In the increasingly digital age, more and more companies are learning the perks, perils, and pitfalls of social media. Just recently, there have been instances where misconduct on the social media platform has led to disciplinary actions. A Texas teen was fired from her job at a pizza restaurant before her first day of work as the result of a disparaging Tweet. Likewise, Curt Schilling, a former major leaguer who played with the Phillies and the Red Sox, managed to identify two individuals who targeted his underage daughter on social media.
These are but two of many examples of how social media can adversely affect the workplace. But what happens if an employee posts something publicly that harms the business or a third party? Nothing on the Internet is anonymous, nor can anything posted be completely eradicated. If an employee publicly posts remarks that are discriminatory in nature, constitutes harassment, discloses confidential information, misrepresents the organization’s views, disparages against employees or customers, or anything else that otherwise adversely reflects upon the business, the result can range from embarrassing to outright damaging.
Companies are therefore encouraged to be proactive and develop a well-crafted social media policy, one that outlines whether social media posts must be reviewed prior to being made public and by whom, underscores what employees are allowed to say, and the consequences for any violations. Ideally, this should also clarify the business’s policy regarding accessing social media during work hours, whether or not the company monitors online activity, and how much online privacy an employee can expect, if any.
To protect against damages caused by negative publicity or the loss of confidential data, official business communications might best be restricted to all employees, save specific individuals with media training. A strong social media policy will likewise make clear whether your employees are allowed to discuss or endorse the company publicly, stipulate what language is appropriate or inappropriate, reinforce that employees must remain respectful of colleagues and competitors, outline appropriate and inappropriate communications regarding the business in public and semi-private forums, and be informative of the company’s social media policy overall, including rights to privacy. Companies should also consider implementing procedures that monitor social media activity. Those responsible for policy enforcement should be trained to understand laws protecting employee communications; lastly, all policies regarding social media conduct and expectations should be clearly outlined in writing. Have your employees read and sign any such policy, acknowledging their receipt and agreement to adhere to it.
While nothing is absolutely secure in the digital age, there are steps businesses can take to reasonably protect themselves against loss of data, reputation and revenue. To begin developing your social media policy, contact the professionals at Barker Phillips Jackson at (417) 887-3550