Avoiding Social Media Disasters: What’s the right answer?
  • leadership
  • Blog post

Avoiding Social Media Disasters: What’s the right answer?

We’ve all heard the stories about employees who land themselves in deep trouble over something they put on Facebook, Twitter or another social media service.

Often it starts when an employee loses their cool over some perceived slight, and goes online to unleash an uncomplimentary, profanity-laden tirade against their employer. Then somebody calls it to the employer’s attention, and down comes the hammer.

As a manager, you’re probably aware of the risks that come with having employees active on social media.

Clamping down is risky
But what can you do about them?

It might be tempting to clamp down on all social media activity, but there are risks involved there, too. For example, telling employees they can’t criticize the company in any way via social media may create legal issues you don’t want. (Some employee complaints, on social media as elsewhere, are protected by the National Labor Relations Act.)

You can, however, take steps to help employees understand that, while social media is a great tool for communicating with people, there are certain slip-ups and blunders that could be a problem for themselves, their jobs and your organization as a whole.

Let’s look at an example: Kelly’s one of your employees, and you just had to write her up for excessive absenteeism. In different times, Kelly would have turned to friends or family members to blow off steam. But instead, she went straight to Facebook to air her grievances — in overheated terms — and her comments made their way back to you.

No do-overs
It’s a tough situation for the manager. Kelly may well be a good employee (save for the absenteeism), but her comments were out of line, and they’ve been written in a manner that can’t be taken back. Something has to be done about it, and it could cost Kelly her job, depending on what she said and how she said it.

As a manager, it’s up to you to help employees recognize the type of social media behavior that can lead to trouble.

Talk to your employees and help them understand the possible consequences of ill-advised outbursts. Also, check with HR before talking to employees about any specific instances of social media misuse. And, of course, if your organization has a social media policy, follow it, and encourage others to do so.

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