We’ve written a number of posts now on some of the issues that social media usage can present, some of which can viewed as ‘harmless fun’, others with unintended consequences.
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?
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 and, before you know it, the news is on Twitter and Facebook, 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, and it continues to amaze us how quick people are to express an opinion on a situation about which they know very little.
When the issues arises between two employees, you are in a reasonably strong position to deal with the matter through the employee disciplinary process (as you will be able to show a clear link between the behaviour and the work environment).
Further to the disciplinary process, you also have a duty of care to your employees therefore, if you become aware of offensive dialogue taking place between employees on a social media site, you are obliged to step in and deal with the issue.
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 were stories of “trolls” all over the media recently. 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. With this situation you are better to adopt a position of prevention is better than cure by having a robust social media policy.
When we started writing about the issues surrounding social media usage, the key areas we suggested addressing were:
- Making sure the sites were used only outside working hours.
- Being clear that inappropriate pictures of fellow employees and associates shouldn’t be posted.
In just a few months, we’ve now also written about a need for the policy to cover the ownership of business contacts gathered on social media sites, and to make sure that employees are aware that their actions could bring the company into disrepute, which in turn could cause them to breach an implied term and condition of their employment contract. The quick slide from use of social media sites into breach of employment contract demonstrates how quickly this particular area of HR is developing, and how important it is to have a strong social media policy in place and keep on top of new issues as they arise.