To manage an organisation’s reputation and ensure that it is not associated with any controversial, discriminatory or damaging (legally, financially or otherwise) views, it is vital to keep an eye on what employees are putting out on social media platforms.
This is according to Kay Vittee, CEO of Quest Staffing Solutions, who advises: “Potentially damaging activities range from sharing confidential information, infringing on customer privacy and cyber bullying, to posting comments which can be perceived as discriminatory or inappropriate, these actions elicit consequences – for both employee and employer.
“With the need for clear guidelines of what constitutes hate speech, defamation or racist content, the posts of staff on a public forum – even if in their personal capacity and out of working hours, can have a negative impact on an employer. As such, social media misconduct cases are becoming more common with offensive remarks that bring employing organisations into disrepute, for example, being reported and employers taking the necessary action in terms of disciplinary hearings and / or dismissal,” Vittee explains.
She notes that a recent example of such a scenario is that of an individual in the medical field who was dismissed from her position after having allegedly made comments on social media relating to a medical procedure undertaken on President Jacob Zuma’s wife in the hospital in which she worked.
So how can employers deal with negative employee social media activity?
“When an employee behaves in a way which makes the employer believe that a third-party may change his or her perception on the organisation, they are well within their rights to pursue legal action and dismissal,” advises Vittee.
“While this is an effective reactive measure of dealing with social media misconduct, it is important for business leaders to consider some preventative procedures which focus on educating staff on what is expected of them and how offences will be addressed. With this knowledge and understanding, employees can be better prepared, exercise good judgment and be equipped to deal with the consequences of their actions,” she says.
Vittee points out that it may seem obvious but, within an employer’s social media policy, it is crucial to outline that employees should never share confidential and proprietary information online, “forgoing to include this simple point can result in serious financial and reputational harm.
“Having a social media policy in place will, at the very least, act as a reminder for staff to be more aware of their online activities and think before they post.
“We live in the digital age and while it is essential for businesses to establish and grow their social media presence to connect and engage with the public, one needs to always keep in mind that nothing posted online is truly private,” Vittee concludes.