Employees And Social Media

Yesterday, I blogged about companies and social causes.  The post was mainly about C suite execs and their use of social media and their decision to jump into social issues.  In the comments, Jeff Minch accurately said that a C level exec ought to clear all of that with his board.

But what about lower level companies and inadvertent things that can happen?

Just because a person is at work doesn’t mean they won’t be using some social media platform.  People are human.  If they find something funny they will post a photo or video of it somewhere.  But, the rest of the world might not think it’s very funny.

Employees of the companies have their own beliefs.  They might want to exercise them.  Just because I am an employee of a firm that promotes gay marriage might not mean I am okay with it.

People will disagree with me, but one of the reasons CME is actively closing the floors is social media.  The corporate employees don’t employ the traders-and some are deathly afraid of potential consequences damaging their brand.

Stuff happens in the workplace.  How do you manage it?

First, it’s all about company culture.  The culture you decide to create is the one that will permeate the actions of employees while they are at work.  It’s very important to draw a hard black line between on the job and off the job.  When they are off the job, they should be free to express themselves however they want.

I think drawing that black line helps improve focus.  Athletes talk about all the buzz around them, but once they come out of the locker room and cross over the line they are able to put all the buzz behind them.  They focus on the task at hand.

Here are five examples of companies that have pretty good social media policy at work.  Essentially, it boils down to common sense but unless the CEO talks about it and ingrains it into company culture, the topic will be a gray area and employees will set the norms.

  1.  Never show any sensitive company information on social media.  This includes strategic, new product, or financial
  2. Dishonorable content such as racial, ethnic, sexual, religious, and physical disability slurs are not tolerated.
  3. Employees can disclose their affiliation with the company granted that disclaimers are set freeing the company from any intellectual investment in the post.
  4. Proper copyright and reference laws should be observed by employees when posting online.
  5. If you #!%#@# up? Correct it immediately and be clear about what you’ve done to fix it. Contact the social media team if it’s a real doozy.

Here is what University of Cincinnati professor Janet Decker says.  Some of these are tougher to implement at an early stage because of cost.  You should be thinking about them, and talking about them as your team grows.

  1. Educate! It’s not enough to have written policies; you should also offer professional development (or office meetings) about these issues. By doing so, staff is notified about the expectations and they have a chance to digest and ask questions about the content of the policies.
  2. Be empathetic in policies and actions. While you may wish for your company’s computers to be used only for work purposes, this is unrealistic.
  3. Involve staff in policy creation. This process will help employees comprehend the policies and will also likely foster staff buy-in.
  4. Be clear and specific. Policies should include rationales, legal support and commentary with examples.
  5. Ensure your policies conform to state and federal law.
  6. Include consequences for violations in policies and implement the consequences.
  7. Provide an avenue for appeal and attend to employees’ due process rights.
  8. Implement policies in an effective and nondiscriminatory manner.
  9. Amend policies as the law evolves. Much of the law related to technology is in flux. What is legal today may not be tomorrow.

The first few times someone crosses the line, be gentle but firm with discipline.  If it keeps happening, you are going to have to let that employee go, or lose your company culture.

I would love to hear a story about how they established their policies, and how it has played out in practice.  I’d also like to hear about successes and failures, and what you did about it.