What Do You Do When Employee Use of Social Media Turns Nasty?

There are some forms of social media use, however, that step over the line to become harassment and bullying (both direct and anonymous) which are potentially damaging to your employees and puts your company’s good reputation at risk. What can and should you do when things turn nasty?

Published Categorised as Employment Law, Managing People Tagged
2013-08-19 - What Do You Do When Employee Use of Social Media Turns Nasty - Lighter HR
2013-08-19 - What Do You Do When Employee Use of Social Media Turns Nasty - Lighter HR

We’ve written a number of posts now on the issues that social media usage can present. Social media can play a key part in promoting your business and driving customer engagement. However, there are times when it can go horribly wrong. Issues that would never have reached the public domain can be on the internet in a matter of moments and it’s very difficult to put the toothpaste back in the tube!

What can and should you do when things turn nasty?

1. Harassment and Bullying through Social Media

Social media sites make it incredibly easy for individuals to air their views.

This can cause issues. For example, an employee has an argument with a fellow employee. Before you know it, the news is all over social media, and the argument is very public and escalating.

People have a tendency to say things in writing that they wouldn’t dream of saying to someone’s face. It continues to amaze us how quick people are to express an opinion on a situation about which they know very little.

If you become aware of offensive dialogue taking place between employees on social media, you are obliged to step in. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, you have a duty to prevent harassment and bullying in the workplace. Whilst you could argue that what happens on social media is not happening in the workplace, it will inevitably come to work! Secondly, if you’ve become aware then your clients could become aware and they will question the type of culture you have in your business.

The first thing you need to do is investigate. Then you can determine whether there is a disciplinary case to answer and you can instigate the employee disciplinary process.

Although it’s often not possible to prevent these situations, they can usually be resolved quite quickly.

2. Trolls and Risk to Your Business’s Reputation

There are constantly stories of “trolls” in the media. These trolls are not the type which live under bridges you understand. These are the type that trawl social media sites and take every opportunity to post abusive and distasteful messages to people they either do or do not know.

Dealing with abuse between employees is one thing but what if one of your employees is uncovered as being a “troll” participating in a broader social media campaign?  

The last thing you need is to have your brand remembered by the public because one of your employees was named and shamed due to their involvement in the abuse of a high profile public figure.

In these situations, it can be harder to justify disciplinary action as it can be difficult to prove that the employee really did bring the company into disrepute.  If it is easy to link the employee with the company then you will be justified in taking action. You may also want to review whether their behaviour breaches your Professional Conduct Policy.

We do recommend that you have a robust Professional Conduct Policy in place that sets out when behaviour outside of work may become the business of the company. Additionally, we recommend having a robust Social Media Policy that sets out what behaviour could lead to disciplinary action.

3. Dealing with Negative Employee Reviews

There are review sites on which employees can go and say whatever they like about what it’s like to work for your company.

We’ve dealt with many situations now where disgruntled employees take to these sites. They are free to say whatever they like and they can be incredibly derogatory. It can be a challenge to know what to do. Whilst you don’t want to post a response that sounds negative, you also don’t want to leave incorrect information sitting their for future employees to see.

Our suggestion is that you do reply but keep the response factual and remove any emotion. You do want to ensure that you correct any inaccuracies but you also need to be mindful of breaches of confidentiality. If you ever need help with dealing with this type of situation then do reach out.

As we said, social media is a very powerful tool and can positively impact your business. However, it’s important to take steps to minimise it having a detrimental effect. You also need to ensure that you’re ready for if it does all go wrong!

If you’d like any help with putting in place a Professional Conduct Policy or Social Media Policy or find yourself dealing with a difficult situation, do give us a call on 0203 146 8770.

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