Business owners need to be aware of how to protect their brand image and reputation when it comes to their employees posting on social media. The social media saga goes both ways – one – it’s a necessary tool that isn’t going away. Two, workplace social media policies are gaining more attention as the number of people sharing, commenting, and liking every aspect of your employees' lives is increasing.  This includes the part about them working for you!

How do you avoid one of your employees committing a social media gaffe against your company?  The growing concern is how do you manage this and protect an individual’s right to free speech?  If your employee tweeted, “OMG I hate my boss”, what would you do? Fire them? Suspend them? At least reprimand them?

Do you have a social media policy? or better yet - Do you have an employee handbook?  If not, you need to review the latest information on social media, but at the same time, being sure not to violate an individual’s rights to free speech.  It comes down to respect for the employee and for the employer. Here are some basic rules for creating a social media policy:

1)      Create an open door policy and encourage employees to air their grievances to you, a manager or the HR department.  Make this the norm and practice what you preach by using internal communication channels whenever possible. In other words, give them a way to share their concerns before going online.   Employees do have a right to discuss their working conditions with others. Be careful - you cannot prohibit them from discussing their working conditions online or anywhere but you can certainly encourage them to bring it in house first.

2)      Have a confidential information policy in your Employee Handbook.  Be clear about not discussing clients, cases, products in development, marketing campaigns, etc.

3)      Designate a company spokesperson and make it clear that they are the only ones allowed to talk to the media or to answer questions during any type of unusual event.  If a disaster occurs, you don't want individual employees speaking to the media about what happened at the company.  Employee are not allowed to misrepresent the company or slander the company. 

4)      Make your social media policy reflect your company’s culture.  Zappos’ policy is very short, “Be real and use your best judgment.”

5)      Educate your employees on what is proper and what is inappropriate to post on social media.

If your employee handbook isn’t current with the times, call us and we can make recommendations on which areas need to be updated.

Lynn Talbott, MBA, PHR, has over 20 years’ experience consulting with entrepreneurs of small to mid-sized businesses in the HR and office management capacity.  Her specialty is Office/Human Resource Manager coaching and training and finding practical solutions for bookkeeping errors and HR blunders.  Lynn has helped manage over 50 business start-ups and many of those companies continue to rely on her expertise today as they continue to grow