SB: This is Steve Bruce for the HR Daily Advisor. Today we’re talking to attorney Molly DiBianca, who is with the law firm of Young, Conaway, Stargatt & Taylor. Molly, our readers are concerned about what they can and can’t do with regard to discipline for off-duty social media activities.
MD: That is certainly one of the questions that we get the most these days. The first thing of course you can do is be prepared. So, that generally tends to mean in our world a policy that applies to social media activity for employees both at work and outside of the workplace during off-duty time.
Another big thing that I think is a great sort of way to handle this in a proactive way is education. Educating employees, particularly supervisors, managers, and HR, about what the limits are of appropriate and inappropriate social media usage inside the workplace and outside of the workplace. But also I think a big key for the education component is to make sure that you communicate to managers: ‘Look, this will happen. People will do things and say things online, on Facebook, or on Twitter or in any other online context about the workplace, about their coworkers, about the company or the organization, and even about their supervisors.’
This happens. And sort of the best way to be prepared is to know that it will happen and to have a plan of attack when it does happen. Often, what I say is, take the comment and take it out of Facebook and put it in the workplace or at a picnic, at a local bar and employees are together after work and they say something instead of posting it online – how would you respond if at all? (If the comment or comments were said versus posted online). I will tell you that probably eliminates more than half, maybe eighty percent of the problems because the reality is we as supervisors know that employees don’t run around and just sing our praises all the time, unfortunately.
So, when we say, ‘Ok, someone said this outside of work at a Saturday soccer game, would I discipline them?’ Of course, probably not. Most of the time you probably wouldn’t and if that’s the answer then the answer is the same. The fact that it was posted on Facebook or some online context is irrelevant. So, take it out of the social media realm and put it into the regular everyday realm and address it in that way.
SB: That’s great. Thanks Molly.
MD: My pleasure.
SB: This is Steve Bruce for the HR Daily Advisor.
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