Social Media Management For Managers
If your company is using social media then it is long past time for you to re-write your employee handbook to cover the possible contingencies which might arrive as a result of using social media. Time and time again the courts have ruled that social media use, when not specifically mentioned in the employee handbook, is a protected form of free speech.
Don’t Fear Social Media
There is no reason your company should completely forbid the use of social media. It is not the enemy. Social media is simply another tool your company (and by extension, your employees) can use to improve the bottom line. But like the electrical current which powers every computer and electronic device in your office, it can be dangerous if not used correctly. For this reason you need to establish hard and fast rules about its use and dangers, and make certain your employees are fully aware of these rules before an accident happens.
Example #1: A Connecticut ambulance company had a policy forbidding employees from writing anything negative about the company in their social media. A disgruntled employee, denied union representation at a disciplinary meeting, trashed her supervisor on her Facebook page. Several co-workers chimed in to agree with her and make other comments about the employer. Shortly after the exchanges, the employee was fired. NLRB lodged a complaint against the company, asserting the prohibitions in its social media policy were too broad. Employees have a right, the board said, to discuss together the terms and conditions of their employment. Ultimately, the company settled with NLRB, agreeing to revise its policies.
Example #2: In May of this year, a New York nonprofit, Hispanics United of Buffalo, fired a number of employees who, again, chimed in on one person’s Facebook posting that criticized the employer. Many of the co-workers defended the employer, but they were fired anyway. NLRB lodged a complaint against Hispanics United, again because the Facebook “flame war” was a discussion of terms and conditions of employment. The case will probably be settled, but remember that this is a non-union employer under fire from NLRB.
Example #3: This case also involved a non-union employer: An Arizona newspaper had no social media policies but encouraged its reporters to tweet about newsworthy events to the public, to boost newspaper readership and online visits to its content. But the paper’s crime/public safety reporter went, in management’s view, way too far: His tweets demeaned reporters for other media, seemed to be pro-violence, were sexually explicit and full of profanities, and were offensive in other ways.
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