Today, The Sydney Morning Herald ran an article discussing how some businesses are taking disciplinary action – including sackings – against employees for comments made on Facebook and Twitter.
There are two issues that are raised by this trend – and neither side is innocent.
1. Social media is here to stay, whether business owners like it or not.
Businesses need to accept that their employees have a voice, have opinions and can forward the brand by using their voices to build customer relationships, network and obtain relevant feedback. Failure to evolve into the new connected and web savvy world will make some businesses as extinct as the dinosaur.
2. Social media isn’t private.
Users need to understand the legal ramifications or potential career suicide of openly attacking their employers, slandering coworkers (or anyone, for that matter) or deliberately conflicting with the brand.
Social media conversations are not private, no matter what some people may insist. Although a business may not have control over your opinions expressed on your own time, many now have provisos written into contracts about appropriate conduct, especially when acting as a spokesperson – unofficial or otherwise.
This would seem to be common sense for many. After all, who would expect the boss to continue employing them if they openly attack the business or work against their goals?
That isn’t to say all criticism should be silenced and dissent stamped out. Far from it. Constructive criticism should always be welcomed by employers and businesses, wherever it comes from. But it may be necessary to consider which would be the best forum to present this criticism to the right people in the right way.
Yet common sense as this may be, some employees do cross the line between effective online networking and punching the boss on Twitter.
There is a lot of adjustment needed as we all get used to the incredibly powerful new tools we have on the internet. Social standards are still being formed, online etiquette is constantly evolving and business is always the last to change. Those that adapt to the new rules quicker will reap far greater rewards from engaging with their new audience effectively and responsibly.