Social media has grown exponentially over the last 10 years, with some of the most profitable and innovative companies relying on social media to boost their engagement and overall brand.
However, there are many insidious implications of using social media, which can put HR and employers in difficult situations when their employees are caught using their social platforms to incite negative views.
We wanted to share a couple of recent examples to show two opposite ends of the spectrum, as well as discussing how HR can handle “grey areas” within this and how they can keep employees accountable for their actions.
Royal Mail | TikTok
A Royal Mail employee received criticism after she posted a video to her TikTok which went viral. The video showed her joking about waiting less than 5 seconds before putting a “sorry we missed you” envelope through the door.
Although the TikTok was labelled as satire, hundreds of people reported it and complained to Royal Mail, with some asking for the employee to be fired.
Royal Mail didn’t fire the employee in question, and instead released a neutral statement, which indicated that they didn’t see this as a threat to their brand. The employee has over 34M likes on her videos, which are all centred around her job as a postwoman.
In this scenario, it was clear to see that there was no malicious intent, and the disgruntled customers failed to see that the video was satire.
Royal Mail seemed to observe the issue with a balanced view, as the vast majority of the rest of her videos were all positive and uplifting, which would have boosted Royal Mail as a brand.
Savills | Twitter
A Savills employee was caught tweeting racist comments immediately after the Euro’s final. This launched a national investigation, where Andrew Bone was arrested after he claimed that his Twitter was “hacked”.
Savills were immediately flooded with tweets, with customers saying they would cease all trading with Savills until they addressed it.
Bone was charged, and a further four people have been arrested for posting racist content on their social media platforms.
In this scenario, it is clear that the sole intention of the post was malicious, and even if the employee in question had positively impacted the brand in the past, racist content should always be treated as an isolated incident with significant consequences.
We have shown you two extreme examples at either end of the spectrum
Grey areas are incredibly nuanced, and will vary according to the values and culture of your business. However, there are some things that you can do to ensure that you are protecting your business, whilst ensuring that your employees remain accountable.
- Social media clauses in contracts: This should link through to the values of your company, wording in contracts should highlight that racist, xenophobic, misogynistic or any other phobic content will not be tolerated and will result in serious consequences.
- Educate employees on good social media practice: Although social media is ingrained into our society, we often forget that it’s still considered “new” to a lot of people. Whether this is through workshops or part of your onboarding process, educating employees on good social media practice is a great way to prevent “grey areas” whilst keeping employees accountable.
- Where possible, vet someone’s social media: Although this can be a time-consuming process, it is a good practice to get into and can save you from making a mis-hire which could cost you your reputation in the future. This once again shifts the responsibility onto the candidate to be ever mindful of what they post on social media.
How does your company handle any “bad behaviour” from employees on social media?
Harriet & Jane