How Social Media Can Get You Fired
How Social Media Can Get You Fired
I’m sure most of you have heard about how social media can be used by companies to increase their customer reach, market visibility, and overall sales. You may not have thought about how social media can get you fired if you’re an employee.
Any savvy business owner trying to accomplish the goals above will seriously attack the social media platform. They will hire a vendor to help manage the strategy and tasks. Or the business owner might hire an employee to do that or learn how to do it all on their own.
And there are lots of case studies and new case law arising out of disputes on who the owner of the business profile is, what pre-hire candidate research employers do on Facebook, etc.
See our input to this article on Monster.com about key insights on how to handle such situations.
But, there’s another danger to employees that many people haven’t really considered…..or, maybe you have…..
This is a real example of how social media can get you fired
An otherwise good employee abused social media for his own purposes (names have been changed to protect confidentiality)….
In the world of call centers, employee relations issues seem to thrive. You have rows of employees sitting in cubicles, interacting on the phone. They support customers or remote colleagues in the field that require assistance of some sort. Frankly, things can get a little boring and routine.
I couldn’t do it all day without needing some form of release, like a quick break to take a walk outside. Unfortunately, lots of employees just chat away with each other between calls, check their social media sites, shop, etc.
Don’t get me wrong; some of that is usually okay. But in the case of Riley, Heather, and Caitlin, guess what—big problem.
See, Riley and Heather are a married couple, both working in the call center. Caitlin is a very good friend to Riley and Heather. Caitlin’s hubby works somewhere else and they get together on weekends and hang out.
So far, so good.
Until one day Riley gets really pissed off with Caitlin and her husband. Something about an off-color remark regarding a favorite ball team and a borrowed lawn tool. No idea how they relate, but whatever.
The three employees began bickering, then outright arguing and Riley was really mad. Really mad. So mad that he threatened physical violence to Caitlin through Facebook. He never even imagining how social media can get you fired if you abuse it in such a way.
Now, as management at the company, I would never have known about this (are you surprised?) because I don’t monitor employee social media pages.
But, of course, Riley’s post so upset Caitlin’s husband that he called Riley’s supervisor and reported the threatening post.
NOW, THE ENTIRE SITUATION CHANGES.
What the employees thought was a private interchange between them on a non-work related social media site, is not private. Now it has became fuel for an investigation into an allegation of employee harassment and workplace violence.
Not good. Nothing involving your co-workers is really private, even if you do it at home or after hours. If the communication is serious enough, such as a threat, it can be used in an investigation. The courts can find it and use it.
Needless to say, as a result of the investigation, Riley was terminated.
Our company had a zero workplace violence policy and we were not going to allow any of our employees to be subject to threats issued by a fellow employee, during work hours, using a company computer.
Even if it did occur on a non-work related or owned social media site.
This is a perfect example of how social media can get you fired.
THE LESSON ON THE IMPACT OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN THE WORKPLACE IS TWOFOLD:
- Be professional at all times. If you are an employee, you must be professional in all your communications to your colleagues. This is especially true during work time or when using company equipment and services. You must understand that all those communications are subject to monitoring by your employer.
- Be prepared. If you are an employer, put good policies in place. Also ensure that your staff understands the policies and the consequences of not complying with them. Randomly monitor your internal communication tools (email, phone calls, company cell texts, IM messages, etc.) to make sure your team is being professional. Look out for inappropriate or harassing messages, posts, pictures, etc. Take action when you see those situations, initially to educate employees. If they don’t figure it out and stop doing it, follow through with disciplinary actions.
These situations are dangerous not only for employers because they create legal liability, but also for employees because they create damaged reputations. We don’t want to see you holding a sign that says “will work for food” one day.
Now that you understand how social media can get you fired, we have 2 questions:
- Is there anything you need to change about how you use it?
- If you’re a business owner, what steps have you taken to make sure you are prepared to handle situations involving social media?
Come on over to our Facebook page and give us your two cents.