'tis the season to get Social Media Savvy

The Christmas Party season in upon us – like it or not! Nowadays employers need to worry about a bit more than an awkward moment under the mistletoe, or someone having a bit too much to drink and telling their boss what they really think. We now have all of that and more... because it’s often played out on social media too.

Of course Social Media is not only a Christmas phenomenon, but one that gives a daily source of potential misconduct. Employees can argue that what they do in their personal time is up to them, but employers should be aware that private posts/tweets/photos can quickly be shared and end up being seen by an exponentially high number of people. This can damage reputation and affect business.

Without being ‘bah-humbug’ about social media – there are a few steps that employers can take to limit its negative effects:

  1. Have a clear policy on the use of social media in the workplace (private and corporate); posting about the company; its products/services or clients; what would be regarded as misconduct and the implications of breaching the policy (which can be different for managers and staff depending on their level of responsibility and influence, and therefore the potential impact of their behaviour.)

  2. Include a clear statement in your policy about any communication that would bring the company into disrepute – even if it is posted using a private account.

  3. Make sure everyone knows about the policy and keep a record of this communication.

You can of course consider whether you want to harness social media, and the energy of your staff who love using it, to promote good news stories, new services and products by giving them quality, catchy, easy content to share. Some companies also use an internal social platform successfully to give their employees a voice (think staff survey and suggestion schemes) and an internal communication channel (a bit like the old work social club without the peanuts and pool table) to help boost morale and create that sense of family.

However, if, you still end up with an unfortunate ‘tweet’ or similar – remember to follow your policy and:

  1. Do a proper investigation

  2. Apply the procedure fairly and without bias

  3. Ensure everyone is being treated consistently (e.g. is everyone who is using Social Media during work being treated the same)

  4. Ensure your response, and the outcome, is proportionate to the behaviour and the impact it has really had on your business (compare it to the impact and response to other comparable forms of misconduct).

  5. Be very quick to act on bullying or harassment via social media.

And hopefully with all that in place you’ll only be seeing pictures on Facebook of employees enjoying the festive season, in silly hats and having one too many mince pies! .....Merry Christmas.

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