With the advent of the Internet and social media (Facebook, for instance, has been around since 2004), people have found whole new ways to embarrass, compromise or even incriminate themselves. Certainly to get themselves fired from jobs – then finding it hard to get new ones, or at least ones they want.
And once a “faux pas” is online, it’s always lurking to come back to haunt them – and potentially you, as a business owner.
It’s easy to forget about seemingly ever-changing privacy settings and the fact that anyone following you can screen grab a post or a photo and share it with anyone they want, no matter how strict your settings. Many have learned this lesson the hard way.
For instance, being naked in a car and documenting it on social media isn’t necessarily a criminal act (albeit volunteering evidence of drug use is).
But in some situations, it may as well be. American school teacher Carly McKinney was fired from her job after Tweeting about being “naked, wet and stoned”, as well as posting several shots of herself in various states of undress. Epic fail.
Then there was the case of British PR executive Justine Sacco, who Tweeted an insensitive comment about AIDS just before getting on a plane to South Africa.
By the time she landed a few hours later, her job was history and her reputation – by then global – char-grilled. That’s how quickly, and devastatingly, things can spin out of control.
Then you get to the stock-standard “the dog ate my homework” instances of employees calling in sick because they’ve fallen foul of a rare infectious disease hitherto known only to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, or that they’ve been injured and/or traumatised in a traffic incident. Naturally, it makes sense to post evidence of recovery measures, such as cavorting on the beach or in a bar …
Or there’s the ever-more-common examples of staffers building their own business profiles on the side via social media that are in direct conflict with what they’re being paid to do for you (and perhaps calling on contacts and resources they have access to because of their paid jobs). Uh oh …
Social media is now so woven into the fabric of people’s lives that they may overlook that not everything is suitable (indeed, wise) to put out there.
A healthy dose of common sense is usually enough to stop most social media blunders before they start – which you can provide your employees.
Yet given our culture of constant sharing, it’s easy for a momentary lapse in judgement to turn into a BIG problem.
Of course, this isn’t just a problem for the “poster person”, as it were. If what the poster person posts, unwittingly or deliberately, reflects on or actively damages your business, it could irrevocably impact on your reputation and revenue.
For instance, there are employees who let everyone know via social media how much they hate their job/the place they work for, what a…holes they work for or with, share compromising details about workplace goings-on, blab confidential information, or broadcast they are looking for a new job.
Short of shutting down all your profiles, your best approach is to think carefully before you post and urge your team members to do the same thing.
Policing what an employee says outside of work may seem unfair, no matter how inappropriate or outrageous their comments. But a company that ignores those comments may be putting themselves at risk.
“Social media abuse by your staff can have a huge negative impact on your brand and company image,” says Sarah Smyth, Social Media Manager (Jobs) at Recruitme, the Job Seeker Network.
“Here are a few examples of how some companies are being affected by uncontrolled use of social media, by employees: bad reviews by staff, intimidation, bullying, stalking, leaking of confidential information.
“The team at Recuitme suggests that employers include a social media policy in workplace agreements for new employees, plus introduce the document into existing agreements at the next performance review.
“If you would like a Social Media policy template, free of charge, just click on the this link or copy and paste it into your browser: www.recruitme.net.au/download_files.php