Employment Relations in the Social Media Era – Pt 2/3, conduct

11 Jun

The current ‘social media era’ is changing the way people interact with each other, therefore, inadvertently changing the nature of the relationship between employers and employees.

Inappropriate conduct when fraternising on social media can affect a business in a number of ways and it is recommended that organisations take steps to actively manage employees’ use of social media to avoid any damage being caused to the business.   

Further to that, with the majority of people having media profiles and taking part in various forms of social networking, conflict can arise when there is a fallout between colleagues who are also friends.  How should this be managed in order to safeguard the reputation of the business?

Social Media and Staff Conduct

Reckless use of social media by employees can have a negative effect on the organisation as a whole.

Employers should be aware of different scenarios that may arise, these can vary dependant on the business type. Possible social media conduct areas of concern may be:

Negative or inappropriate comments

Personal opinions expressed by an employee about a colleague, the organisation or a customer.

Bringing the business into disrepute

Media audiences can be wider than one would expect; an inappropriate post could go ‘viral’ within a very short space of time. If it has a clear link to the business, damage can occur to reputation and brand image.

Bullying and harassment

Online bullying and harassment can include:

-       social exclusion – limiting interaction to cliques/groups

-       posting offensive or threatening comments

-       posting photographs or videos

Such occurrences may breach an organisation’s anti-bullying & harassment policy and so should be treated in the same way as if it had occurred in the workplace. If the harassment is related to a particular characteristic of the individual, e.g. race or gender, then it is prohibited under UK anti-discrimination legislation.

Breach of confidentiality

The duty to preserve confidentiality is part of the implied ‘duty of fidelity’ which all employees owe to their employer.  Organisations may also have confidentiality clauses which set out clear rules about the use of company/employee information.

Unauthorised disclosure of company information via social media sites could include details relating to:

-       profit/loss accounts

-       potential redundancies

-       employee personal information

-       client details

-       details of grievances/internal complaints

-       trade secrets

Managing inappropriate social conduct

Any issues of inappropriate conduct should be fully investigated. All businesses should have guiding policies to support them when necessary. Policies communicate expectations and standards, without which, companies leave themselves exposed.