The Dangers of Social Networking
Few businesses or organizations are immune to the power of today’s social networking sites and tools. Reaching out to employees, customers and clients can also be a powerful way to build relationships that promote your objectives in an effective and efficient way.
Leaders who haven’t started thinking about how to use social networking, or those who haven’t put policies in place to control its use, could wind up behind the curve or damaged by the incredible reach and viral nature of the web.
Interestingly, in our recent experience, many companies are ignoring the issue. They will only work out their response when faced with the first problem, and they have to take drastic action that could have been avoided by early intervention. Employees are finding out the hard way what the acceptable boundaries are when using social media networking sites when mentioning their company name or commenting about products or in some cases, other employees.
The opportunity is twofold, first, what role should social networking have in business or organizations, and second, what are the guidelines or boundaries for employees who use social networks outside of work, when the subject is about their employer, products, or company employees? Let’s look at the ladder.
Ground Rules for Personal Postings
It is prudent to separate employees work duties and their personal pursuits. Even if an employee is chatting or blogging about industry topics, their personal posts are just that: personal. However, they need to know these same posts can get them into both legal and workplace trouble if they’re inappropriate, offensive or threatening. This may include:
- Divulging proprietary or confidential information
- Making embarrassing or nasty comments about co-workers or managers
- Using company trademarks or logos or other images
- Making false or misleading statements about company philosophy, products, services, opinions or relationships to other organizations
- Posting information about stock offerings
- Making accusations against customers, clients or competitors
- Posting offensive content that is antisocial, bigoted or that promotes illegal or subversive activities
Case in Point:
- At a Company in Harrison, NY, two workers were fired after their boss logged onto MySpace and read their critical comments
- Three cops were suspended after they posted lewd remarks about the town mayor on a Facebook page
- Virgin Airlines sacked 13 flight attendants for criticizing the airline’s flight safety standards and insulting passengers in a discussion on a Facebook group.
- A woman employed by an insurance company called in sick, saying she could not work in front of a computer; she said she needed to lie in the dark to recover from her illness. However, when others saw she was posting to Facebook during her illness, she was fired from her job (the woman claimed she was posting from bed using her iPhone, but her bosses didn’t buy the explanation).
All this adds up to businesses and organizations needing clear policies on social networking at and also away from the workplace. TwoGreySuits has a full suite of Social Media Workplace policies available on The HR Power Centre part of our website.