August 24, 2015

10 employee faux pas on social media

Remember the names of the two Domino’s Pizza employees who filmed themselves doing unsavoury things to food before delivering it and then posting the video on YouTube? No, of course not. What everyone remembers about this incident is what they did and the fact that they were Domino’s Pizza employees. The perpetrators’ names have long since been forgotten.

Admittedly, the two employees lost their jobs, so it is not as if they got off scot-free. However, Domino’s Pizza also lost a lot that day: reputation and customers.

This is obviously not the everyday kind of mishap that befalls companies. However, there are plenty of other examples of brands being damaged as a result of their employees’ online antics. Remember the 13 Virgin Atlantic staff who called flyers chavs on a Facebook page? Again, everyone remembers the incident and the organisation, but not the perpetrators.

How employees behave on social media networks is an issue for HR. The line between work and personal life is increasingly blurred with the rise of smartphones, iPads and other mobile devices and the fact that many people use their own devices at work.

While HR cannot and should not try to control what employees do and don’t say on social media, it is imperative that clear guidelines are drawn up about what your organisation thinks is acceptable behaviour and the repercussions should employees not heed those guidelines. Make sure those guidelines are communicated to employees.

Employees already know this is a sensitive area. According to a survey by the legal information website FindLaw.com, 29% of social media users between the ages of 18 and 34 think a photo or comment they have posted could cause their employer to fire them if they were to see it.

What inappropriate behaviour are we talking about? Look at these 10 social media blunders that employees and their employers should guard against.

1. Criticising your employer. Think of the old adage, ‘Don’t say anything behind someone’s back that you wouldn’t say to their face’. It’s the same with social media.
2. Criticising customers, clients or business partners. Again, if you wouldn’t say something to someone’s face, don’t say it on social media where the whole world may get to see it.
3. Drink and drug taking. Talking about drug taking or excessive drinking online may not sit well with your company’s image.
4. Disclosing confidential or sensitive company information. Say no more.
5. Bragging about skiving at work or inappropriate behaviour in work time. Friends may think it’s funny, your boss and colleagues won’t.
6. Sexism, ageism, racism. Any kind of –ism is obviously going to land people into trouble and is unacceptable.
7. Inappropriate language. Okay, swearing is hardly the worst crime in the world but if you’re in a position of responsibility (teacher, for example) or highly senior in a conservative industry, then it doesn’t reflect well on your organisation.
8. Saying something funny that actually isn’t. This is an easy one for employees to misjudge.
9. Bullying. Online bullying can be very insidious and should never be tolerated.
10. Announcing acceptance of a new job before telling your employer. It is rude, looks unprofessional and could backfire if your employer hasn’t given the necessary reference yet.