This was a new one for me. Today I was made aware that a group of employees are venting their frustrations over recent company changes on Facebook. Some of the entries are benign, others are derogatory.
No, I do not want to stifle their ability to vent, or compromise their freedom of speech, but publicly bashing your employer seems to be like biting the hand that feeds you.
How have others dealt with this? I know I can not be the only one confronted with this situation.
You are right to be concerned. Every employer needs a social media policy. Unfortunately, when employees post negative statements online, on applications like Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter, those messages are public and permanent. IT experts can read the info from any Facebook account, regardless of privacy status. And, some sites keep a permanent record of online postings, even after they have been deleted. Even if employees believe they are anonymous online, their identity and the identity of the company can be traced.
You may want to protect your employees right to free expression, but posting negative information on Facebook is not like griping in the breakroom. It is like spouting negative information in an interview on the front page of the New York Times.
Most employers already have policies in place that prohibit employees from revealing confidential information or making negative public statements about the company, its products, services, management or customers. Usually an employee who does so can be disciplined or terminated. You only need to remind employees that this applies to information posted on the Internet, especially on applications such as Facebook or Twitter.
If you want to craft a separate social media policy, here are some items to consider:
1) Employees should realize that while in cyberspace they are in a public space and officially representing the company.They should not say anything they would not say at an open microphone at a Chamber of Commerce dinner or a professional association meeting.
2) Employees should not post any confidential, financial, sensitive or proprietary information about the company, its applicants, customers, vendors or contacts
3) Employees should show respect online for former, current and potentical customers, employees and competitors
4) Employees should not engage in name-calling or any behavior that will reflect negatively on the company, business partners or vendors
5) Social media sites should not be used to air personal complaints about a supervisor, coworker or the company Be aware that information remains in cyberspace forever. Use privacy settings but be aware that nothing online is every truly private; not can it ever really be deleted.
6) Do not respond to negative information. This just results in flaming. Instead, contact HR or management.
7) Employees who violate these policies may be disciplined or terminated.
Our immediate suggestion for this situation is that you remind employees of any policy you have about presenting the company in a bad light to the public. You may want to suggest that emails are a more appropriate venue for airing gripes than a public forum like Facebook.
This policy should be a regular part of your orientation for new employees, so they know what to expect.
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