Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
As employers, we strive to create work environments that inspire, encourage, and motivate employees – because we know that is how to maximize employee productivity.
We also understand that we will sometimes fall short, and there will be that occasional disgruntled employee who makes a sport of spreading negativity about the organization.
I’m always amazed when I hear of unthinkable ways that people use social media to share information and sad to hear that someone’s momentary loss of sense caused them to lose their job.
The challenge of dealing with such an employee is that, typically, by the time you find out about a negative comment, it has reached countless people.
Often damaging the reputation of the business or other people associated with it.
Your legal right to terminate an employee for speaking negatively of their place of employment, other employees, or customers – well, depends.
Employers will have a difficult time justifying a termination without showing documentation of expected behaviors.
While this may be frustrating, employers need to assume employees don’t know behavior expectations unless they are explained and written in policy format.
The unfortunate negative climate we live in has caused employers to take a step of precaution by creating a social media policy to help employees understand expectations and what is, and what isn’t appropriate for social sharing.
So what should be included in a social media policy?
1. Why The Policy Exists
Make no assumptions and help employees understand why the public reputation of the organization, its employees, and customers is vital to its success.
Share some of the horror stories that other organizations have experienced and why your organization seeks only positive press.
Explain how you share positive things about the business on the business blog or business website and how those positive public perceptions influence market share and the bottom line. Hence, job security for all.
2. Restate the Obvious
Include in your social media policy reminders of other policies that speak of behavior boundaries such as harassment, confidentiality, discrimination, and ethics in the workplace.
Help employees understand that yours is a professional organization and stepping outside these expected behavioral boundaries is prohibited – particularly in a public setting (social tools) or outside the organization.
For instance, if you have a Facebook Marketing plan in effect but a disgruntled employee comments on an ad, you need to have a conversation with that employee.
I used to explain to employees that issues that go on within the organization need to be treated with the same respect as you do with the personal issues within a family. Some things (other than obvious abusive situations) need to stay within those four walls.
3. Use Internal Processes To Resolve Conflict
I always say that when more than two people are in a room, there is the potential for conflict.
Make sure your organization has a structured process to deal with conflict in the workplace when it arises.
Document this process and share this in employee orientation, staff meetings, or other information-sharing settings.
For instance, help employees understand that dealing with disgruntled customers who escalate to abusive should occasionally be handled by the second-tier manager. Don’t leave unseasoned employees vulnerable to the occasional unreasonable customer.
4. Think Before Sharing
Everyone can be caught off guard by an unexpected negative response that can trigger emotions to rise up instantaneously.
On these rare occasions, make sure you think before you hit that send or post button.
Remind employees that you can sometimes pull an email from someone’s inbox – if you have second thoughts about a message sent in anger – assuming they haven’t opened it.
However, there is no way to take back a negative post in the cyberspace world. Even deleted messages can be found.
5. Define When Using Social At Work is Ok
Social media is so ingrained in our society that it can be challenging for employees to restrain from using it during work hours.
Talk about expectations for using social media at work and when it is okay to do so.
6. Separate Personal From Work Profiles
An employee represents an organization if the business URL is part of the employee’s email address.
For instance, if email@example.com is seen as posting with that email, they inadvertently associate the organization with the social comment.
Ask employees to set up personal profiles using personal email accounts when using social sharing accounts.
7. Clarify Consequences For Not Adhering to Policy
Employees should understand what will happen if it is found that they are out of compliance.
Make it clear that employees who do not comply with the policy will face disciplinary action leading to or including termination.
8. Internal Contact For Questions
Include who in the organization is available to answer questions and to help employees with related issues.
For instance, direct employees to the HR department.
It is sometimes hard to believe that employers are spending time dealing with this kind of issue – but that just shows how much the world has changed in my career!
How does your organization handle employees who use social media as an avenue to vent about work?