Do you use WhatsApp Groups for work? Have a company Facebook page or have employees on Facebook, or Linkedin? This post takes only a few minutes to read but could help your business save a lot of time and trouble. Check out the darker side of social media….
​Social media has revolutionised ways of communicating for everyone, in ways we probably did not think possible many years ago.  Companies actively engage with consumers via social media sites, its all about omni-channel, e-commerce and connecting via devices.  This has brought about a seismic shift in how brands showcase products, gain consumer loyalty and ultimately deliver commercial success.

​In my many years of handling enquiries from Managers about different employee relations issues, the biggest (and probably the most unfortunate) trend. The tales of incidents that are occur are now often finished with…..

“it’s now on facebook”
“it’s on WhatsApp”
“I’ll email you the pictures, I’ve got the screen shots“
“the photos are on Instagram”

I’m sure to many of you sadly this may sound familiar!

EMPLOYEES & SOCIAL MEDIA

However, a challenge for any employer is to consider how their employees interact with social media and how this may impact upon the reputation of the Company, employees and the work place.

Now, we all know we cannot restrict any employee using social media and nor should we provided it does not impact upon the working day, many people need to use it within their role.  Sadly, there are occasions when employees over step the mark and do something via social media that goes beyond what would be appropriate or reasonable.

Let me share an example. I remember a particularly derogatory posting made about customers from a well-known high street retail store. The posting went on to receive over 40 more likes or comments from individuals. The comments were equally derogatory.  All of those people involved and had all jumped on the band wagon, never considering for a moment that perhaps it was not the most sensible thing to do.  This led to investigations and impacting morale and sales.

Over recent years, I have dealt with a variety of complex cases including:

  • large scale investigations involving postings on Facebook
  • Inappropriate photos and messages sent to an entire team on WhatsApp
  • Unsuitable photos of scantily clad Managers on Instagram complete with the team tagged in.

WhatsApp for example is a great mechanism for communicating quickly with teams. The system is very effective too. The problem is when the line between a work WhatsApp group and personal use becomes blurred. This becomes particularly problematic when inappropriate photos (and I mean really really inappropriate, ones that will be forever etched on my brain!) are being shared to a team of employees. This is a level of conduct that cannot be tolerated.

Again, this sadly lead to lengthy investigations, formal meetings and regrettably the termination of employment in most cases.  The cases were increasing and myself and colleagues were being weighed down with the number of issues.

“At One Red Kite, we have developed a system that gives the power and speed of WhatsApp but the control & safety required by companies.”

OVERCOMING SOCIAL MEDIA CHALLENGES

All companies should have a definitive policy on the usage of Social media and include that in the Employee Handbook. All employees should be encouraged to take the policy into consideration.

The principle of an effective policy is simple but it should be broad enough to cover all aspects of social media;

  • The policy should set out to provide guidance and make it clear what was allowed and balanced with what was not allowed.  This included the “liking” of posts, just to be very clear.
  • Use examples to bring the policy to life – “Keep the brand name out of postings, don’t post anything you would not want to see in print”
  • Provide guidance to managers on the best use of WhatsApp groups for team communication (or seek an alternative system)
  • Communicate the policy out to all levels with engagement at all levels of the organisation

Understandably, in the example I shared, as some employees were no longer in the business, other team members realised the reality of the consequences.  One case went to an Employment tribunal and the Company were successfully able to defend their position given the gross misconduct and nature of postings. Overall, it was a lot of unnecessary, lengthy and expensive work but the message that it sent out to the wider employee population indicated that the Company meant what they said.

I have Facebook, and love the opportunity to keep in touch with friends far away, I have seen some posts made by friends criticising their job, work place, their manager, colleagues and really I would not recommend it – it is just not necessary. Remember, think twice.

If you use WhatsApp groups, or do not have a social media policy and would like advice or support on creating policies please get in touch at jill.brocklebank@oneredkite.com or call +44 (0) 7808 007 862.

For legal advice I recommend the services of employment lawyer James Major, Partner Clyde and Co, London. For his contact details, please get in touch..