Social Media – how to garner employee support and protect your businesses reputation from disenchanted employeesBy Catherine Brooks | Aug 23, 11 08:35 AM
Be brave and fearless when it comes to using social media for your business – but do your homework first, and learn how to limit your businesses liability when it comes to those in your employ.
Picture this: Sarah is managing an employee (Rachel) whose performance is lack-lustre. She’s going through the performance management motions and trying to encourage better performance from Rachel, but Rachel seems unwilling or unable to improve her work performance. Sarah and Rachel have a bit of a Friday afternoon spat. Sarah goes home feeling exhausted and not quite sure what to do next to deal with the situation. She tweets ‘TGIF’ and heads home. Whilst on her way home she check’s her Facebook status updates and see’s that Rachel has posted on her profile ‘TGIF – my job sucks and my boss is a moron’. Rachel has obviously forgotten that Sarah is on her Facebook friends list!
You may laugh, but this is unfortunately a common problem that businesses are facing on an increasingly regular basis.
A recent unfair dismissal case involved a hairdresser who had been terminated because she had made inappropriate comments about her workplace on Facebook. The Commissioner determining the matter took into account the following (in considering whether the dismissal was harsh, unjust or unreasonable):
- Was the employer named?
- Who could view the comments?
- How long were the comments on display?
- The effect of the comments on the business;
- The effect of the comments on the industry; and
- Whether the employer had raised concerns about the comments with the employee.
In this instance the employer had not raised concerns about the comments with the employee. The Commissioner said that this inferred that the employer did not think that the comments were such to damage the employment relationship to the degree that they warranted any immediate action (referring to the dismissal). The employee didn’t seek reinstatement but the employer was ordered to pay financial compensation. This case clearly highlights the importance of managers raising concerns with employees when such situations occur.
In Sarah's case, her company has a clear corporate strategy relating to the use of social media, which is supported with a policy that she knows Rachel is aware of. Therefore, Sarah will need to contact Rachel (as soon as possible) and ask Rachel to remove the offending comment, and to comply with the policy which sets out how employees should (and shouldn’t) use social media. The policy talks about not disclosing confidential information or writing disparaging comments about the company or its staff on social media sites, so this will make Sarah’s job that little bit easier when discussing the issue with Rachel.
So how can you prevent a situation like this from occurring? And how can you garner your employee’s support and protect your brands’ reputation at the same time?
Here are some practical tips that may assist:
- Have a clear corporate strategy in place that all employees are aware of, and ensure that each individual employee understands their role within that framework. Engagement is key to motivating employees and assessing their support and ability to contribute to your business.
- Tell your employees how you want them to use social media. This can be done orally, or through a social media/internet/bullying & harassment policy. Remember: you can have the best policy in the world but if no one knows about it then it will be rendered useless. Communication is crucial. Educate, implement, enforce and regularly review your policies.
- Empower your employees and encourage them to use social media in a positive way to promote your business – but give them guidelines and a framework in which to operate.
- Get your employees on board with your social media marketing and PR strategies. Get them excited about your brand being out there on the web.
- Be confident and trusting of those in your employ. If you’re not then you need to seriously consider their involvement with your business. Having trustful positive employees on your side will hugely reduce your liability in this area and open up countless opportunities for your business in the social media sphere
Catherine Brooks is a lawyer & advisor in industrial relations, employment law and human resources with Ai Group Legal Pty Ltd .
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