I’ve had the opportunity to lead many social media orientation training sessions for employees on the corporate side. It’s always just as educational for me, as it is for attendees. I learn where people are in terms of their knowledge of the internet and social networking; their understanding of free speech, as well as the individual impact they can have on the organization.
Naturally a question that comes up surrounds employer tracking of employees online. This is a complex and sensitive issue. Employers have the right to monitor their devices and networks, but they must disclose this to employees. I’m sure you’ve noticed that employees being fired for social media posts has crept up over the years. Employers have an interest in how their employees behave on and off the clock, yet privacy and free speech are complicated subjects and no two situations are the same (even those that have played out in court!)
Social media blurs the lines between personal and professional life; there are many social media court cases, each with different circumstances and outcomes. While it is impossible to prepare employers and employees for every situation, having a social media guideline (or policy) plus training is a solid place to start.
How would you handle this situation?
To help illustrate why it’s important to have proper social media guidelines or policies in place (as well as training) here is an example.
1990: Employee A goes to the gym regularly and on the fitness board, there is a photo of her in her bodybuilding outfit (which is essentially bra and underwear… oh… and heels.) Now, realistically, even though it’s publicly displayed, the only folks who see this picture are the people from the same gym who know her, support her and probably live a similar lifestyle.
2016: Fast-forward to what would happen today. This same employee may have the photo up at the gym but more-than-likely, they’ll post it to their Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc. And why not? The difference being that this photo is now widely circulated; the circulation probably includes colleagues, peers and maybe a manager or two.
But the biggest difference now is that it makes it easier than ever for Employee B to take the picture to a manager and complain (whether right or wrong.)
1990: A few of your employees are at a coffee shop discussing the local election. One employee gets heated and pokes fun at a candidate. The end.
2016: An employee comments on a local newspapers Facebook page, regarding his political opinion. His comment is laced with hate speech. Someone takes a screenshot and sends it to your business Facebook page. The next thing you know, your company is now considered racist and you’ve made the news.
What are the next steps?
Both of these scenarios are different. But if you wish to take action, you must clearly show at least one of the following:
How do you avoid these situations?
Put a guideline in place and offer social media training. Tell employees what your expectations are as a company. Let them know what conduct will or won’t be tolerated. Educate employees, empower them & give them the right tools so they have the confidence and compassion to sit down one-on-one with each other to express concerns over posts that make them uncomfortable. The reality is that when one colleague goes to a manager about another colleagues behaviour first, without trying to work it out on their own, they can create a hostile work environment.
What message do you want to send your employees? We’re watching everything you do online? Or something more like:
“Hey, you’re an adult and we trust you. We won’t ever get involved in anything that happens online as long as it doesn’t affect us. Capiche?”
Further, we’re all sensitive to different things. Something that offends one person, may not offend the next. Unless you want to spend a significant amount of time policing your employees online, set them up for success.
Ultimately everyone must remember that what happens online doesn’t stay online. Never assume any privacy and just because you’ve got your privacy settings at Fort Knox level, your “friends” can just grab a screenshot and throw you right under that bus. 😉
Do not risk infringing on an employees legally protected rights. Consult with a lawyer.
How to write a social media guideline that your employees will understand
Social Media Training For Employees
Human Resources: addressing negative social media posts online
How To Use Social Media During Real Crisis Situations
Photo Credit: Roni Davis. Former guest blogger on one of my other blogs. Award-Winning Personal Trainer. Online Coach. Nutrition Consultant. Professional Writer. Champion Figure Athlete.