‘friends’ we barely know or speak to. Do not add your colleagues and defriend your loose cannons.
‘OMG I HATE MY JOB!’
A young employee found herself in hot water after ranting about her boss on Facebook – having forgotten that she had added him as a ‘friend’ weeks before.
In her profane rant, she called her male boss a ‘w*nker’, accused him of being ‘pervvy’ (sic) and of forcing her to do ‘s*it stuff’ just to annoy her.
Responding to these remarks, the boss calmly suggested that her frustration must have arisen out of the fact that she was unable to perform the simplest tasks. He also pointed out that, far from hitting on her, he was gay.
Since she was still within her probationary period at the time (by just two weeks), he was able to fire her on the spot, ending with the words, ‘yes, I’m serious’.
The incident quickly went viral on social network Reddit.
Pretty obvious, but do not rant about your boss on Facebook!
‘Thank f*** it’s Friday!’
In seconds, a Twitter update can spread 140 characters’ worth of damage to thousands of your followers – not to mention subsequent retweets. So when a disgruntled employee updates your corporate Twitter account with the words ‘Thank f*** it’s Friday! Can’t wait to get out of this stubsucking hell hole’, the effects can be serious.
This is exactly what happened to online ticket retailer StubHub in October.
Although the offending Tweet was removed within an hour and StubHub apologised, you can be sure the embarrassing and potentially damaging incident was not so quickly forgotten.
The author of the profane comment remains anonymous.
Be careful who has access to your corporate social media accounts, and check content regularly.
Tips for writing a social media policy
We hope that these examples have shown that it is essential to have a crystal clear social media policy in place. According to recent studies, many employees are unaware whether or not their workplace even has a policy, never mind what constitutes a breach and what the consequences are.
Don’t bury your head in the sand: your employees WILL use social media; it is your job to ensure that their online behaviour does not interfere with professionalism.
Familiarise yourself with the law, including slander, libel, trademark and copyright infringements, privacy, FTC regulations and defamation. Seek professional advice with this.
When you draw up your policy, ensure that you provide examples to illustrate your definition of gross misconduct.
Organise a training session and ask employees to sign a declaration to confirm that they have attended and understood. This way, in the event of a breach of policy, ignorance will not stand in the way.
Try not to over-react to minor comments made when people are fed up and are simply letting off steam, and seek alternatives to dismissal whenever possible. However, have a clear policy in place to deal with anything that might damage the reputation of your company.
Decide who owns your employees’ online activity. If one of your employees grows your Facebook fan base then tries to take them when they switch jobs, you could lose thousands of valuable potential customers.
Follow your own rules, and be sure to safeguard sensitive information, including Social Security numbers, addresses, credit/debit card numbers and Pay Roll details.
Overall, train your employees and be ready to answer their questions. Enforce, review and update your policies regularly and stay up-to-date with the law on online activity.
Though most of the above examples are extreme cases, each would have been avoided if a clear social media policy had been in place. We hope that we have provided some useful advice for employees and employers alike, so that you can avoid going viral online for all the wrong reasons.
[author ]Vikki is a freelance writer who works alongside HR Protected, with a particular interest in social media use in the workplace. When she’s not writing, she enjoys watching legal dramas and running her personal blog.[/author]